Getting your marketing communication read

I don’t have to tell you how we are bombarded with information these days. Emails, TV, the web, text messages, social media, blogs, print media, fliers, webinars, podcasts and more all competing for our attention. If your communication starts with your name, has a list of features and no captivating images then why should your target even look at it?

How will you capture attention?

Controversial advertisement

This image certainly attracted lots of attention!

The first thing that any marketing communication has to do is to capture the attention of its target audience. A strong image can help. How many times have you been motivated to read a begging letter by the image of the distended belly of a small child, the ruins of a war torn town, or the sad expression of a very elderly person? How many times has an image of a great plate of food, a stunning piece of jewellery or a sleek car caused you to click through to a website to find out more? The saying, ‘an image is worth a thousand words’ is very true.

Who needs an excuse for a celebration flier

This postcard worked well for one of my clients

That’s not to say that words don’t work either but it can be more of a challenge to say what you want to say succinctly. It’s not easy to identify your target audience and their problem in a few words for a headline but it can be done. For example, ‘Where will your next new customer come from?’ might capture the attention of a business owner wanting to grow her customer base. ‘Is her snoring keeping you awake at night?’ would probably make a sleep deprived partner to read on.

Combining an image and words can be very effective.

Can you make your target audience think and/or feel?

Buying decisions tend to be emotional however much we like to persuade ourselves that we’re being logical. Can you find a way to tap into your target’s emotions with your headline or your image? If you can create intrigue or raise curiosity your communications will get read. Could you do something with the following, (substitute your own pain/solution/target where appropriate)?

  • What’s the solution to the never ending ‘to do’ list ?
  • How can you lose weight without being hungry?
  • Is it possible to get your new baby to sleep all night?
  • Where can you find a steady stream of customers ready to do business with you?
  • What would you do if your main fuse blew at 7.30p.m.?

You get the idea. Why not start looking for inspiration in the fliers that come through your door, the adverts you see on TV or in your newspaper? Many will be rubbish bit there’s a lesson in there too. If you are in the UK watch Comic Relief on Friday evening because they are bound to have many ideas you can adapt (and if you can’t watch read this article which reveals all!)

There are other ways to capture attention but they’re for another article…


Join my conversation

I wish I had £1 for every time someone has told me that ‘marketing doesn’t work’, ‘fliers don’t work’, ‘advertising doesn’t work’, my profits would show a significant increase! What we’re talking about here falls into the category of ‘marketing communications’. The key word is ‘communication’. When marketing doesn’t work it is often because the content doesn’t communicate.

Features don’t sell.

A typical flier lists features but does not join a conversation.

A typical flier lists features but does not join a conversation.

Take a look at the fliers that come through your door, many of them will just list the features of a product or service, usually as bullet points. So a cleaner might list, vacuuming, dusting, ironing; a printer will list leaflets, business cards, letterheads; or a cafe could list breakfast, coffee, sandwiches. These might work if they land on the mat of a person who is looking for that precise service at that particular time but that rarely happens. Fliers like these don’t get the conversation in my head going.

Speak to me.

If you want your marketing to get a response from your prospect it needs to engage them in a kind of conversation, initially one they have with themselves. You need to spell out what your prospect has to gain from using your services. So the cleaner, rather than listing all the features of his service, might encourage me by talking about ‘come home to a sparkling clean house and enjoy your time off’; the printer might say, ‘give your prospects a business card that conveys the quality service that you provide’ and the cafe might describe, ‘fresh, healthy sandwiches to set you up for a productive afternoon’. Whilst none of these is perfect they will at least make me think how having a cleaner might enhance my life, or whether or not my business cards are making the right impression or how hungry I am!

Ask yourself why.

Before you start developing your marketing communication ask yourself why your prospect might want your product or service. So I might want a cleaner so I can have time for my family or my hobbies; I might want the ironing done because I’d rather be in the garden; I might want some fliers to convert prospects into customers; I might want breakfast to give me the energy to tackle my to do list or I might want to enjoy a coffee with a friend.

Make a list of as many reasons why your prospect might want each of your products or services as you can think of. Somewhere in that list will be the message that will resonate with your target. Once you know the message then you just have to find the words to communicate it. Easy! Well maybe not but that’s the topic for another post…

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.

‘I know nothing!’

OK, so it’s not strictly true that I know nothing but there is a lot I don’t know. I am not an expert in your business or in what you sell. I don’t understand the acronyms and abbreviations that are your everyday language. I don’t necessarily know what your name stands for. I’m probably not familiar with how the processes you use will help me. So when you are marketing to me don’t assume that I will understand what you are talking about.


I keep hearing an advertisement for computers with AMD. What is AMD? Now if my son sees this he’ll probably be exasperated by his mother’s ignorance but I’m not very interested in technology other than how it can help me to do what I want to do. I ‘googled’ AMD and found it is the name of a company, Advanced Micro Devices, and that it is a competitor of Intel. I think that AMD is the technology you want if graphics and gaming are high on your priorities but I don’t know. If the advertisement had said, ‘AMD for the sharpest images and best gaming experience’ then I would understand.

You might have a franchise for a well known international brand but just because someone has heard of your brand doesn’t mean that they understand what the brand stands for. You need to explain. Perhaps your cosmetics are organic, chemical free and never tested on animals. Perhaps your children’s nursery is based on the philosophy that children learn through exploring. Don’t assume that I know this just because I’ve heard your brand name.

Explain but don’t patronise.

Marketing flier

This flier makes an attempt at explaining what the prospect need to know.

Your prospect needs to understand what’s in it for them and why they should choose you rather than your competitor. You need to be very clear about the answers before you start producing your marketing copy. Here are just a few of the questions you need to answer before you start writing:

  • Who is my target?
  • Why do they need my product or service?
  • How are they affected by the problem I want to solve?
  • Why is my solution more suitable than that of a competitor?

When you understand the answers you should be able to write some matter of fact statements in your marketing to help your target understand without insulting their intelligence. Remember don’t just list the features but promote the benefits to your target market. But that’s a whole new topic so come back later this week for some more tips on getting your marketing right.

Glenda Shawley helps owners of small businesses understand what matters to their customers and then communicate this in a way that turns suspects into prospects, prospects into customers and customers into fans.

The only place for ‘we we’ is in the toilet!

The only place for 'we'

The only place for ‘we we’

How many websites do you visit that say ‘we do this and we do that and our customers are’? It’s the same with print marketing where businesses tell us ‘we are small and friendly, we’ve been established since 2014’. It’s all about ‘we we’ ‘our’ and ‘us’. Their target is not interested! They are interested in themselves, in their problems and in their own agenda.

If a prospect walked in to your business you would probably say, ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘How are you?’ You wouldn’t start the conversation with ‘we can help you’ would you? So why do so many people do it in their marketing?

Speak to your target

If you want your marketing to be effective your target has to read it and they are much more likely to do that if it addresses their concerns quickly. ‘You’ and ‘your’ are much more important words than ‘we and ‘our’. Your marketing materials should help you to open a conversation with your prospect so why not use a conversational style?

Here are a few tips to help you to avoid the ‘we we’:

  • Think about the problem your prospect is having that the product or service you’re advertising is designed to solve
  • How do they feel about that problem? Is it a major anxiety or a minor irritation?
  • If you were speaking to them about that problem face to face what questions would you ask them? What would they be telling you?
  • Now use that information to craft your marketing message. For example, ‘Is your tax return causing you to lose sleep at night?’ ‘Do you have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear?’
  • Once your target recognises themselves and their problem they will be more willing to listen to how you can solve it for them. However, that is not an excuse to go mad with the ‘we, we’! Keep a balance between ‘we and you’ and ‘our and your’, Ideally you want more of ‘you’ and less of ‘we’

So consign ‘we we’ to the toilet and your marketing is much more likely to succeed.

If all this causes you too much of a headache we can help. Send us a draft piece that you are struggling with and we’ll give you some suggestions to make it work, no charge! Alternatively, if you’d just like to have the job done for you, ask about one of our marketing packages. Email


Would this advertisement make you shop at Sainsbury’s?

I’m still on the subject of Christmas advertising and this time I have supermarket chain Sainsbury’s in my sites. Their ad is a three and a half minute film entitled ‘Christmas in a Day’. The film features lots of video clips of families preparing for, and celebrating, Christmas, it ends with one family recording greetings for Dad who is serving with the army in Afghanistan. Here’s the film:

If you could be bothered to watch all three and a half minutes you will have seen that there is no mention of Sainsbury’s until the last few frames and there are no obvious Sainsbury’s products. The most sharp eyed amongst you may have spotted some Co-op products instead!

How do you choose your supermarket?

According to a couple of luminaries in the advertising industry the advert is all about creating an emotional connection with the brand. Well I don’t know about you but supermarkets are not something I get very emotional about, or if I do they are not usually positive emotions. I choose my supermarket on the basis of range and quality of products, ease of shopping, and, maybe, price. I don’t choose my supermarket because I think they have a heart. What about you?

This advertisement has had people in floods of tears and has had some very positive comments on You Tube but will it make people who are not already Sainsbury customers shop there? I’m doubtful. What reasons would anyone unfamiliar with the store have to go there? The advertisement certainly doesn’t give them any.

Is this a style of advertising small businesses can copy?

I think not. It’s one thing for household names to play with adverts that don’t sell but I think it is a very dangerous model for those of us running small businesses to follow. Yes we want to appeal to our prospect’s emotions but we also have to explain how we can help them. Our advertising has to be much more direct and straightforward if it is to have a chance of working.

In its favour I guess that the Sainsbury’s advert makes it clear who their target customers are, ordinary families celebrating in the traditional manner. However does it really differentiate itself from Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose or any of the others? I think not.

I’d love to hear what you think. We had mixed reactions to the John Lewis ad I wrote about last week I wonder if this will get the same sort of response.

An effective advertisement

Here’s an example of a really effective video made by a start up business. I understand that the cost to make the video was $4,500 and within two weeks of its launch on You Tube 12,000 members had joined the Dollar Shave Club. The video had five million views within three months and has now had more than twelve million views. How’s that for an effective return on investment?

What makes this a great advertisement?

So let’s look at some of the things that made this video so effective:

  • there is a very clear introduction at the beginning to the company and the concept
  • Mike differentiates the brand from its competitors and delivers the content in a very engaging style
  • He taps in to the frustrations his target market is having with the current market place and explains how Dollar Shave Club will make their lives easier
  • the pricing and method of delivery is clear
  • the video taps into an emotional connection with the reference to the way the company is creating jobs so ‘buy from us and you’ll not only solve your problem but you’ll be doing good for other people’
  • the video is light hearted and humorous without losing its professionalism
  • it is very clear what action the company wants you to take, in fact it was so clear that, within half an hour of the video’s launch the website crashed under the weight of hits!

I understand that the Dollar Shave Club is now making $14million a year, not bad for a company which is less than three years old.

So watch this video a few times and see how you could adapt the lessons in it to suit your business and if you want a sounding board for your ideas book yourself on to a free, no obligation 30 minute consultation with Glenda.

What is the point of advertising?

David Ogilvy, a man who knew a thing or two about advertising, used to say that the purpose of advertising is to sell. Here are some of his words on the subject:

‘A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.’

‘If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.’

‘I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information’

I wonder what David Ogilvy would have made of the latest Christmas TV advert from John Lewis?  If you haven’t seen it here it is:

Now I’m a big fan of John Lewis and I often think their advertising is spot on but whilst this one is charming I wonder if it meets any of David Ogilvy’s criteria? The advertisement is all about the creative, about the story of the bear and the hare, we have to wait right to the end to see a product. I wonder if an alarm clock is top of anybody’s Christmas wish list! We don’t even see the John Lewis name until the end of the two minute film so is this advertising that’s going to work?

Do the old rules apply?

David Ogilvy lived before the Internet became commonplace, before we had Facebook and Twitter, before ‘customer engagement’ became buzz words. Has the purpose of advertising changed in the 14 years since his death?

The John Lewis TV advertisement is part of an integrated campaign. Here’s the first email to announce the forthcoming ad. It introduces us to products, interactive books, the in store bear’s cave and more. I’m sure the theme will be developed on Twitter and Facebook as well as further emails and offline advertising in the coming weeks. So the campaign is built around ‘customer engagement’ but will this be as effective as one built around selling product?

Will this advertisement change your behaviour?

I don’t know about you but John Lewis would be one of the first shops I would consider going to when shopping, I don’t need a fancy film to make that decision. What I do need at Christmas is inspiration. I need gift ideas for those members of my family who don’t produce a detailed wish list and I really don’t want to fight the crowds to get those ideas. That’s when I respond to TV advertising. I want to see gift ideas, if I see something that looks right for one of my loved ones then I go to that shop or visit that website. What about you?

Will you go to John Lewis to meet the bear and the hare? Has the advertising made any difference to you? Are you more or less likely to visit John Lewis ‘in store, online or mobile’ as a result of this advertising? I’d love to hear your views in the comments here.

Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack helps owners of small businesses to develop and implement marketing campaigns that sell. If you would like to find out how I can help your business book your free, no obligation, 30 minute consultation here.