The Key to Effective Advertising – Using Direct Response

Using image based or institutional advertising is a very common part of most businesses’ marketing strategy. It is also extremely ineffective. The key is to use direct response advertising.

What do I mean by institutional advertising? Open up any newspaper, magazine or telephone directory, take a look at the first advert – and I almost guarantee it will be very, very poorly designed. At a guess, it will probably flow as follows:

  • Company name
  • This is what we do
  • Contact details

In fact the advertising used by many business owners is nothing more than a larger version of their business card.

However, many business owners have unfortunately bought into (literally) or have been coerced into thinking that branding or simply making people ‘aware’ that your product or service exists, will somehow tempt potential clients to buy from you. This may work for large corporations with bottomless advertising budgets, however, I sincerely urge you not to engage in this type of image based advertising, as you will waste a small fortune.

Very often this misinformation has come from people who simply don’t have a clue how to market a business, but just simply want to sell you advertising space. Trust me, the rep who sold you advertising space (or worse, actually designed it for you!) will not lay awake at night if the advert doesn’t generate any enquiries. The remit of the advertising rep is to sell advertising space, not results.

The number of times I’ve heard a client tell me something along the lines of this, is all too common: “Yes, we recently took out a series of adverts in a magazine. The response? Well nothing as yet, however I have been told that people need to get used to seeing the adverts over a period of time, as the first few often don’t make much of an impact”

Let me tell you: if you didn’t get a response to your advert or flyer or letter the first time, it doesn’t matter how many times you keep rolling out the same version. Listen, your audience are trying to tell you something. It isn’t working!

Spending money on promoting your image is fine, but unless this generates into sales, then it will be a complete waste of your time and money. Yes, your corporate identity needs to reflect the right posture and appeal to your market, but branding alone is always a tricky path to tread, as you will spend a small fortune without any real, tangible results. I have seen it countless times.

As the late and great advertising executive David Ogilvy once said “Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.” Image based or institutional advertising that is.

So what’s the solution?

You need to start using messages that elicit a direct response. A blown-up version of your business card will do nothing to compel me to want to contact you, or to discover more information.

Never start your advertising pitch with your company name. That’s not going to get my attention. The prospect doesn’t care what you are called, only what you can do for them. Instead, begin with a compelling headline; one that speaks to directly to the reader, about the reader and as such draws them in to the rest of your copy.

You must also include a call to action for any marketing message you put out there. Force the recipient to respond with a compelling and persuasive offer. Fascinate the reader into wanting to contact you! The more interesting and appealing your offer, the better. You have to almost metaphorically light a fire under the reader and force them to pick up the phone, email for more information or visit your website etc, there and then.

Focus only on results. Nothing else matters. Brand identity won’t build your bank balance. Your clients are the only ones that do that. By default the only opinion that counts is that of your market place. If they respond directly to your promotional activities, great, keep on doing it. If they don’t, change your approach until they do.

Do things differently. Do not spend any money on creating image advertising alone. Instead create a reaction first and focus on response. Break away from the ‘dead in the water’ advertising that simply does not work. Instead, develop advertising that produces a clear, measurable response.


Andrew Ludlam is the owner of Maverick Marketing Consultancy, and is recognised as an expert on advanced marketing strategy and tactics. As a marketing consultant, trainer, copywriter he has advised many hundreds of business owners one-to-one, and many more have attended his private training programmes. Andrew also publishes a fortnightly newsletter which has some 2,000 subscribers. Andrew has recently published ‘Maverick Marketing’, a very practical, no-nonsense guide to business growth, for more details please visit Maverick Marketing Consultancy.

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