Finding advertising that works: Putting the ‘why’ in your ads

Date Published: 
August, 2005
Original Author: 
Tim Thompson
Mount Royal Commemorative Services, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, August-September 2005


The best definition of marketing is that it consists of absolutely every bit of contact your business has with any segment of the public, a circle that begins with your ideas for generating revenue with the goal of amassing a large number of repeat and referral customers.

In part 1 we covered one of the key elements of your marketing efforts, that is, advertising as it relates to media selection and the tracking of results.

In Part 2, we will be covering the critical topic of the content of your advertising, and in part 3, we will begin to delve into other marketing issues such as price, public relations and the customer experience.

A company can advertise in many different ways, including price and item; branding or top-of-mind awareness; and direct response. At Mount Royal Commemorative Services we have made a commitment to a concept called educational marketing.

Our ads, primarily on the radio (as explained in Part 1), have three main components.

First, the "hook." The initial seven seconds is critical if you want to grab the listeners' attention, so our ads start with a question such as: "Did you know that one out of every two Canadians chooses cremation over traditional burial?" or "Did you know that 71 percent of consumers preplan their funeral arrangements when making a will?"

Second, more information. We provide more details on the topic introduced by the question, and relate that information to the benefits offered by Mount Royal.

Third, the call to action. Even though our ads take an educational approach, advertising without a call to action is wasted. Unless you're General Motors or McDonald's, the concept of branding is difficult to achieve when you are working with a limited budget. Advertising involves getting your name out, and branding is simply attaching something to your name.

What call to action do we use? It's simple: ''Call today for your free information kit with no obligation." You need to repeat the phone number at least twice in the ad, and then your company name and slogan.
For example: "Call today for your free information kit with no obligation ... 279- PLAN ... that's 279-7526. Mount Royal Commemorative Services ... tradition ... trust ... tribute."

Bad response rate? It's probably your fault.
Most advertising isn't working like it should, and in most cases the blame lies entirely with the advertiser. Most advertisers insist on repetitiously cramming the name of their company, the name of their product, their business hours and their street address into every ad they buy.

Such ads do a great job of answering the "who, where, what and when" but fail to answer the all-important question "why?" Bad advertising is about the advertiser; good advertising is about the customer.

Alvin Eicoff created the direct-response television industry. A contrarian, his philosophies shocked the advertising community, but his success could not be denied. Eicoff sold product. Lots of product. The phrase "or your money back" is his. Those ubiquitous 800 numbers came into being in part because of Eicoff.

Eicoff was elected to the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame and was cited by Advertising Age as one of the 50 most influential advertising people in television history. His three-part approach for creative advertising was simple:

1.    State the problem.
2.    Explain the solution.
3.    Demonstrate how your product or service best provides the solution.

Another method of approaching ad content:

•    Focus on the prospect.
•    Emphasize your USP (unique selling proposition)....
•    Repeat, repeat, repeat.
•    Add testimonials.
•    Provide a guarantee.
•    Offer a premium.
•    Set a deadline.
•    Tell them what to do.

The educational approach works
Over the last five years, our educational marketing approach has paid great dividends. We have amassed a database of approximately 5,000 prospects, people who have contacted us to request our free information kit.

Some of these prospects have prearranged with us; the others are part of our CRM (customer relationship management) program, which enables us to make many "touch points," including our newsletters and phone calls.

The content of the information kit sent out is very important. Make sure it is filled with relevant information that will pique their interest so you will be able to schedule a follow-up meeting. Our counselors contact all those who receive an information kit within 10 days and try to set up an appointment.

The bottom line is that even a million dollar ad campaign encompassing television, radio, print and billboards will fail without the right message. Stay away from price, clichés and generic death care approaches.

People want more information about our profession, so provide it to them and watch your business grow.

Next: Part 3 will discuss marketing of which advertising is just one component.