Here's the most powerful, most productive, most efficient way to generate responses from ads

friday, 6 november of 2009

Here's the most powerful, most productive, most efficient way to generate responses from ads

by Trey Ryder

The following article is longer than most articles I write for this Alert. Yet, if you run ads and hope to attract calls or e-mails from prospective clients, this understanding is key to your success.

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When buying ads, lawyers often make four costly assumptions:

ASSUMPTION #1: Lawyers assume that if a non-lawyer advertiser got a good response from an ad, a lawyer will also get a good response. This is like comparing apples to elephants.

Don't draw ANY conclusions -- or make ANY predictions -- based on someone else's ad response. Even two lawyers who practice in the same area of law can get very different responses depending on (1) the target audience they're trying to reach, (2) the page on which their ad appears, (3) the position of their ad on that page, (4) the graphics they use to attract attention, (5) the words they use to generate a response, (6) the nature of their offer, and on and on.

ASSUMPTION #2: Lawyers assume that advertising sales reps know more about advertising than the lawyer knows. Usually not true. The ad rep knows how to sell advertising in his publication. He has learned what to say to get you to part with your money. The ad rep knows how to use the most colorful pie charts, the most detailed demographic information, and the most confusing statistics to convince you he knows what he's talking about.

ASSUMPTION #3: Lawyers assume that since the ad rep works for the publication, he should know how to get a good advertising response from that publication. Wrong. Ad reps are commissioned salespeople. They know how to sell ads. If an advertiser gets a good response from a publication, either the advertiser himself is really good at marketing -- or he gets help from a marketing consultant. I can't think of anyone who knows less about marketing and advertising than ad sales reps.

ASSUMPTION #4: Lawyers assume the ad rep will -- at least to some degree -- act in the lawyer's best interest. Yeah, right.

Two quick stories:

Several years ago, my ad rep at KTAR, the leading news-talk station in Phoenix at that time, invited me to lunch. He wanted to learn more about education-based marketing because he said my clients consistently got higher responses than any other advertisers on the station. I explained that if he taught his advertisers how to use education-based marketing, they would get such a good response that they would refer more business his way.

He corrected me. I misunderstood why he wanted to learn more. He wanted to market with education so he would attract more new advertisers, not so his clients would get better responses to their commercials. He said that if his current advertisers increased their response, they would cut back their advertising and he wouldn't make quota. So he was not about to share this method with them.

Second Story: I was so happy with our response from KTAR that I wrote a testimonial letter that specified the number of commercials we ran on specific days and the number of calls we received. I thought if sales reps used my letter as part of their presentation to new advertisers, perhaps one or two of those advertisers might ask me to help them with their marketing.

Two years later my ad rep left town, so the sales manager assigned a new account manager to work with me. This lady already knew who I was because she had used my testimonial letter to persuade new clients to buy ads. Then she explained that my letter caused her lots of problems because her new customers didn't get anywhere near the number of calls my clients received.

I explained that her radio station played an important role in getting the large response. Then I explained that even more important was the method of marketing. I discussed the differences between education-based marketing and selling-based marketing. Her eyes glazed over and she didn't have a clue. She thought the radio station alone was responsible for my clients' success. She was wrong.

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No advertising salesperson ever accepts responsibility for a poor response. First, it's your fault because... and they give you a list of reasons. When you no longer believe it's your fault, they tell you it's their audience's fault for not responding. And when they've worn out that excuse, they confess that they don't know why the ad didn't work -- because similar ads work for their other clients. But by the time they reach the third excuse, you've already quit advertising with them, so they move on to the next unsuspecting deep pocket.

I would need many pages to identify and explain each element needed to create a good ad. So, instead, I'll highlight the subjects you must address, and offer comments. For simplicity, I'll use the term publication, but the same issues apply when buying time on radio or television.

SUBJECTS YOU MUST ADDRESS

1. Choose the publication most likely to reach the highest concentration of your target prospects.

2. Decide what you want your ad to do. Do you want your ad to offer services? Increase attendance at seminars? Direct prospects to your web site? Offer an educational handout?

3. Decide the action you want your prospect to take. Do you want your prospect to call you? Go to your web site? Register for your seminar? Call for your fr*ee materials?

4. Decide how much information you need in your ad to motivate your prospect to act.

5. Write your ad using words that motivate prospects to respond.

6. Choose graphic elements that will draw prospects' eyes to your ad.

7. Create the finished ad and test it to see how well it performs.

Here's the catch: Each of these items is a critical link in your advertising chain. If you have even one weak link, you won't get the response you want.

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When buying advertising space, here are claims you may hear and how to see through the smoke screen.

NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES

CLAIM #1: Our newspaper is read by 150,000 people.

ADVICE: Don't pay any attention to readership. Most ad reps claim that each paper is read by 4.7 people, 7.3 people, or some other crazy number for which they offer no proof. Ask how many papers they print and distribute. This is called circulation. If you want to press the point, ask to see their publication's audit conducted by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. (Generally, only larger publications request an ABC audit.)

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CLAIM #2: Our newspaper goes to 50,000 homes.

ADVICE: Ask how it gets there. Do they mail papers to those homes? Do they hand deliver papers door to door? Do they stuff them into advertising packets that contain other newspapers and fliers? Do they leave them in racks outside grocery stores, hoping shoppers will pick them up?

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CLAIM #3: We distribute our magazine in reception areas at professional offices.

ADVICE: When I look at magazines in a reception room, they're usually a year or two old and torn to shreds. On a visit to a chiropractor's office, I saw a magazine that was nine years old! Ask: How do these magazines reach the professional's office? What types of professionals receive the publication? What are the zip codes where their offices are located?

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CLAIM #4: Our circulation is controlled.

ADVICE: Controlled means fr*ee. Controlled circulation means people do not pay to receive this publication. Generally, readers pay more attention to a publication when they buy a subscription.

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CLAIM #5: Our publication goes to every one of our members.

ADVICE: Publications that go to members are often the least-read publications, especially if the organization has a lot of members spread over a wide geographic area. On the other hand, newsletters that go to small memberships often receive high readership.

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GENERAL RULES & FACTS OF LIFE

-- The higher the publication's circulation, the lower its readership.

-- The lower the circulation, the more readers pay attention to the publication's content.

-- The more narrow the publication's focus, the higher its readership.

-- The broader the cross section of readers, the fewer qualified prospects you reach -- unless you attract prospects across a wide range of demographics.

-- Even if your prospects have varying demographics, you reach your target audiences more effectively when you advertise in publications of special interest to specific groups.

-- Large ads usually work better than small ads because more readers are likely to see them and because you have more space to motivate readers with your words. Even so, if you've had a lackluster response from an ad of one size, moving to a larger ad, by itself, probably won't make much difference. Ad content is far more important than ad size.

-- Choose an ad that is a different size from most ads in the publication. If you pick a common size, the graphic artist can stack your ad on top of others, making it harder for your ad to stand out. If you pick an odd-size ad that won't fit well against other ads, you are more likely to get a position by yourself, helping attract attention.

-- Don't rely on numbers ad reps give you. Ask for the numbers they don't volunteer.

-- Ask for names and contact information of current advertisers like yourself. Then call them for references. You should not assume your response will be like someone else's Still, you might learn something from someone who currently advertises in that publication.

-- If prospects haven't responded to your ad after it has appeared a few times, they aren't likely to respond after more insertions, unless your prospect's circumstances have changed.

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RADIO AND TELEVISION

Most radio and TV reps talk in a language all their own. They use terms like cume, quarter hours, day parts, gross rating points, cost per thousand impressions, and other gibberish. Reps figure if they dazzle you with numbers, you'll think they know what they're talking about and write a check.

The only two terms you need to understand are reach and frequency. Reach is the number of different people who will hear your commercial. (You can get figures for reach based on the station's total audience, or based on the target audience you want to reach.)

Frequency is the number of times listeners hear your commercial. If the station can't provide you with reach and frequency, then don't make a big commitment at the beginning. Test on a small basis until you know whether prospects respond to your commercial. (Frankly, even if the station does provide you with reach and frequency numbers, you're still smart to test on a small scale at first.)

If you run several commercials and reach nearly 100 percent of their listeners, you have exhausted their audience. They can no longer tell you that continued ads will reach more people, since you've already reached everyone. So -- all they have left to fall back on is the idea that you need to hit listeners again, again and again.

When I buy broadcast time for a lawyer, I want the highest possible reach so we deliver our message to the largest number of genuine prospects. And I want a frequency of not more than 2.4, meaning that each prospect will hear the commercial on average not more than 2.4 times. To arrive at 2.4, some will hear it 3 times and others 2 times. If people have heard your commercial two or three times and have not responded, hearing it ten more times probably won't make any difference.

GENERAL RULES & FACTS OF LIFE

-- RADIO: News-talk stations usually attract more inquiries than music stations because people listen to news-talk stations, where they only hear music stations. Also, news-talk stations usually attract more educated, affluent audiences.

-- RADIO: 30-second spots don't give you enough time to deliver your message, especially since you should reserve at least 15 seconds for your phone number, web site address or other contact information.

-- RADIO: When possible, choose specific times of day or specific talk shows during which to air your commercial. As with publications, the more narrow and specific your audience, the more prospects you are likely to reach.

-- TELEVISION: In most cases, TV advertising cheapens your image due to the high number of sleazy, high-pressure TV commercials run by law firms.

-- TELEVISION: If you select the right TV programs (such as news programs), and record education-based commercials, you can remain on a higher plane and separate yourself from the hucksters.

-- RADIO vs. TELEVISION: If you're considering both, I would test radio commercials first because, in many cases, you can buy effective time slots that reach specific audiences cheaper than comparable time slots on TV.

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YELLOW PAGE ADS

Be careful. Three former clients have recently reported increasingly poor (and even terrible) results from major yellow page investments. While yellow page reps are quick to suggest ways you can improve your ad -- almost always at a higher cost -- the fact is most prospects now turn to the Internet rather than the yellow books. And even when prospects want to look in the yellow pages, they often refer to yellow pages online, avoiding the book entirely.

Yellow page sales reps are among the most high-pressure, well-trained and highly commissioned salespeople on Earth. And while you might be wrong to completely avoid the yellow pages, you could be even more wrong to invest a lot of money. One key question to ask yourself: "Do the prospects I want to reach still use the yellow pages to find a lawyer?" Often, they don't. If you have the budget for a high-dollar yellow-page commitment, I suggest you invest that money in other, more effective marketing opportunities that don't handcuff you to a 12-month contract

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INTERNET

Be careful about depending on other web sites to drive traffic to your web site. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's iffy at best. When you depend on someone else's web site -- and perhaps even pay for the service -- you turn over control to a third party. And often, as with most types of advertising, you don't get what you expect.

If you want prospects to go to your web site, you're in a much stronger position when you yourself place ads in targeted publications -- or on broadcast airwaves -- that direct prospects to your web site. Unless you have convincing evidence to the contrary, I would not depend on someone else's representations about their high-traffic web site or their ability to send prospects your way.

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YOU WIN OR LOSE BASED ON WHAT YOU OFFER

Here are a few suggestions about what you can offer and the type of response you will likely receive.

SERVICES: If all you put in your ad are your name, contact information and area of practice, that's all prospects will know about you. Is that enough information to persuade them to call you?

ADD -- a call to action that invites their call for a fr*ee phone consultation. Now will prospects call you?

ADD -- facts about how long you've practiced law. Will this information attract calls?

ADD -- your professional memberships. Is this enough to get prospects to call?

ADD -- that you're a certified specialist in your area. Does that attract phone calls?

ADD -- the types of clients you serve. Does this generate calls?

ADD -- your photo with good eye contact and a friendly smile. Now do you get calls?

ADD -- the specific services you provide within your area of law. Does your list of services prompt calls?

ADD -- a testimonial from a former client. Is this enough to get calls?

ADD -- a recommendation from a former judge. How about now?

ADD -- a list of current or representative clients. Does this result in calls?

How much information do you need to include before your prospect will call you?

You think: If your prospect has a problem, he will certainly call you. Right? Not necessarily.

Many prospects, while afraid of their problems, are even more afraid of lawyers! I call this phone-call fear. Phone-call fear is the fear of what your prospect thinks might happen when he calls your office. Here are a few of your prospect's fears:

1. He's afraid you may charge him for the phone call.

2. He's afraid you may refuse to talk with him over the telephone.

3. He's afraid you may not handle his type of problem.

4. He's afraid you may not have time to help him.

5. He's afraid you may charge more than he can afford.

And so on.

You think: "Why would any prospect be afraid of me?"

In truth, he isn't afraid of YOU. He's afraid of lawyers as a group. And, generally, the less sophisticated your prospect, the greater his fears.

Your prospect thinks you're like all other lawyers until you explain how you're different -- until you explain that you will not charge him for the initial phone call -- until you explain that you'll gladly speak with him over the phone -- until you show that you'll eagerly take time from your schedule to speak with him -- until you deliver your entire marketing message.

So what should you do?

The education-based marketing model suggests that you offer fr*ee educational materials that explain your prospect's problem and the solutions you can provide. Prospects like requesting fr*ee information, especially since they don't have to speak with you. They can request your materials from your secretary or receptionist, and then read your writings in the comfort of their office or living room.

In those materials, you have the opportunity to explain that you're not like most lawyers. In fact, here are 17 ways you differ from other lawyers -- and your explanation continues. In addition to your competitive advantages, you include 5 Costly Misconceptions About Wills. Or -- 9 Mistakes People Make Before Filing for Bankruptcy. Or -- 7 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting Custody of Your Children. Or -- whatever lists will attract the specific prospects you want to reach.

The more information you provide to prospects BEFORE they speak with you, the more willing they are to call you. The more credibility you build BEFORE prospects speak with you, the more willing they are to call you. The more you overcome prospects' fears BEFORE they speak with you, the more willing they are to call you. The more prospects understand how you can help them BEFORE they speak with you, the more willing they are to call you.

For the highest response from prospective clients, offer fr*ee educational materials so prospects can get them without pressure, without commitment, without hassle and without effort -- at least, no more effort than it takes to place a phone call or send an e-mail.

This is the foundation on which education-based marketing is built. And it's the most powerful, most productive, most efficient way to generate responses from ads. (It's also the most powerful way to generate inquiries from articles and interviews.)

This is the same method I used to help a lawyer generate 80 calls per radio commercial.

This is the same method I used to help a lawyer land a small newspaper article, which filled his seminar with 233 prospects

This is the same method I used to help a lawyer secure an interview on the TV mid-day news, which resulted in calls from 200 prospects within three hours, over 500 in all.

This is the same method I used to help my wife get into Ann Landers's advice column, which generated 19,000 written inquiries the first week.

Remember: You should not compare someone else's results with results you hope to achieve. Even so, I know of no marketing method more powerful -- more persuasive -- more effective -- or more efficient than my method of education-based marketing.

It's the only method I use for myself. It's the only method I use for my clients. And it's the only method I recommend. Why? Because it's the only method that I know works!

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© Trey Ryder

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