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Why your digital advertising isn’t working. And what you can do about it

Want to explode the selling power of your online ads? Follow this straightforward five-step formula:

  1. Shock – Capture your target audience with a relevant disruptive image and matching headline that seizes their attention and doesn’t let go. Practice writing commanding headlines by googling “the 100 greatest headlines ever written” and using that powerful language to craft your own marquee language. If chosen correctly, your image-headline combo becomes a conveyor belt to explosive sales. Stick – Scribble up a super sticky subhead that fastens your audience’s attention, draws them into the body copy of your ad, and keeps them reading. Again, a quick online search for a headline bank will help you craft irresistible language.

  2. Share – If you’ve held your audience’s attention thus far, they’re already committed and will read more as long as you reward them with the information they need to make an informed decision about their prospective purchase. The more you tell, the more you sell. This is where you clarify what qualifies as a top-notch product or service in your sales category. And your clarification automatically qualifies your offering as “best in class” because it ticks off all the boxes you’ve just set as a standard bearer for your industry. Teach your prospects what to scan for and what to beware of when deciding which product or service to purchase. Then show them how your business stands out to meet the informed customer’s expectations in an ocean of confusing options. If your body copy does its job, you will quickly qualify leads and empower more of them to make a quicker purchase.

  3. Soft Sell – This is your gentle call to action. Resist the temptation to “hard sell” your prospects. Instead, make a smooth-handled FREE offer. You’re building trust, so demand no obligations. What product-related item of value can you freely offer to quicken the prospect’s path to purchase? A consultative call? A downloadable free report? A free gift in exchange for entertaining your demo? A free novelty bearing your logo? How else can you make the buying decision as pain-free as possible? Are you so confident in your offer that you can afford a buy-back guarantee? If not, why not?

  4. Sustain – Expand your marketing campaign to include more free information, guides, and reports, affordable premiums, newsletters, email blasts and updates to keep prospects on the marketing continuum. Even consider direct mail, cards, and gifts to nurture your relationship. Let them know they’re on your radar and you’re thinking of them and their desires and interests. Learn to incubate your prospects. The idea is to keep them in your pipeline and maintain a sales relationship in which you earn their trust and become their number-one go-to solution—a customer for life.

Back to the drawing board

But before you roll out a campaign of splashy headlines and stellar promises, you must first evaluate what worthwhile promises you can actually keep. Reexamine your process. Turn your company inside out. Tally up all the things that make your business better than its nearest competitors. Be honest with yourself. If nothing differentiates your products or services from industry leaders, then figure out whatever your market is missing but still craves and get ready to deliver on a fresh new promise.

Introduce what no one else can do, does do, or is willing to do, even if it sounds a little crazy. Dream up whatever irresistible must-have offer you can profitably support. Think through what will keep your customers up at night till the first chance they get to consummate a purchase. Plus, give them a little extra push by determining some additional value can you add to sweeten the deal. Write and experiment with your ads, testing different images and headlines to determine best response rates. Build and sustain trust and earn more sales and more lifetime customers.

Jeffrey Tomas Marchesseault is a broadcaster and real estate broker who now works in economic development, national and international affairs for the government of Guam. He loves to read, write, and riff about busted communication systems and how to fix them with technology. Send feedback to

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