in Books, How to sell

Notes from How to Write A Good Advertisement


  1.  Get attention
  2.  Show People an advantage
  3.  Prove it
  4.  Persuade people to grasp this advantage
  5.  Ask for action

Get Attention

  • The reader buys something for news, entertainment or instruction so you got to deliver the same
  • An ad should be easier to read than to skip“ – awesome sentence. If you think about it is in the headline. The reader needs to think that he will miss out if he doesn’t read your ad.
  • The headline must offer a reward for reading
  • Two types of headlines:
    • a) how the reader can save, gain or accomplish something
    • b) how the reader can avoid risks, worries, losses, etc. aka. consumer benefits

Elements of a great headline:

  •   secret / simple / hidden
  •  little mistake / little something
  •   by me / my
  •   advice / how to
  •   egoistic interests / who else?
  •   new / discovery / ever / never
  •   exact numbers / specific information
  •   or your money back / or pay
  •   almost / some
  •   colloquialisms
  •   which of these? / any of these / such
  •   Paradoxes
  •   thousands / 70% of people / 2 out of 3 woman / an other
  •   you / your / yourself
  •   label interests: town, state, country
  •   today, this year, now
  •   underdog
  •   here
  •   before – after
  •   stopper: THROW AWAY, BUY NO
  •   avoid brand name
  •   what will you be? how will people view me?
  •   suppose / would have / ought
  •   but / only / limited
  •   FREE

Here’s an other great headline:

Profits that lie hidden in your farm


  •  don’t perfectly balance it
  •  pictures of people (woman, young child, baby for women; man for men), children, animals
  • bigger and less pictures
  • show product in use
  • shouldn’t look like an ad, e.g. Ogilvy’s How to create advertisement that sells

Show people an advantage

  •  What will your product do for me? aka. WIIFM: What is in for me?
  •  Sell an experience or even better an identity
  •  Imagine how people will receive your ad
  •  „advertising which does not get under this epidermis of position or circumstance, which does not get down to the most basic human appeals and motivations, misses a lot of people—and sales.
  •  Don’t neglect your first paragraph: easy to read, relate to the headline

Prove it

  •  Dr. Charles M. Edwards „The more facts you tell, the more you sell
  • People need and want facts as reasons and excuses for buying to justify to themselves (and to others) a decision which may be based on their emotions alone => „Nobody wants to be a fool.“
  • Emotions form beliefs which are later rationalized
  • „We tend to believe what arouses our desires, our fears, and our other emotions… Once a belief has been established in this way, logic and reasoning may be used to support it.“
  1.  Belief is a matter of feeling and emotion rather than of reason.
  2. The truth is not a primary factor in determining belief.
  3. Belief is a personal matter, a fabric of personal experiences.
  4. Belief has also a social component to be accounted for by the need for conformity with one’s fellows and especially with those in authority.
  5. Belief is dependent upon desire—we believe what we want to believe.
  •  Think and do research long enough before writing
  •  Every product has unexplored angles. Look long enough and you will find attributes which are unique
  •  Incorporate „old“ known facts
  •  These include:
    •  Product details
    •  Test
    •  Expert evidence
    •  Testimonials: don’t edit them too much, keep the natural sound
    •  Awards
    •  Sales
    •  Reseller
    •  Patents
    •  Reputation
    •  Speed
    •  Well-known users
    •  Demonstrations
  •  Keep the facts believable even if they aren’t
  •  Dramatize them
  •  Be specific
  •  Give a reason for price cuts

Persuade people to grasp this advantage

  •  picture benefits in the daily lives
  •  how to get it
  •  sum up story
  •  write for the people who are hardest to sell to

Ask for action

„If a salesman neglects to make a good close he can make another call. But a “poor-closing” or a “nonclosing” advertisement makes an ineffective visit to every one of its prospects.“

  • a) go  to your dealer + why + benefits
  • b) „Do-something“: checklists, tests, questionnaires
  • c) Direct response: use hooks, time limit, limited supply, price going up (on exact date), empathize loss / gain, use guarantees

Be specific, keep it simple and easy

When Gatti-Casazza, the famous opera impresario, asked the composer Verdi for advice regarding the duties of an impresario, Verdi told him: “Read most attentively the reports of the box office. These, whether you like it or not, are the only documents which measure success or failure and they admit of no argument and represent not mere opinion but fact. If the public comes, the object is attained; if not—no! The theater is intended to be full and not empty. That’s something you must always remember.”

How long copy should your copy be

Use vivid present tense, singular instead of plural. Make it al- ready happen to him as he reads. Jim Young once said, “To get a man to do a thing, let him see himself doing it.” For example, from an airline advertisement: “You left the East Coast at one o’clock after an excellent lunch. Now, stretched out in a big, cushioned easy chair, you watch cloud patterns shift on the green and gold checker- board of the farmland below.”

These are just a few ideas on how to let look a copy shorter:

  1. Paragraphs—Short. Indented, not flush. Double lead between each. Occasionally centered. Judicious use of italics, caps, bold face, or oversize initials.
  2.  Copy blocks—Not too wide for proper eye range in relation to type size. Vary widths. Graduation of type size; setting the opening paragraphs in a larger size, then dropping to smaller.
  3. Subheads—Frequent and bold enough to break up any too formidable appearance of body matter; but not enough to distract reader from sequential flow of copy story.
  4. Specification matter—Product specifications, or similar technical details, may sometimes be set in smaller type, boxed. They are there for those who want to know them; but they do not interfere with more attractive display of the more highly motivated copy.

As Gilbert K. Chesterton said: “There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.”

Yet many advertisements virtually say little more than “Hello— Our product is wonderful—Good-by.”

Ask customers why the brought and use this sales angle in your copy

Don’t underestimate subheads

  • after 2 – 4 paragraphs
  • Use questions
  • Plan them from the start

How to get more inquiries

  •  offer something free which is useful
  •  Refer to your freebie specifically, e.g. page 27 will explain …
  •  Feature your freebie
  •  Write about privacy concerns

How to get less

  •   provide qualifying facts: costs, requirements, etc
  •   small charge

Do copy appeals have a sex?

  •   women are harder to sell
  •   men are more concerned about the future and generalities
  •   sell women on the immediate, imminent and specific


Interesting and instructive split-run tests

  •  use appeal to attractiveness to the other sex if possible
  •  busy layouts work better
  •  choice increases the conversion: which of these?
  •  appeal to nostalgic memories
  •  aim for broader appeal

The hard-boiled attitude – and how to acquire it

  •   Each line must contribute toward profit
  •   The sole purpose if advertising is to make profit not getting awards or compliments
  •   Learn what doesn’t work
  •   Your copy should sell alone; try to get as near as possible
  •   Doubt your copy and criticize it hard

Random observations

  •  include both the gain the reader gets from your product and the loss he gets if he doesn’t buy
  •  sometimes high confidence, i.e. expecting people to buy will work
  •  People want to experience good feelings again
  •  Let the reader dream first and then do
  •  Start small
  •  Write a classified ad even if is for your old lamp
  •  „Use words to paint a picture“
  •  Emotions work: love or hate


Pretty awesome book. I can recommend to grab a copy and work through it.

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