Friday, October 12, 2012

Convince Me—How to Write Compelling Ad Copy

As a homeschooler, you are determined and driven. 
You invest time and resources.  
You create, with ideas and inventions.

 Now that you're ready to strut-your-stuff to the world . . .
What do you say?

Many of you turned your creativity into merchandise or a service worth promoting—a web site, unique product, or family business. You may be interested in self publishing: professional blogging, writing curriculum, or plugging your E-Book.

What do you know about marketing? Or writing advertising copy?  

With my experience as a marketing copywriter in the homeschool sect, I'd love to share a few things I've learned with you. How you present yourself and your product is essential, and writing effective ad copy could make a big difference for you. Read on, and utilize these tips to help you look your best—writing fresh, inviting, and exciting ad copy. 

Convince Me—
How to Write Compelling Ad Copy

 Advertisements are almost everywhere, used in a wide variety of mediums. Do people want to be bored, or engaged by what they are reading? Which ads do you like best?

What's the focus behind every ad you see? Securing the SALE—how to reach those millions who need a particular product or service, and how to get them to buy, sign up, support, or take that one-step leap to purchasing. 

Writing ads could be compared to writing in general. Its words should appeal to the reader (the audience) and in the case of an ad, it appeals to the reader/buyer. All writing has a purpose intended to cause a reader to react or act

Compelling ads aim to get the viewer to do something in particular. This is the call to action, the essential part of all ad copies. Competition is great, so what compels a potential customer to act or buy?  . . . A well composed spiel or ad copy that meets the consumers’ need, along with several extras!
A persuasive ad contains certain elements enabling it to succeed. Some would appear to be common sense items you'd expect to include: 

  • Gripping, enticing headline (it pulls you in)
  • High-interest features drawing attention to your message
  • Attractive display
  • Relevant information
  • Informal style
  • Explanation of benefits
  • Believable, credible, and excellent content
  • Positive and cheerful approach (keep away from negatives)
  • Correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar
  • Legible, concise, and complete
  • Business contact, endorsements, and ordering information
  • Reasonable price range (too high or low could cost you the sale)
 To write advantageous ads, you'll consider including: 

  • An active “personal” voice (individual style or rhythm)
  • Promise of benefits (with reminders)
  • Testimonials
  • Freebies, demos, sales, deals, deadlines
  • Carefully chosen words and illustrations
  • Short headlines of up to three words
  • Bullets, side bars and text displays
  • Italics, underscoring, highlights (not to excess, and don’t use all CAPS)
  • Short paragraphs
  • A separate, specifically crafted order card
  • Key words (wanted/why/how/which) used to capture a striking headline
  • Signature, logo, and identity information
There's more to consider though, if you want to be the one scoring phone calls and making sales.

Ad-copy writing is a creative, artistic one, endorsing your company’s exclusive expression of ideas. There is more than doing an “A to Z” on your check-off list. It attracts attention by sight, ear, or emotion. 

The overall design or style of the ad is pleasing to the eye, visually balanced, and in unity with the text. The visual imagery is impressive. Use of color and artistic elements are included in your design, and this is where a graphic artist/designer can assist you. I encountered this expression in my marketing study:  
“The finished ad is the symphony composed of many perfect notes.” 
I like music and I like that picture thought!

The rule of thirds is a helpful guideline as you sketch the first rough of your ad. The first third designates the headline, the second is reserved for the illustration, and the last third is for the copy and signature

An important component is the white space included as part of the design. Adequate white space generates a feeling of being open-fresh-clean, and enhances readability.  I like to think of white space as frames and boarders that set off your important information. Simplicity should rule, not clouding your single message with clutter. This includes text as well as illustrations. 

What works for one product may not work for another, and your particular product won’t interest everyone in the world (in most cases). Individuality plays an important role here. Speak to your specific viewers addressing them as such (college students, teachers, classic car owners, loved ones of cancer victims, etc). Customize and adapt to their interests.

The ad copy’s unique style is a representation of you or your company and its voice has to fit its image and be compatible with your target audience. This is a major selling point. Logos, captions, banners and graphics used in connection with company image are remembered. 

Customers will be impacted to repeat business with you.  Know what your business represents and can do in detail. Take a close look at your competitors. Keep the needs of the customer in mind, not the needs of the company’s. Think in terms of the benefits for the consumer that you can offer him. Knowing your prospective customers and what they want, and knowing your business in terms of what the shopper will buy, are basics to success.

These three essential “E"s will grab and influence the viewer in a profound way: 

  • One is the advantageous role that emotion plays. Making an emotional connection with your readers links your product (or service or company) to them. The readers identify with something in the ad and it incites them, desiring them to be like what they see or envision in their mind, or may be to help-a-cause or fill-a-need. Most often this comes from a photograph but sometimes an illustration will work. Emotions like love, anger, passion, pride, freedom, or fear, are often used. As an example, think of a photo of an attractive couple embracing, featured on a cabin rental advertisement in a magazine. (That could be me!) The National Guard ads are also great examples. (Be all you can be!) Sometimes a few well chosen words alone can stir up an emotional response. I'm thinking of a certain ad that I hesitate to include here, but the headline alone conjures up imaginary images in your mind (it may even shock you enough that you simply can’t forget it!) It could elicit a negative response on purpose (somewhat risky), though it’s better to stick with positive based promotions. Humor is another touchy area that may be difficult to use effectively.
  • Empathy is emotion's sister. You are establishing a trusting friendship with your clients through your ad, and it lets them know that you understand their problem and that you can help provide the solution. A homeschool product ad with a photo of a mother seated at the table with smiling children reading a book together, with a message offering to make my job easier (because they know how difficult it can be at times) is sympathetic to my situation. It just may be that what you are offering is exactly what the customer needs and desires (sold!).
  • You’ve heard that enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s fundamental to dazzling, convincing ads. Get excited! Write in a conversational tone with zeal! Help fulfill the dreams of your patrons while you fulfill your own.
 When you've completed your work-of-art ad and after following all the rules of the advertising game, you can be pretty sure it'll work to its best capacity for you. But, there are always exceptions and occasionally it's fine to break those rules on purpose. I'm thinking of a Lambert's (throwed rolls) Cafe billboard in Springfield, Missouri where the entire sign is upside down capitalizing on its Heads Up theme in the headline! A little distance down the road you find the exact same sign is placed right side up. That’s a successful ploy done deliberately. And Lambert’s always has lines of people outside waiting their turn for that fun roll throwing. I am sure it’s just one little element in their marketing scheme.

These four “D” reminders will assist you in writing good ad copy:
  • Dazzle your prospects
  • Draw them into the ad’s content creating a sense of urgency
  • and Drive them  
  • to Do what you want.
There’s a lot of creative energy, imagination, skill, intuition, common sense, courage and plain old experience involved in ad copy writing. While I believe it is a fun process, I hope you have a new appreciation for writing artistic ad copy and are eager to apply this material that will aid you in reaching your marketing goals.

About Kathy: Back in 2008, she put into practice what she learned through personal study and in a marketing class  taught by the professional ladies at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine where she worked as a marketing copywriter for several years. She is an RN, a freelance writer, and contributor to the E-Book: To Market, To Market: Selling to the Home Education Sector

Could you use an opinion or a little help with writing your ads?  Email Kathy at:


  1. I plan to read this more because I need to improve in my writing and I plan to start an at home business as I homeschool my son. Lots of great advice. Thanks for posting!

    1. Working from home can be such a blessing. Thank you for visiting today, Angele.


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