Originally published June 17, 2005
Is any advertising more closely monitored by the advertiser than a “personals” ad? I don’t believe so. If ever an advertiser wanted results, and wanted them now, this is it.
Personals ads demonstrate some of the best, and the worst, techniques in advertising. Let’s look at these examples and see what we can apply to advertising in general.
1. Stop trying to reach everyone
Personals ads immediately need to focus on prospects, and eliminate non-prospects.
All too often, business advertisers try to make their ads appeal to “everyone.” If you’re a single woman posting in the personals, though, you don’t want responses from everyone. Other women are probably of no interest to you. You likely don’t want to hear from married men, either. If your objective is dating, it’s pointless to attempt to reach people that aren’t potential dates.
Trying to reach everyone is a fool’s strategy in business, too. You probably don’t have any interest in people who can’t afford what you have to sell. You also aren’t likely to want to reach the idly curious. As a business your objective is to reach people who could become good customers.
Make your ads speak directly to those people.
2. Your Headline Is Critical
Get your prospect’s attention. Get it immediately. If you don’t get your prospect’s attention, will he even notice the rest of your ad?
“Relationship wanted” will never get as much attention as “North Texas filly looking for stable mate.”
Draw the business parallel. Your retail ad shouldn’t say “We want your business.” Instead, it should say
“Everything you need to make your garden grow is waiting for you at Mineral Wells Hardware.”
3. Make me want to learn more
The objective of personals advertising is to find someone to date. The objective of mass media advertising is to find new customers for your business. In neither case will you benefit from skimping on the descriptions.
“Single woman desires long term relationship.” is less likely to get the attention of gentlemen reading the ads than is “Witty, flirtatious, and outgoing. I smile easily and enjoy laughing, am open-minded, honest, and like to talk about ideas. I would like to get to know a man who is confident of who he is and what he wants out of life. I’m single, have never been married, but like the idea of finding my soul mate.”
By the same token, “Bedding plants in stock” is weak when compared to “Brighten your yard with salvia, iceplant, petunias, and pansies. Color your flower beds with all the hues of spring, ready to take home today from the Nolan River Nursery.”
4. Tell potential customers what you give them that your competitors can’t
Nobody spends advertising dollars in hopes of being ignored, and yet every day business owners manage to fade into obscurity by making their ads sound exactly like other ads.
Consider an all-too-typical personals listing: “I love sunsets, long romantic walks by the ocean, and candlelight dinners.”
No kidding? Is there a woman alive who doesn’t like sunsets, long romantic walks by the ocean and candlelight dinners? This will not make anyone stand out as worthy of attention.
By the same token, does there exist any business that doesn’t offer helpful, courteous service and years of experience? Helpful courteous service doesn’t make you special. It’s the minimum entry-level behavior that customers expect.
Statements like “helpful, courteous service” make your ads fade into background as noise. Your store ad could just as well say that you “love sunsets and long romantic walks.”
When your ads sound like everyone else’s, you’re not likely to be noticed, let alone be remembered.
5. Tell me what’s in it for me
If you met a stranger who opened the conversation with “I want to tell you all about myself,” how much interest would you have in talking to that stranger?
Here’s the personals ad which takes that posture: “I’m looking for a long term relationship. Honest men only. I’m tired of fakes and game players. And if you are looking for someone to hang on your every word, keep on looking. No mama’s boys need apply.”
Think she gets many replies?
No, I don’t suppose so. The business equivalent is: “We need to sell one hundred cars to meet our sales goals, so we’re going to be making the best deals we can remember. Limited to items in stock. Limit one per household. Not valid with other offers. You must take delivery from dealer stock before close of business Friday.”
“We, us, our.” “We” again. Aren’t we something? Just ask us. Bleh.
Stop talking about you, and what you want from me. Start telling me why I should want to do business with you.
Here’s a better example from the personals: “Would you like to spend some time with someone who’s optimistic and fun to be around? I hope you’re comfortable in jeans, you know what you want, and aren’t afraid to show it. You’ll find me open-minded, non-judgmental, and loyal.”
Much more effective, isn’t it?
In the business community you’ll get substantially better results when you drop the “we / us / our” verbiage, and replace it with “you.” “Have you ever noticed that you walk a little bit taller and you even feel better, when you know you look good? We promise that you’ll turn heads when you’ve had your hair cut at the Singing Scissors Salon.”
Use these five rules as a starting point. Study the personals, and take note of those that get your attention. The basic principles will make good business ads, too.
Whether their purpose is personal or business, good ads don’t scream for attention, they seduce – a crucial skill when you’re fishing for customers.
Your Fishing for Customers guide, Chuck McKay, gets people to buy more of what you sell.
Got questions about writing secucing headlines and emotional appeals? Call Chuck at 304-523-0163, or write ChuckMcKay@ChuckMcKayOnLine.com.