Ivan Levison —
Direct Mail, E-mail and Advertising Copywriting

How to make your ads make money -
A case history

Who says advertising is only good for building an "image" or creating "awareness?"

Where is it written that print ads can be used for generating leads but not for making hard sales?

The answer is, if you know what you're doing, you CAN sell right off the page and do extremely well, thank you.

Avantos Performance Systems, in Emeryville, California, is living proof that the right product, an aggressive offer, and hard-hitting creative can make money for your company immediately!

Here's the story . . .

Avantos is the creator of ManagePro, a terrific software product that makes managers' lives easier. (If you manage goals and people, pick up a copy of this wonderful software -- you'll love it!)

Avantos President Norm Wu, and Director of Marketing Craig Kerr, decided to do some testing and run ads in the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine. To make a long story short, I wrote the ad, the results were terrific and I'm enclosing a copy of it for you to check out.

What made this ad such a winner?

Why did Norm say the phones were "ringing off the hook day and night (and weekends too)"?

Let's take a look at just some of the factors that contributed to the ad's success.

The offer. When you're selling off the page, you'd better give the reader a good reason to buy. Avantos went with a proven free-trial offer that's been working well for a number of forward-looking software publishers.

In this case, the customer pays $9.95 "shipping and handling" up front and gets to try out the software risk-free for thirty days. The user can keep ManagePro for another $195 ($200 off the SRP of $395), or return the product and not pay a penny more.

Because the $9.95 is nominally for shipping and handling, we were able to say "try it free" which helps pump up the response.

NOTE: If you want to sell successfully off the page, you'd better plan on developing a powerful offer or else don't even waste time testing!

The copy. As is always the case when I'm the writer, the headline is dealt with in a direct, no-nonsense manner. I get the name of the product in the headline right away and tell readers what it can do for them. I also highlight the free offer and add a punchy subheadline.

The body copy hits the key benefits and I've used a number of time-tested techniques that I know will get results: subheadlines that break up the body copy, call-outs and captions, a dynamite review quote (in this case one from the Wall Street Journal where the ad was running!) and an ordering module complete with attention-getting headline and hash marks.

Let me mention that the clean, attractive art direction was done by Cris Parsons (408-247-1665). (You should see this ad in color. It really pops!) If you need some help with art direction or graphic design, give Cris a call. He's really good and a pleasure to work with!

A note about channel conflict. I know that many of you software publishers are concerned about undercutting the channel with your own low, direct-sale prices.

Obviously this is an important issue that deserves close consideration, but I don't think you have to be as nervous now as you once were. The channel is discovering that your direct marketing efforts actually create demand in the stores and are not a dire threat to profits. You can also do many things to help the channel.

Take a look at the Avantos ad, for example. Notice that they tell customers that if they want to order through a software dealer, Avantos will send them a rebate certificate worth $50 that they can take into the store.

It's true that Avantos isn't offering a 30-day free trial with a dealer purchase, but at least they're trying to level the playing field and are acknowledging the channel's existence.

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