Sell Your Product, Then Ask For Money

I had a discussion recently with someone about banner ad content. They showed me the first draft for their ad campaign, which consisted of:

  • A statement claiming that the product was better than other similar products
  • The price of the product
  • "Buy Now" as the call to action

I proposed that we could split-test this version with others. However, I also submitted that there may be a more effective version of this ad.

Show the Value Proposition First

Futurama 6ACV03 - Attack of the Killer App. Image from Know Your Meme:

Imagine you are in a bar and you see an someone you'd like to get to know a little better. After approaching that person, what would you do?

  • Ask them to go home with you
  • Spend some time showing how awesome you are before asking them to go home with you

Spoken differently, which car salesman do you think is more successful:

  • The one who asks people if they want the buy the car they are looking at right away
  • The one who asks if he can be of any help and tells people about all the awesome features of the car

Generally-speaking, people go through the following phases in their product discovery:

  • I've never heard of this product.
  • I am interested enough in this product to learn more.
  • I like this product. Do other people like it too, or am I missing something?
  • Other people seem to like it as well. What will it cost me?
  • Shut up and take my money!

The most natural marketing efforts will guide people along this path and make it as easy as possible to make the decision themselves. They'll be more interested in what others think if they believe that the product serves a useful purpose. If they've never heard of the product, telling them that someone else liked it will have much less of an impact than it otherwise could have.

Time is short. Make an impact.

Not only do you need to help people move through the purchase funnel, but you don't have long to hook them in. You have a few seconds at most to hook in a user as they scan over your banner ads, landing page, email newsletter, or other non-video marketing effort. How do you get someone interested enough to learn more in those few seconds?

These few seconds are essentially an elevator pitch to the viewer. Imagine what you would say if you only had 5 seconds with someone on an elevator to convince them to research your product when they get out of the elevator. It might be the problem that the product solves, a key feature, an endorsement by someone they recognize, or something else. In fact, you'll probably come up with several ideas. It'll be a great opportunity to split-test different versions to test your assumptions!

What about funny/emotional ads? They don't show me value!

Advertisements that rely on emotion are relying on the assumptions that:

  • The ad will illicit positive emotion from the viewer
  • The positive emotion will be associated with the brand or product
  • The viewer will remember the brand or product after seeing the ad
  • The viewer will want to seek out more information about the product after seeing the ad

In effect, they attempt to short-circuit your brain. Rather than creating positive emotion or brand equity through showing how awesome the product is, they use humor or another mechanism as a proxy to establish those emotions before you've heard the value proposition.

These ads are more effective for established, well-known brands. When executed properly, they can work for companies a viewer has never heard of as well, but usually takes more effort to find something that will resonate with the target audience enough to override the fact that your company is unknown.

What should I do if I have multiple ideas?

If you can't decide between direct, emotional, and value approaches, it's worth it to split test some ideas. Find a few small ad networks or user segments and run a few versions of your campaign across each group. You can see for yourself if you've struck gold and can run the best campaign against the rest of your networks or user segments.

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