When it comes to advertising, here’s one of my least favourite expressions…”industry best practice suggests blah blah blah zzzzzzzzz”. Oh sorry, did I just zone out?
Industry Best Practice is as meaningless as it sounds. But it’s something many business owners like to spout when they disagree with my approach to writing Facebook Ad Copy. It’s especially true of many e-comm business owners. They stubbornly cling to their dreary lookalike copy, like their business depends on it.
Often, they churn out copy with no emotional resonance, simply because it’s what everyone else does in their market. If “industry best practice” means blending in with the competition, then boy do these business owners do an awesome job!
Trouble is, when business owners follow “industry best practice”, they’re not even aware it’s a problem. They believe they’re following timeless marketing theory, when the reality is quite the opposite.
Now, I’m not saying my ad copy always works. Like anything in marketing you never know for sure until you test ideas in the real world. But, I will continue to give industry best practice the finger, when industry best practice sucks.
What many business owners don’t realise, is that emulating the competition isn’t necessarily the best approach. Yes, you might see a certain type of Facebook ad plastered everywhere, but how do you know it’s even working? Chances are, it’s probably not working as well as you think – especially on Facebook.
Many E-Comm businesses get frustrated with Facebook advertising because they can’t get the results they desire. This tells us one thing – their approach doesn’t work. Despite the fact that everyone’s doing the same damn thing.
So, my question to you is this, do you want to make money? Or do you want to play it safe? Making money with Facebook Ads means taking risks others aren’t willing to take. It means pushing through your comfort zone, and daring to run ads that look different to everyone else’s.
Let me show you an example…
This Boden ad is a typical E-Comm ad. It’s similar to many ads we see at the agency (before we work our magic). To me, it’s limp. It elicits less desire than a soggy cucumber sandwich. But for some unknown reason, it’s almost impossible to tear E-Comm businesses away from this formula.
Here’s what I see when I look at this ad:
This little-known advertising faux-pas instantly kills sales copy –
Clayton Makepeace regularly pointed out that faux benefits kill sales copy. Here’s an example of a faux benefit in a piece of copy for a diabetes remedy. See if you can spot what’s wrong with it…
“Balance blood sugar levels naturally”
Did you spot the mistake? On the surface, it looks like a sensible, benefit-driven headline. In reality, the headline does not contain a single real benefit. Balancing blood sugar levels naturally is a “faux benefit”.
What makes it faux? Well, no one ever woke up saying, “Jeez, if I could just balance my blood sugar naturally, my life would be so much better!” Clayton Makepeace put it like this:
“Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.”
Avoiding blindness, coldness and numbness OR gaining greater comfort and health to have fun with the grandkids are the true benefits of diabetes medication.
Now, let’s switch back to the first few words in the Boden ad: “Flattering and Versatile.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’ve ever said to myself, “You know what would make me really happy right now? A dress that’s flattering and versatile.”
No. This is much more likely to be the conversation that happens inside their ideal prospect’s head:
“Urgh, I’m sick of getting changed every few hours, and adding to my overflowing wash basket. It’s full of clothes I only wore for half a day. Why can’t I find a dress that’s smart enough for me to wear at the office, slutty enough to wear in a bar (*sorry not sorry*) and comfy enough to wear at the park with my kids. Plus, I’d really love it if I could bend over without exposing my bum to other playground mums when I need to wipe my daughter’s nose…and for the wind not to blow up my skirt.”
THAT’S the ugly, neurotic truth of what Boden’s avatar is actually telling themselves. But when was the last time you saw an ad that actually spoke to you that way? Imagine how much more it would resonate with you if it did! And how much more likely you’d be to buy it.
I can think of just one example in the high street fashion space that gets deep into the mind of the avatar. It was made by the advertising geniuses at Harmon Brothers. Watch it, digest it and think about why it’s different from all the other lingerie ads you probably ignored in the past.
How to rid your Facebook ad copy of faux benefits for good!
If you want to rid your Facebook ad copy of faux benefits, you first need to figure out the true benefit your prospects can get from your product’s key features.
How do you do that?
- Make a list of every feature of your product or service
- Research your market to discover which feature is most highly-valued by your market. This point is key (I’ll talk more on this in a minute)
- Ask yourself why each feature matters to your prospect. What tangible outcomes does it help them achieve?
- Take that tangible outcome and ask WHY the outcome matters to your prospect. Keep asking why until you get to the emotional root.
Here’s what would happen if we apply this process to our Boden ad copy:
Before: Flattering, versatile – and did we mention they have pockets?
After: Imagine finding a Wonder Dress that works as hard as modern mums – one that’s “Power-Dressy” enough for the office, sexy enough for date night, and comfy enough to chase your kids around the playground after picking them up from school.
Maybe I’m biased but I know which dress I’d rather buy!
The common feature-trap that catches out most entrepreneurs
Earlier on, I touched on the importance of researching your market to find out which features are valued most by your market. This might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed how few businesses take the time to figure this out.
Quick story – I work with a client who sells bamboo fibre pyjamas for parents and children. The CEO founded the company because she was passionate about sustainable fabrics.
Trouble was, her audience didn’t give a monkeys about sustainability. They were drawn to the amazing softness of the fibres. They also loved that parents and children could buy matching pyjama sets.
It was a huge challenge to get the client to accept the best messaging for her audience. So much of her brand identity had been tied to sustainability. She struggled to let go. But let go she did, and her ads started to take off.
Let’s look at our good friend, Boden, again. The only feature mentioned in this ad is the dress’s pockets. Maybe their buyers like pockets. Maybe they don’t. But I suspect pockets are not a deal-breaker for most women looking for a new dress.
More importantly, this ad does not explicitly explain why I should care about having a dress with pockets. Remember, people are fundamentally selfish. If they care about your product at all, it’s because of what it can do for them not because it has pockets.
Banish bland features and show prospects what’s possible when they buy from you
So, how do you find features that resonate with your audience?
- Read through customers reviews, customer service emails, Facebook ad comments
- Count how many times popular features keep coming up
- Choose your 2-3 most popular features and use them in your ad copy
- When you describe your features make sure you tie them to a TRUE benefit. Don’t ever describe a feature without explaining why it will enhance your prospect’s life.
In an ideal world your most sought-after feature will also be a sexy USP. If it’s not a unique feature, it’s a small downer but not a complete disaster. The most important thing is to speak to features that your prospects actually care about. AND to explain what each feature can do for your buyer.
Now let’s apply what we’ve learned to Boden’s pocket feature:
Before: Did we mention they have pockets?
After (assuming pockets are a sought-after feature in this market): Did we mention our dress comes with discreet but practical pockets? They’re just the right size for your car keys, phone and emergency school-run tissues without spoiling your gorgeous silhouette.
What the “Godfather of Advertising” can tell us about creating ad images that sell
Now, I’m no art director. So I don’t have much advice when it comes to Facebook ad imagery. But I wanted to share an important insight, taught by the Godfather of Advertising, David Ogilvy. Here’s what he said about images:
“The more story-appeal there is in the picture or in the photograph, the more people will look at your ad.”
What do we mean by story-appeal? For an image to have story-appeal, it must capture a single, dramatic moment. That moment must be familiar enough to your ideal prospect that they could construct a full story just by looking at the image.
Press photographers are amazing at capturing images with story-appeal. Like this one, of Arthur Scargill being led away by police in the 1980s. It leaves the viewer wondering what led up to this incident making them more likely to read the news article that went with it.
In many cases, a killer image can be enough to save a Facebook ad with poor copy. Sadly, our friends at Boden have failed to capture a resonant story in the image for this Facebook ad. This kind of bland imagery is rife in E-Comm advertising. It showcases the clothes but it does little to capture attention and generate interest, which is the ultimate goal on your ad image.
Not being a graphic designer, I won’t attempt to teach you how to create imagery that tells a story. I will, however, leave you with this famous image that was the brainchild of David Ogilvy. In less than 5 years, it helped double sales for a 116 year old shirt manufacturing company.
All because of an eye patch that gave this simple image some story appeal:
So, what can we take away from Boden’s flaccid Facebook ad, and E-Comm ad “best practice”?
- Following ubiquitous advertising methods doesn’t always mean great ad performance. In fact, it’s probably best avoided unless you have concrete data that confirms the effectiveness of the method.
- Think long and hard about your product’s features. Are they features your customers actually care about?
- Explicitly explain the benefit of each feature. Why should your prospects care about it? How will it enhance their life?
- Avoid the Faux Benefit trap. Tap into your market’s core desires to find the true benefit of your product.
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