What's the first thing you should do when you sit down to place an ad?
Don't worry, there are no wrong answers!
Perhaps you take a look at your trusty swipe file?
Maybe you dig through one your dog-eared marketing handbooks for some serious inspiration?
Alright, pencils down.
Remember when I said that there were no wrong answers?
Well, I kinda lied.
See, there is something a bulk of marketers get wrong when they compose their ads.
The first order of business should be to take a good, hard look at your competitors.
What they're saying, how they're saying it, the works.
Ignoring your competition is one of the deadliest mistakes you can make!
However, it happens all the time when marketing on the internet.
Your audience doesn’t operate in a bubble and neither should you.
The sooner you acknowledge your competitors, the better.
Well, if you want to make informed marketing decisions, you absolutely must objectively understand what your prospects know and what your competition's up to.
In other words, you need to know the sophistication of your market like the back of your hand.
Thankfully, doing so is actually pretty simple once you understand how.
Breaking down the “Three Keys” to effective advertising
Let's start with a quick review…
These three elements are the pillars of effective ads, according to copywriting legend and author of Breakthrough Advertising Eugene Schwartz, who made millions in the era of direct mail marketing by applying these principles.
And guess what?
These same principles are the bread and butter of successful marketers today who take the time to understand them.
From the top…
First and foremost, you need to tap into a “mass desire.”
It’s not enough for your prospects to simply want what you’re selling; you need to connect with a burning desire within them.
Think about the mass desires that get people off the couch and opening their wallets…
The list goes on.
Secondly, you need to recognize whether or not your audience truly understands what you have to offer, based on their level of awareness around what you're selling.
Awareness has less to do with being the loudest voice in the room and more to do connecting directly with how familiar your audience is with your solution.
It's a big subject, so give this a read:
How to Leverage the Five Levels of Market Awareness to Dramatically Increase Your Advertising ROI
Because you can’t truly speak to your prospects and leads until you understand their level of awareness and market to them accordingly.
The third and final component is what Schwartz called market sophistication
This is where your competition comes into play.
Now, when we talk about the sophistication of your market we aren’t talking about your prospects and competitors lounging around in velvet chairs, sipping Glenfiddich while debating the “Shakespeare authorship question.”
Simply put, sophistication acknowledges how many existing products and competitors in your market already exist and what your prospects know about them.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
It is; however, many newbie marketers ignore the concept of sophistication because it forces them to face their competitors and the ecosystem of the market.
Besides, it's likely that nobody's ever sat down and told you about the sophistication of your market, have they?
Well, today that changes!
Why sophistication is your “secret weapon”
Once you sink your teeth into sophistication, the floodgates of opportunity open for you and your business.
Sophistication represents a potential marketing goldmine when it comes to finding ways to dominate your niche.
You have the opportunity to detect aspects of your market which your competitors are missing and “attack” them accordingly.
Most marketers completely miss this piece of the puzzle when marketing on the internet.
Thank goodness you’re not like most marketers, right?
The Five Levels of Market Sophistication
Eugene Schwartz acknowledged sophistication as a sort of spectrum consisting of five distinct levels.
Whether you’re brand new to your market or you’re in a field absolutely crowded with competition, there’s always a strategy to increase your likelihood of getting noticed.
So, where do we start?
What to do when you’re “first.”
This position is contingent upon having a category of product no one's ever heard of before (and few of us are EVER in this position—so this section is more for reference).
It's a great position to be in, though.
After all, you get to make the rules.
Sometimes setting the bar presents its own set of challenges.
Historically, people to be skeptical toward anything that breaks new ground.
We’re creatures of habit, after all.
While something new and shiny may catch our eye, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re ready to buy into something we’ve never seen before.
That being said, unsophisticated markets can be the land of opportunity.
There’s a reason why you can’t remember what a Microsoft Zune looks like.
Even though iPod wasn’t the sole player in the .mp3 space, nobody else had a chance of competing with Apple's iconic advertising blitz.
The first level of sophistication applies to, for instance, the Tesla Motors of the word who are breaking new ground with self-driving cars and electric vehicles.
The opportunities are endless from an advertising perspective.
“The car that drives itself.”
Such taglines tell you just about everything about Tesla without wasting any words.
Clear, simple, gets the point across.
It works because what's being sold is so new.
Schwartz uses the example of old-school weight loss ads from the 1920’s and 1930’s which took advantage of taglines such as…
“Now! Lose Ugly Fat!”
At the time, such a statement was all you really needed to get the attention of potential customers.
Fast forward to 1995 where you just as well could push an ad touting…
“Make money online!”
At that time, your prospects might have said; “Make money where…what?”
But today, the gravy train of making money online has evolved in every way imaginable.,,everybody is marketing on the internet, and those doing it right are making money hand over fist!
We’ve heard such basics claims so many times before we’ve become deaf to 'em.
Same rules apply to the weight loss industry, right?
When you have the chance to be the first voice to sound off on your services, your voice needs to be simple and direct.
Since your voice will quickly be drowned out once the copycats arrive, you need to make sure your message sticks (such as, “A car that runs without gas,” for Tesla).
When you’re new but not quite unknown.
Hey, second place isn’t so bad, right?
This level of sophistication requires marketers to expand on their bold claims as means of differentiating themselves from the competition.
In Schwartz’s own words, this means “pushing the limits of legality and believability” when it comes to advertising.
Sounds a bit sneaky, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s look at some of his Schwartz’s own examples for the aforementioned weight loss industry:
“LOSE UP TO 47 POUNDS IN 4 WEEKS OR RECEIVE $40 BACK!”
“I AM 61 POUNDS LIGHTER . . . NEVER A HUNGRY MINUTE.”
These ads are effective because they take the urgency of the “Lose ugly fat” claim and make them both measurable and actionable.
Now we have a timetable of how long it’ll take, a frame of reference for how much weight we can lose and the guarantee that it’s going to work.
See how these headlines create a sense of hype?
The obvious caveat here is that your prospects will become discouraged or perhaps even angry if your product doesn’t meet these expectations.
This can be applied to the network marketing space and you’ve probably seen such claims all the time:
“Create a six-figure passive income stream online by the end of the year!”
Gosh, wouldn't that be nice?
See how this example emphasizes awesome results (“six-figures”) for less work (“passive”)?
And yeah, people did take this approach back in the day and there were plenty of leads to go around.
However, this sort of ad sounds more like spam to today’s market, and rightfully so.
In response, marketers must choose their words carefully to avoid landing in hot water.
When everyone starts doing the same song and dance, your market gets bored.
They’ve seen it all before.
They’ve heard it all before.
The gig’s up.
If you want to keep their attention when marketing on the internet, you have to elaborate on your claims.
Think about Tesla's electric cars again, or perhaps their sister-company SpaceX, whose CEO is working tooth and nail to send humans to mars.
In the second level of sophistication, Tesla could emphasize…
“0-60 in 2.5 seconds: faster than a Ferrari for 1/3 of the price!”
Or maybe picture this SpaceX ad…
“Get to Mars one week faster with less lag or your return trip's on us!”
(Assuming the travel to Mars industry reaches level 2, of course!)
Again, emphasize benefits without going overboard.
The benefits of “marketing by mechanism.”
Okay, let’s keep rolling with the weight loss and make money online markets.
At this point, your market is a bit jaded.
Even after being burned by less-than-stellar products and claims, the desires to lose weight or make money still remain (which is exactly why Schwartz stresses the need for mass desire).
These markets still have needs that must to be met and problems that must be solved.
In other words, the market is alive and well.
But your prospects have become desensitized to the bold claims and they’re tuning them out.
How do you bring them back?
Well, Schwartz notes that markets have a tendency to restore themselves.
So your job is no longer to emphasize what the product does, but instead how it does it.
You’re presenting the differentiator, or in Schwartz’s words, “marketing by mechanism.”
Which is much easier than trying to sell your prospects the moon, by the way: instead, you’re selling the idea of the silver bullet or wonder drug.
Take Schwartz’s own examples from back in the day:
“Floats Fat Right Off Your Body!”
The first paragraph of the copy then notes that this fat-floating drug results in no starvation diet, no giving up your favorite foods and not a single hungry moment – all backed by science.
These same rules are still fair game today.
Consider the modern trend of intermittent fasting, which is all the rage in the world of bodybuilding.
In essence, intermittent fasting isn't much of a diet at all, but rather an approach to eating which requires you to fit your meals into an shortened “window” (oftentimes eight hours).
However, many advocates advertise fasting as an “eat all the junk you want and still stay shredded” diet.
Some claim that a longer fasted state forces your body to spend longer burning fat, which sounds stellar to skeptics (“the natural fat-burning diet that isn't a diet at all”).
When in doubt, highlight innovation and benefits
It’s all about positioning.
How about an example from our world?
“Leverage the Power of Attraction Marketing to Passively Attract New Recruits and Get Your Leads & Prospects to Call YOU!”
Notice how attraction marketing serves as the “how,” the mechanism for making money online.
The claim isn’t as vague: it’s specific and presents attraction marketing as the hook to pique the readers’ interest.
Bear in mind that the “how” could be just about anything.
- “Soap opera” autoresponders series.
See what’s happening?
All of these various “how’s” are a means to an end.
- Generating leads.
- Getting traffic.
- Increasing profitability.
These are all very tactical and I’m sure you’ve seen a fair share of these products.
They come in seemingly endless waves, but touch on a variety of benefits and how’s to get your prospects from Point A to Point B.
Whenever possible, highlight benefits and the “how” of your product when you're marketing on the internet.
Not only will this put your product in a positive light, but serve as a way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
For example, Tesla's electric Model S literally boasts a “Ludicrous mode” (the mechanism) to achieve it's ridiculous 0-60 MPH acceleration.
This signals that Tesla's product is just as good if not better than a traditional supercar despite being an electric vehicle.
Or imagine a tagline for SpaceX's “rapidly-reusable rocket” (the mechanism) which promises safer and faster travel to Mars (plus it can come back too).
Giving your products a “special sauce” to stand out.
The more sophisticated your market, the more you’re forced to put a new spin on your mechanism to keep your products fresh.
This is the stage of embellishments and enhancements.
Your products need to be “faster” than ever.
- Less expensive.
- Low commitment.
- High ROI.
You get the picture.
These are our tactics that ultimately set us apart from other messages in our space.
Here’s an hypothetical example for the health niche:
“A pharmaceutical-grade, sublingual, extra-absorptive, proprietary, Brazilian rainforest-distilled, and organically refined and concentrated, fat blocking pill … that allows you to eat whatever you want, feel great, and repair your achy joints, all while you have a snack and take a nap!”
A bit extreme?
Sure, but effective nonetheless.
Here’s a hypothetical example for the Internet marketing space:
“Up-selling. Down-selling. Cross-selling. Re-targeting. All of this and more minus the expensive software. Understand how to build a sales ‘nerve center' that collects leads and warms them up without breaking the bank or relying on someone else's complicated system!”
See how that works?
We’re playing up the differentiating factor.
The secret sauce.
We’re able to do this because our market is sophisticated enough to understand what they need and recognize that we can provide it.
As a result of the competition's claims, everyone in the market is trying to outgun each other and claims quickly become hyperbolic.
Even so, Schwartz cautions that much like the second level of sophistication, these claims will quickly become absurd and unbelievable if you’re not careful.
So tread lightly.
Also, there comes a point where further elaboration is ineffective and ultimately too wordy.
And with that, we’re off to the fifth and final level.
Give your services a secret sauce.
In short, take your ads to the next level by leapfrogging the claims of your competition.
Although Tesla isn't currently swimming in competition, imagine if there were a slew of new electric cars crowding the market.
“We got tired of stopping so we kept going. From Los Angeles to Miami on one charge, Tesla's ‘Hypercar' Model S charges twice as fast as the competition and goes three times as far.”
Forget about claims and focus on your prospect.
At this point, your prospect is over it.
They’re over the claims.
They’re done hearing about benefits.
At this point, you need to do everything in your power to identify with your prospect.
Step into their shoes and walk around in them.
We’ve stepped into the territory of straight up branding.
This is where you try to be funny, clever conscious or cool: whatever strikes that ever-so-important emotional chord with your prospects.
Think about products like cars, computers, beer, and insurance.
These are the things that people know like the back of their hand.
You know, the sort of stuff you’d see advertised during the Super Bowl.
Since these sorts of products are heavily commoditized and there’s little difference between them beyond the surface, they rely on millions spent researching demographics and hiring focus groups to establish gain any sort of market traction.
This is “iconic” advertising
Classic logos and color schemes.
In these cases, image and identity trump everything else.
Marketing in this instance doesn't have to relate to the product because it's ignoring any other type of ads.
Now, breathe a sigh of relief because you’re not going to have to worry much about this level.
Just know that it exists and be thankful that you don’t have to operate in it.
You’re not Pepsi or Microsoft, nor are you expected to be from an advertising perspective.
In extremely sophisticated markets, you need focus groups and a bloated budget to even hope to make a dent.
Thank your lucky stars that network marketing doesn’t apply to this level when you're marketing on the internet.
Perhaps one day we'll enter the era of space travel advertising where SpaceX's could have a tagline like “YOLO” or “For the Adventurous at Heart.”
So, what level of sophistication is my market?
That’s the big question, isn’t it?
Well, online networking is certainly not in level one anymore: simple claims such as “make money online” cased working effectively well over a decade ago.
And we’re not in level two anymore, either (where you're looking to differentiate from your competitors by simply tacking on and inflating benefits).
Most advertising in online networking is in level three, where the mechanism is emphasized.
As a result, new tactics are constantly being uncovered and monetized.
Yet because so many sub-niches and products already exist, you’ll need to dial in on your positioning to make your marketing stand out.
“Get 15 leads/day with Facebook,” for example, just isn’t that sexy anymore.
Sure, it was good enough a few years back, but not today.
People have heard that claim too many times.
You need to start getting more specific and targeted with your content and copy.
This applies to ads, lead magnets, capture pages, the works.
You must bring a level of sophistication that matches your market
Which is exactly what we did with our 10-Minute Traffic Machine.
Check out the headline, for example:
“Discover The New Way To Tap Into The Most Ultra-Targeted Traffic… Get The Highest Quality Leads… And Make A Ton Of Sales…Starting With Only $10 and Just 10 Minutes Per Day“
And there are plenty of 'em.
What's the mechanism?
Well, our method requires a miniscule budget and only ten minutes per day.
A “perpetual traffic machine” that helps you uncover laser-targeted leads.
That's the third level of sophistication in action!
Pretty cool, huh?
Until next time,
Director of Content