The five key elements of a successful advertisement

It would make life awfully nice and easy if only we could simply tell teachers and school managers what we have for sale, and for them then to buy it.  Unfortunately everyone now sees so many adverts each day that we have to do a little bit more than that.

In this section we look very briefly at the five key elements in selling to schools.  Get each of these right and your message is certain to get across and bring you in sales.

Be creative

Being creative is a key element in advertising. Successful advertisements do not simply state that this is what we have for sale and then describe the elements within the product (although a lot of unsuccessful adverts do this).   Instead they are masterpieces of creativity which focus primarily on gaining and holding attention.

Thus advertising is not about announcing what is for sale or simply saying there is a discount. It is about creating an interest long before the product is revealed.

Grab attention

Beyond everything else direct marketing adverts need to grab attention, and as a result each advert needs to be different from every other advert.  Indeed copying what someone else has done, either in terms of general style or in terms of actual text and pictures, is rarely the way forward and can often cause harm.  (Just because someone else has done it doesn’t mean that it is actually a good advert.)

In fact, grabbing attention is an art form in itself because with email advertising you only have about one second to do it. With a postal campaign you have four seconds.  Either way it is not very long.

So the notion of starting with some background and introducing yourself as you might when addressing an audience at a conference, won’t work. You have to knock the readership out within a second or two.

The unique selling point

Unique really does mean unique. And selling point means that people will buy the product because of this point. Being discounted does not make something unique, nor does being new, fun, or different because everyone claims that.

So the rule of procedure is simple: When you draw up your list of unique selling points, look at it and ask “is this really unique?”  And “is this actually a selling point?”

What happens in fact is that some people confuse USP with the description of their business or their product.  Saying, “we are a small family business” might be your selective selling point but it is not unique – and because it is not unique, its power as a selling point is diminished.  To make it a selling point you need to put forward a case as to why dealing with a small family business is of benefit to your potential customer. claims that one of its unique selling points is that we combine unique approaches to data research and despatch with unique creative skills. As we sometimes say, “No one writes adverts like we do,” and indeed “No one offers all the ways of selling to schools that we do”.  The benefit is that we can generate higher response rates than other firms.

So do remember, next day delivery and guarantees normally are bonus points, not USPs. On the other hand offering a computer on a month’s free trial would probably be a USP.

Why should I buy it? And why should I buy it from you?

These two questions are at the heart of all successful selling – and the answers need to contain something special and profound which genuinely says why the customer should buy.

As discussed previously under the topic of unique selling points, just telling the customer that you are a small family business or that you offer free next day delivery usually isn’t enough.

The answer, “because we are cheap” or “because we are the best” or “because we are a small friendly company” are very rarely adequate responses in the mind of the potential customer who will invariably have a large number of alternative suppliers to consider.

Separating each part of the message

The email or the sales letter has the purpose of grabbing attention and exciting the reader – making the reader think: I want this, I want to know more about this.

The brochure or the landing page on the website carries the details, the technical data, the features, the specifics.

This separation of the two elements is normally really important although not always essential – for example, if you are simply selling a report you can probably say what you need to say about the benefits of the report on an email and leave it at that.

But if you have something more complex than a report, or if you want to incorporate options, possibilities, what others have said about the product, etc, you need something separate. Normally a leaflet or a special landing page on your website.

Because the email normally leads onto a landing page, and because a sales letter leads onto a brochure or leaflet, it is vital to keep both in mind when writing.

In an ideal world this means writing both the email and the landing page at the same time, but if this is not possible, always have the landing page in front of you while you are creating the email – or vice versa.

Click here to see an example advertisement, along with some commentary

To talk further about this article please call 01604 880 927 or email 


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