It's true that price is a necessary factor in your ads, as are other details about terms, address and services. But most of your good home-loving prospects want more helpful and usable data. They need basic facts about what to do with which products at their windows.
Assuming you are one of the increasing number of retailers who want to promote their fashion and services know-how, where do you start? Where might you look for inspirational words and phrases that add flavor and persuasion to your messages in advertising and other communications? Where can you find usable ideas to spark sales through ads, direct mail, customer folders and Web site newsletters?
Need some ideas? Following are some good sources for both headlines and body copy:
• Mail order materials—Catalog materials from mail order retailer firms using direct mail or Web sites are excellent sources. The professional copywriters for the products shown use "sales methods in print." They combine decorating "romance" copy with necessary details to inspire the consumer to action. They have learned how to sell by using printed messages and illustrations.
• Decorating and design magazines—These high-style publications track the latest fashions for home and office. Their writers use words and phrases that can inspire would-be copywriters, decorating products salespeople and home decorators. Other trade magazines can help you. The Portfolio section of Draperies & Window Coverings, with its full-color room photographs and excellent caption copy, is a good source. So are the other articles, business reports and advertisements in the magazine. Click on D&WC's World Wide Web site (www.DWCdesigNet.com) to browse and download other useful copy, ideas and data.
• Manufacturers' print materials—The various brochures, folders and catalogs offered by your suppliers and distributors of products are obvious help sources when looking for words to transfer your thoughts into usable advertising copy. Their salespeople can supply you with samples of well-written materials, both factual and flowery in content.
The advertising departments of your major suppliers also are sources for ideas and copy. Some even can provide materials such as ready-made advertisements, copy paragraphs and illustrations of window settings.
• Other retail ads—Regardless of product, any home fashion ad might help you with thoughts for headlines and copy. Of course, you will note what your area competitors are promoting and pricing in their ads and on their Web sites. But your store image ads and other print materials should stand out from those of your competitors.
• Media reps—One close source for advertising help may be the representatives of the various newspapers and broadcast media in your locale. Ad guidance usually is included as part of the space or time costs you will pay. You can rough out your general ideas and layout on a piece of paper. Your rep will take it to his production people. They will edit your concepts, prepare a proof of your ad and check with you for approval before the ad is run.
This is the easiest way to have an ad prepared and printed. However, ads from media reps tend to be standardized and look alike. You or someone on your staff will have to help your media people produce ads that fit your store image. A good advertisement becomes a team effort of client and media people.
• Professional assistance—Many retailers, those with some budget and no patience or time to plan ad copy, turn to professional ad agencies, freelance writers and artists or marketing consultants. Some small agencies or individuals specialize in retail advertising. They offer expertise in every creative area including copy writing. Your local yellow pages directories, Chamber of Commerce or employment offices should have listings for such specialists.
WHAT TO WRITE
Plenty of good copy leads are available from varied sources, as listed above. But, what words and phrases will you put into your own messages in ads, mailing pieces and on your Web site? Now, the hard part starts. Here's where many advertisers take the easy way out. They convince themselves that potential customers are not interested in fashion ideas or service know-how. They reason, "Customers already know about the scores of window coverings and the hundreds of possible treatments for their windows. They want only to know the prices." Right? NO! Not for all your customers—even when the price is right, even if you lose money on the sale.
Every prospect wants to know, "What's in it for me? How will it look on my windows? In my room? Yes, your price is important to me. But I need more information. Lots of it."
Your written messages should point out one or more benefits of your products or services. Your ads and personal sales discussions can provide more about some of these other benefits such as privacy and home beauty. Then add comfort, convenience, status, even well-being. And pride of possession, energy savings and uniqueness. The list can go on.
INVOLVE YOUR PROSPECTS
Write your advertising copy with your customers in mind; talk to them from their point of view. Tell them what your ideas, products and services can do for them. A homemaker doesn't buy just curtain rods; she buys the benefits that satisfy her or his perceived desires and wants. The product must fulfill some emotional or physical need.
Try to determine which benefits will have the most impact. A special price reduction is always important, especially when it's believable and backed by a good reason for the reduction. A beautiful decorating idea or superior service can be just as important for the readers of your written messages.
Your copy should be enthusiastic, but not exaggerated. You can't make wild claims about products or services. There's a fine line between honesty and meaningless hype or baloney.
Not many will believe your surplus superlatives. Base your statements on facts; your benefits should be as good or better than what you write about them.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Good copy is readable. Follow this basic rule; never use a big word if a little one will do. Use words that everyone will know and understand. Cut back on overused words and terms such as "quality" and "assorted colors." Can you explain what quality means? Does it indicate durability, solid construction, heavier gauge, better weave or guaranteed service?
People seldom buy "assorted" colors. They buy a color. Good catalog copy lists colors available. Note colors you carry in stock or that you can match the color they need.
USE SALES APPROACH
A good advertisement has the same sequence as a personal sales approach: AIA
A is for attention. Spark awareness with a benefit headline, one based on basic fact or emotion.
I is for interest. Hold a reader's attention with a believable offer using sincere and factual copy, whether short or long.
A is for action. Close your message with a call to action: a call to visit your store now or phone for an early appointment in her home.
Writing an effective selling message will require some study and patience. It's not always easy to describe a benefit or idea with words and pictures (more on this subject in a later article). Even more difficult, though, is the possibility that your efforts may be ignored by those you want to attract and sell.
Some extra thought at each step may lessen this possibility. If you persist, persuasive writing and selling will become easier, effective and more profitable.
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising programs. Fashion + Service = Sales
When selling window coverings and home interior products, fashion ideas, service factors and professional knowledge are usually more important to your customers than product details and even the final price.
The small home products retailer is in a unique position, more so than in most other retail fields, to promote and sell the interrelated concepts of design, service and training through advertising and personal communications. Here are some of the most common body copy points and descriptive words to use:
• Time saving
• As always, Quality
• X years experience
• Free price estimates
• Any styleŃwindows, doors, groupings
• Free measurements
• All Products
• As always, Quality
• Customized or standard
• Classic traditional to functional modern
• Consultations in store or in your home
• Valances, swags, cascades, combinations
• Of course, Quality designs
• X years in community
• Shop-at-home service
• On time
• Deliveries and installations
• Easy terms
• Brand names
• Honest pricing
• Free estimates
• Surely, Quality products