Let’s face it… most online advertising is foolish, especially your typical banner ad. The general approach to banner ads is ineffective, easily blocked, and regular site surfers literally become blind to them.
Even pay per click – perhaps the greatest ROI advertising ever devised – is used foolishly. High dollar clicks sent to poorly written, undifferentiated landing pages, or worse, that stellar home page with the “We’re the greatest!” message that immediately prompts people to hit the back button.
There is, however, a way to do online advertising without wasting your money and annoying people. As it turns out, this approach is also quite Foolish.
I say Foolish in this instance because I’m going to give you a step-by-step example using methods from The Motley Fool. The Motley Fool is a financial services company that understands the Internet as a direct marketing environment driven by content, and they get online advertising right.
Let’s take a look.
1. A Content-Driven Advertisement
As you can see, the advertisement not only looks like content, it’s promoting content (rather that the ultimate product). This is important, because it’s the key to why it works as a first step.
Although clearly labeled as an advertisement at the top, the first thing you notice is the provocative headline. You’re drawn into the copy, which is immediately supported by an authoritative statistical reference from Business Week.
You’re then led into a compelling curiosity-driven tease and a strong linked call to action. And finally, you’re assured by the brand recognition The Motley Fool has spent 17 years building.
2. An Opt-In Landing Page
It’s crucial to stay in contact with a potential customer or client, and most online advertising ignores this in favor of a one-shot attempt at… whatever. Here The Motley Fool employs such a powerful headline and subhead that they don’t bother with additional copy or bullets – and it works.
Keep in mind that the Fools have that 17 years of brand trust on their side. You might pull this off with your landing page with just headings and an image, but your best bet is to provide at least several fascinating bullets points that further tease at the promised content.
Also note the assurances made to the prospect about privacy and the way the opt-in email address will be used. This is important for a trusted brand like The Motley Fool, and it’s even more important for you.
3. An Educational Approach to Selling
After the opt-in, the Fools deliver exactly what they promise. The report arrives via email, and contains meaty content and smart analysis about trends in cloud computing.
Remember this first and foremost – educate first and foremost. Give people something they can use, and they’re primed for more value. And that’s exactly what the Motley Fool report does.
While delivering on its promise and providing value, it becomes clear that this information is just the tip of the iceberg, and clearer that deeper analysis is valuable and worth paying for. That’s the natural point to make an offer – when people have been educated enough to do business with you.
Do You Have to Pay for Advertising?
Absolutely not. We’ve been preaching for almost five years that compelling content is the new advertising, thanks to the fact that compelling content spreads for free via social media.
People actually want content.
So, the three steps are the same, with one key difference. Your day-to-day content replaces the advertisement on a third-party site. People find you via social media, subscribe, and pay attention over time. Then you move to Steps 2 and 3.
In fact, the Motley Fool employs that very strategy with its own free content. When you’re big enough and need to grow bigger, perhaps then you’ll consider spending money on third-party advertising.
As long as it’s Foolish, and not stupid, right?
About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter.
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