Make sure you touch all the bases

By John Foust

Burt is a real estate agent who told me about a call he received from a telemarketer. “It was a company that was selling advertising in some kind of print and online directory,” he said.

“A minute or so into her spiel, she asked if I wanted to hear the ad copy they had prepared for my listing. That really took me by surprise, because I had never talked to anyone at that company before. To be honest, I had never heard of them.

“As far as I remember, the copy went something like this: ‘In today’s ever-changing real estate market, you want a representative who will keep your best interests at heart. Burt understands the intricacies of buying and selling. From his first day in the real estate business, he has been focused on customer service. And over the years, he has developed a strong network of contacts in the banking, construction and relocation industries. Whether you’re interested in buying or selling, Burt is the right person to help with your real estate needs. Customer service is his No. 1 goal.’

“Ridiculous, isn’t it?” he said with a laugh. “Now, I’m not blaming the lady who called me, because she was just doing her job. But it was obvious that her company uses generic ego copy to try to close sales in short phone calls. They probably have one template for real estate, one for dentists, one for attorneys, and so on.

“How in the world can anybody create effective advertising without learning something about the advertiser?” Burt asked. “It was obvious that they were skipping a step in the process.”

That telemarketing call reminds me of an old baseball story. Jake Beckley, who played for the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1900s, was running from second to third when he noticed that the home plate umpire’s back was turned. Not one to miss an opportunity, Beckley skipped third base altogether—missing the bag by 15 feet—and sprinted to home plate. He was emphatically called out, and when he complained, the umpire replied, “You got here too quick.”

Like Jake Beckley, Burt’s telemarketer tried to skip a step—and was called out at the plate.

Spec advertising can play a valuable role in the sales process, as long as it is based on relevant information about the advertiser. “I have bought spec ads before,” Burt explained. “One thing that set those ads apart was that the people who created them learned something about my business before they presented ideas. They studied my previous advertising, and they asked questions to learn what sets me apart from my competitors. That put them in position to create ads that weren’t generic, boilerplate ramblings like I heard from that telemarketer.”

Burt wants his marketing to stand out, not blend in. And I think it’s safe to say that the advertisers in your hometown want the same thing.

It all starts with knowledge. That’s one step that is too important to skip. © John Foust 2011. All rights reserved.

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