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Buddha once said, “Thousands of candles can be lit by a single candle.”

I’m certain Buddha wasn’t thinking about fueling commerce via advertising, email marketing or social media, but that incisive phrase about inspiring others through actions and words dovetails perfectly with the ability to duplicate a sale process with an emotion-evoking communication.

It’s been said that success in sales is the ability to duplicate a sales process. Whether we’re talking about re-using a sales method that succeeded on subsequent sales calls; or hiring other sellers, training them to take a sales process to a multitude of direct sales prospects; or advertising our goods or services to the masses, it’s all about the duplication of a sales process. By doing that, we are inspiring others with our actions or words.

Those words must be economical, sensible and, most importantly, evoke emotions.

Most entrepreneurs and sales people will have to manage an advertising campaign in one form or another. Many people misunderstand the goal and purpose of an ad campaign. This is why many have a critical outlook on advertising, because there are boundless ways to get it wrong. Today there are so many ways to effectively communicate with prospective customers, from terrestrial methods, such as TV, radio, print and outdoor, to new, more intuitive advertising methods, such as email marketing, social media, and digital geo-targeting apps, the latter of which can track your location from a store and intuitively tailor an advertisement to your past purchases and personal demographics. No matter what means you use, all advertisements are designed to do the exact thing. It’s the same thing all sales are meant to do, and that is to make action happen faster.

In its simplest sense, all advertising is a referral from one being to another that something, and somewhere is safe. As human beings, we require this referral because we are inherently wired to be weary of the unknown. That same weariness has kept us alive generation after generation.

Let’s go back in time to the hills of Southern France. Assume for a moment there exists a family of cave men, women, and children in search of shelter from a volatile, Ice Age, winter day. It’s snowing and raining heavily, and the wind is blowing sideways. This family must soon find protection from the storm. Suddenly, they come across a cavern. It’s big, deep and dark. Do they go in? Chances are, no they won’t go in, because lurking at the back of that cavern could be a giant bear, or another Ice Age mega-predator, ready to eat them.

Chances are, that family will keep searching for shelter that is clearly safer. But then, just before the family moves on, a second family emerges from the big, deep, dark cave and they say, “Hey, come on in! There are no bears in here. We’ve got a bunch of berries, and this new thing we’ve found? We call it ‘fire,’ you’re gonna love it!” Suddenly, the invisible barrier keeping the first cave family out has been eliminated. That referral from one being to another has prompted action.

Every business has an invisible barrier that exists at the threshold of their door. Use your own experience. Is there a place, a restaurant perhaps, you’ve driven by day after day, year after year. For whatever reason, you’ve never gone in. People are actually more apt to go back to a restaurant in which they’ve had a bad dining experience instead of going to a new restaurant they haven’t experienced. Emotion-evoking advertisements are an effective way to break down those invisible barriers.

There is a famous quote by the founder of Revlon Cosmetics, Charles Revson, that goes, “In the factory, we make cosmetics; in the drugstore, we sell hope.” Revson understood that when it came to communicating to prospective buyers, he could list all of the pedestrian details about his company’s cosmetics, or he could solve his prospective customer’s problems with his products. He could make every woman who bought his product more beautiful, so that is what he sold. What would you buy? A bunch of chemicals mashed together in a bottle that you’re supposed to put on your face, or the hope of looking more beautiful?

So often, businesses mistakenly make themselves or their products the subjects of their advertisements. The people who are subjected to our advertisements do not care about us. They care about solutions to their problems. If you can solve their problems, then your ad will be more effective.

I wish I could have a one-on-one consultation with every insurance salesman who puts his headshot on a billboard. I’m sure you’ve seen these billboards. They usually are positioned on a busy roadside and feature a forgettable picture of a guy’s head and torso wearing a tie. This picture is usually next to his ordinary name and a phone number printed in type that’s too small, as if people driving 65 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic would really be looking for a pen and paper to write down the number.

Or how about the local car dealer ads on TV?

They usually feature the owner of the dealership in a poorly fitting suit making awkward hand gestures that don’t correspond to the verbiage. Usually, these guys say “folks,” “low financing,” and “come on down.” Do you really think people are sitting at home saying to themselves, “Well, I’m convinced – there has never been a better time to buy from that dealer. I mean did you see his hand gestures!”

The reason these sales people mistakenly make their ads about them and not about the solutions their customers require is they’re led down this path by poorly trained ad reps. Ad reps have long asked their clients to “voice their own ads,” in part because they know their client’s friends will likely say, “I heard you on the radio!” And though they are getting feedback, the bulk of the audience has tuned that advertisement out, because it evokes no emotion and solves none of the client’s problems. This is a severe waste of money and time; it pointlessly strokes egos and does little to make action happen faster.

When it comes to the content of your advertisement, the riskiest thing you can do is to blend in with the other ads. You must be different.

But how do you find to the right message for you? Stay tuned next week, we'll discuss selecting your company's advertising vehicle.

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