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Ogilvy On Websites


David Ogilvy

Did you know David Ogilvy started his professional career as a door-to-door stove salesman? This is a hidden gem in the history of advertising’s greatest icon. He was so good at selling stoves that the company (AGA) asked him to write an instruction manual for his fellow salesmen.

I’m pretty sure it was during these formative years that he learned the psychology of buyers. Nothing teaches you how to give people what they want like knocking on their door and pitching them cold. Trust me, I tried selling alarm systems door-to-door in college.

I think it was also during these years that he developed the formula for successful selling…regardless of the delivery system. I can guarantee that David Ogilvy would crush all of us marketers in the internet era if he were here to do his thing.

So, what’s the formula?

Big Promise + Proof = Increased Sales

Present a big promise (more customers, whiter teeth, better sleep, clearer skin, etc…) as soon as someone opens the door. Arouse curiosity with a promise that appeals to your reader’s self-interest.

Once you have their attention, provide the facts that prove you can deliver on this promise. Remove the barriers standing in the way of a purchase by helping the buyer thoroughly understand your product.

Now let’s translate this formula to your website. Present a big promise as soon as someone opens the door (lands on your website), and then provide the facts that prove you can deliver (benefits, features, about, services, case studies, testimonials, etc…). I don’t care if you’re a Fortune 500 company or freelancer, the Ogilvy Formula works.

Crafting A Big Promise

Everything starts by making a promise that appeals to your ideal client. You’re not worried about everyone, you’re going to speak directly to your dream client. Complete this brand script template to clarify your message. This template will help you define your ideal client, their problem, how you solve it, and the differentiator that separates you from all of the other yahoos in your industry. We’ll then simplify everything into a brand one-liner (We help ______ do _______.) that can be converted into your big promise.

Make sure your big promise is focused on the self-interest of your ideal client. Don’t worry about tooting your own horn here. You’ll have plenty of time to present how fantastic you are in the proof step. The big promise needs to be all about your visitor. Are you going to help them get more customers, make more money, cure their chronic pain, or make them smarter? Don’t promise it unless you can back it up with proof, but don’t shy away from a big promise if that’s what you provide.

You have 7 seconds to earn someone’s attention when they land on your website. A killer promise will set the hook and buy you time. Use that time to provide proof that puts your client at ease.

Providing Thorough Proof

Sell the benefits, but talk about all of the features that make the benefits possible. Paint a picture of how you deliver for your client and leave no room for doubt. Read their minds and answer all of the burning questions you know they have.

Be truthful, helpful, thorough, and engaging. These are all Ogilvy principles that apply directly to writing a compelling and effective website. If you understand your customer, you’ll be able to serve up all of the factual data that makes them feel warm and cozy about giving you money. Clients want you to have the answer when they land on your website. Give them every reason to believe that you do have the answer.

Getting Tangible Results

Track sales before and after making changes to your website. I’m willing to bet you see an increase in open rates, a decrease in bounce rates, and more sales for whatever you sell. This process isn’t rocket science, and that’s why it works. The most effective strategies are always timeless and simple.

I hold a séance each Friday to channel David Ogilvy’s brilliance into my weekly email.

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