Grabbing readers at first glance

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A good merchant knows just what to put in the storefront window to select the right audience. The same goes for smart advertisers. Because a b-to-b ad is often the first meeting place between marketers and prospective customers, there should be something in it that at first glance will enable readers to recognize it as a source of information relating to their job interests. It can be done with a visual or a headline-preferably both. The ad says immediately to the reader: "Hey, this is for you." Generic ads or ads with headlines that fail to connect with a particular target run the risk of washing past readers. Readers are off to the next page.

People whose job it is to keep rush-hour traffic moving or determine why it isn't would know they've come to the right place with an ad featuring a photo of a congested expressway. The headline states: "Transportation officials keep their eyes on the road with American Dynamics." Odds are that the visual and the headline combination will flag down the right readers, who will plunge eagerly into the text. That's right where you want them because that's where you appeal to their self-interest. Well-targeted text will alert readers to an opportunity such as a solution to their problem.

American Dynamics, which makes digital video management systems and other products, is on the mark with its copy: "Transit officials rely on video security from American Dynamics to put them front and center at the scene of an accident, a traffic jam or suspicious activity."

Chief security officers and privacy executives have a thing for bad guys. So the mug shot of a menacing-looking hacker selects the right audience for Sophos, a network security provider. The headline isn't as targeted as the previous example, but it works. It reads, "Scott hates us."

The copy quickly makes sense of the visual/headline combination: "And our customers couldn't be happier. Scott's a hacker and it's our job to make his job impossible. We're Sophos, a global leader in network security." The copy goes on to note that the number of computer viruses is growing, but Sophos knows how to stop them. "Join the 25 million business users in 25 countries who already depend on our proven anti-virus, anti-spam and e-mail policy enforcement solutions and acclaimed customer support to protect against multiple evolving threats."

Last, the copy makes a call to action by offering readers a chance to learn more and win a Dell Pocket DJ at the company's Web site. The ad, complete with a chance to win a high-tech product, will likely attract the right kind of prospects.

An audience of sales managers will know at first glance that there's something in it for them in an ad for sales trainer Richardson that looks like it was ripped from a comic book. Headlined: "The adventures of a sales rep," the three comic book panels depict a common scenario. A prospective client of a consulting firm isn't buying the pitch from the firm's sales rep. "I don't need your services," reads the word balloon. The ad asks readers to visit Richardson's Web site and give their opinions on how the sales rep can resolve the prospect's objection.

In the copy block, Richardson plays it straight by asserting that its sales training techniques have "changed how hundreds of thousands of sales people resolve objections just like this to build and expand profitable relationships." In an unconventional way, Richardson alerts readers to an opportunity.

In another ad targeting sales managers, the headline does the heavy lifting when it comes to selecting the right audience. "How can your sales grow by 20% if 80% of your salespeople can't break out?" Wedged between the headline in the ad for sales consultancy Caliper is a dapper sales rep who looks as if he's been remanded to solitary confinement. The ad is a good marriage between the visual and the headline, and it's one that enables readers to identify at first glance a solution to their problem of underperforming sales talent.

The key to selecting the right audience is hooking target readers on first glance. Rarely will they give you a second glance. M

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