Ads that sell 19 ½ times more or: are you on the same page as your audience?

Today’s #rainybrandingtuesday has a different take. I want to talk about how advertising can teach us to be better seller of our services as freelancers. And advertising goes hand in hand with branding! So, to also celebrate the International Translators’ Day, here you go.

I'd rather say "busylancer".

I’d rather call myself a ‘busylancer’.

I’ve been reading an interesting book on advertising. And it’s incredible how these days we can reach out for clients – and they reach out for us – with relatively little effort. Sometimes I get found, sometimes I get referred and I can’t say I ever paid for advertising in the most classical way. Yet, just like branding, the power of advertising is all around us. For decades, we – consumers – have been buying propelled by something greater than us: ideas. The idea of better, the idea of newer, the idea of cooler or simply more functional and useful. Innovation is after all a way to do things in a better way and advertising is doing just that, trying to convince us that A is better than B because of x and y. The formula is easy – and it’s been the same for the decades I’ve just mentioned. Yet, the power of our words can really make a difference. But back to my book: The Unpublished Ogilvy is a little gem of a volume that will probably take a day to finish if not hours. And this is what I understood by avidly reading it today (yes, all today):

Are you advertising to the right audience?

That's where it's at.

That’s where it’s at.

Maybe your copy is fantalicious and sexy and amaze balls. Or maybe a bit more conservative and old-fashioned (we do like that too). But is that targeting the right audience? Is the appeal you are projecting being projected towards the right target? Paraphrasing Ogilvy’s words: you can come across 2 ads that occupy the same space, in the same magazine, with great copy and a to-the-point graphics yet one sells 19 ½ times more than the other.

Why? It’s fit for purpose and hits the right, sweet spot in the audience’s mind.

“The copy must be human and very simple, keyed right down to its market – a market in which self-conscious artwork and fine language serve only to make buyers wary.”



How can you apply this to your business?

  • Do lots of research: knowledge is key. If you know what your audience is inside out, you’re half way there.
  • Plan. Planning can be the gateway to achieving more in less time. Most of the time, it also gives you the right drive to do more and better. Want to target x amount of customers by x date? Plan ahead.
  • Be your client. Try to think of yourself as a customer. Not necessarily of what YOU sell, but in general. The ways you are treated, the expectations you have, the price you have in your mind, and above all, the assumptions you make on a service or a product will give you insight and flexibility when it comes to your own business.
  • Hire the best. You’re not a born copywriter? Leave it to the experts. And think of investment as a tool to achieve more, faster. Concentrate on what you do best. And your work will speak for itself.
  • Don’t be scared of being honest – success rarely has been built on frivolity and people do not buy from clowns.
  • Did I say research?

It all is based on the concept of Attack and Defence (from The Theory and Practice of Selling the Aga Cooker, from 1935) and here I’ve applied it to our very own business – say, translation and interpreting.


  • To sell like you mean it, you need to invest in energy and time and have thorough knowledge of the product.
  • Attack: with a general statement – what you offer and what’s in it for them.
  • Prove that you know your audience;
  • Be available and irreplaceable for them (or find a solution so they don’t have to);
  • Deliver final material (you’re not giving them raw, you’re giving the a polished, ready-to-use output);
  • Politeness pays: always beautify what you’re giving to your customers.
  • Be on top of what you offer – esp. if a supplier did it for you. Inside out. Be ready for special comments and feedback.
  • Know what appeals to your clientele: not everyone likes apples.


  • Soon objections will pop up. Be ready! Of course: “that’s a sign that your prospect’s brain is working!”
  • Detailed objections: mainly about price (this is too high for me) or terminology (I’d rather we changed this and that). Offer alternatives, stay on the positive, find out if the client needs something special and offer it to them.
  • Deal with complaints gracefully:dealing with the public can be hard. So take it in and do something about it. Play on the many people who were indeed happy with your services and see how you can tackle the misunderstanding or the mistake.
  • Competitors: research them and see what they excel at. That’s your point of advantage.
  • Price defence: never say your service is not that expensive – it would be like undermining your own product’s credibility! And also – and more importantly – you never know what the client can or cannot afford (it’s rather a question of willingness to spend or not).

I will be certainly reading more on this topic and will keep you updated on the importance of branding in this – stay tuned!



In the meantime, some ideas (and yes, I’m a big Ogilvy fan):


2 thoughts on “Ads that sell 19 ½ times more or: are you on the same page as your audience?

  1. Pingback: I shot the Serif: right typeface, more power to your logo | Rainy London Branding

  2. Pingback: Emotional, branded worlds: copywriting aimed to touch your soul  | Rainy London Branding

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