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10 'Secret' Formulas for Creative Success

What is your formula for creating effective sales messages? If you're like most people, you'll say AIDA — attention, interest, desire, action. It's a classic — the most quoted formula in advertising and marketing. However, just as a skilled craftsman expands his creative abilities by collecting and mastering a variety of tools, a savvy marketer can expand his or her creative abilities by collecting and mastering a variety of formulas. Here are some less famous, but highly inspirational, formulas to add to your collection:

ACCA — awareness, comprehension, conviction, action. This is similar to AIDA, but “comprehension” stresses the importance of clarity, which is vital for any persuasive message. Also, “conviction” is much stronger than “desire.” It suggests certainty.

Attention-Interest-Description-Persuasion-Proof-Close — This is another AIDA variation by Robert Collier. Intended for sales letters, it outlines what he thought was the correct sales sequence.

AAPPA — The eminent Victor O. Schwab suggested this common-sense, clear formula. Get attention. Show people an advantage. Prove it. Persuade people to grasp this advantage. Ask for action.

AIU — This is my own formula for envelopes. It stands for attention, interest, urgency. Something about an envelope must get your attention, whether it's teaser copy, graphics, or just blank paper. This should lead to interest in the contents and an urgency to open the envelope immediately.

PPPP — This is a formula by Henry Hoke, Sr. It stands for picture, promise, prove, push. In many ways, it's easier to implement than AIDA because it shows you four basic tasks you must perform to make a sale. Picture: get attention early and create a desire. Promise: make a meaningful promise and describe what the item will do. Prove: demonstrate the value and support your promise with testimonials. Push: ask for the order.

Star-Chain-Hook — This is Frank Dignan's charming and surprisingly fresh way to approach an advertising message. Hitch your wagon to a star with an attention-getting opening that is positive and upbeat. Create a chain of convincing facts, benefits, and reasons to transform attention into interest and interest into desire. Then, hook them with a powerful call to action, making it easy to respond.

ABC Checklist — William Steinhardt's formula is more detailed than most and very practical. Attain attention, bang out benefits, create verbal pictures, describe success incidents, endorse with testimonials, feature special details, gild with values, honor claims with guarantees, inject action in reader, jell with postscript.

The String of Pearls — This is a particular method of writing copy. The idea is that you assemble details and string them together in a long line, one after another. Each “pearl” is complete in some way, but when you string them together, their persuasive power becomes overwhelming.

The Cluster of Diamonds — Similar to the String of Pearls, this formula suggests assembling a group of details under an umbrella concept. For example, an ad might have the headline “Seven Reasons Why You'll Save Money With XYZ.” The copy would then list these seven reasons. Each detail is a “diamond” in a particular setting.

The Fan Dancer — The analogy here is perfect, though a bit racy. The idea is to tantalize with specific details that do not actually convey information. For example, let's say you're selling a book on reducing taxes. Part of your copy might read: “The one secret way to pay zero taxes and get away with it — page 32. How the IRS uses your mailing label against you — page 122. Three clever ways to turn a vacation into a business tax deduction even if you don't own a business — page 158.” As with the forgotten art of fan dancing, you reveal little and leave your audience wanting more.

Have a secret formula? Send it to me. I'll update this list sometime in the future.

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