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“Showing” beats “telling” every time

Ad-libs
by John Foust
 
Newspaper Advertising Trainer – Raleigh, NC

On a visit to my eye doctor for a check-up, I noticed a poster on the wall in the examination room. It featured a series of photographs of the same scene. The first photo depicted the scene through “normal” vision, and the other photos showed how that scene would be viewed by people with various eye conditions, like glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.

It was a powerful exhibit. In one simple poster – with a series of pictures and only a few words – a patient could get a clear idea of the effects of certain conditions.

If we think beyond the subject matter of the poster, we’ll find some important lessons about communication. In the sales profession, “showing” beats “telling” every time. Here are some key points:

  1. Use strong visual images. There is a famous Chinese proverb that states, “One time seeing is worth a thousand times hearing.” Newspapers have a real advantage here. Newspaper ads – in print and digital formats – are visual.

If you’re going to show something, make it worth seeing. Kirk, a long-time sales person, once told me, “I never go into a client meeting without some kind of exhibit. It might be a copy of their most recent ad. It might be a chart illustrating readership figures. Or it might be a selection of stock photos that could be used in the next campaign. Sometimes I just use a felt-tip marker to make a back-of-the-napkin type diagram on a legal pad.

  1. When possible, use comparisons. When I saw the eye poster, it was easy to compare my eyesight to the photos. I immediately understood the differences.

There are plenty of possible comparisons in a sales presentation. You can compare typography samples to demonstrate how one font is more readable than another. You can compare a cluttered layout to a clean layout. And you can compare headline samples.

  1. Keep it simple. It’s important to make it easy for prospects to reach their own conclusions. The purpose of a visual exhibit is to clarify a sales point.

“I’m careful about what I show to people in meetings,” Kirk said. “Using too many examples can create brain freeze. It’s a lot easier for them to understand the differences between Choice A and Choice B than to understand the differences between Choices A through D or E.

“I learned a lesson early in my career, when I presented a marketing manager with a selection of four completely different ad ideas,” he explained. “The presentation was a disaster, because there were too many choices. The manager couldn’t decide, so he called several other people into the room. No one could agree on anything and the meeting hit a stalemate. I ended up going back to the drawing board to create two different choices. A week or so later, I presented those two options, and they quickly made a decision.”

The bottom line: When it comes to persuasive communication, think of ways to show what you’re saying.

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(c) Copyright 2018 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com