John Caples’ 7 Steps to Advertising Success – Ignore Them and Risk Failure

May 17, 2021 | Advertising, Copywriting

Early in John Caples’ career, his boss sorted a bunch of ads into two stacks – the successes and the failures.

He challenged Caples to study both stacks… the big wins and the bombs. He needed to figure out what made the successful ones good, and what made the failures bomb.

This is a critical step.

Test… study the successes… put the winning elements into your own ads… rinse and repeat.

What else makes a good advertisement?

Well, adhering to Keith Kimball’s definition of a good ad, which is “a believable promise made to the right audience.”

Pretty simple, right?

Yet it’s easier said than done. Some promises are more believable than others.

  • Which promise is best, of the options you have available?
  • Which promise creates the most desire?
  • Who’s the right audience for your product or service?
  • How do you reach them?
  • Then, how do you convince them to buy – today?

Caples created a great 7-point checklist for successful ads that elicit action. Use as many of these as possible in every advertisement you write.


Caples’ 7-Point Checklist

Compare all your advertising copy against this checklist for success.

1. Does it attract the right audience?

And stop them dead in their tracks? If you try to attract everybody, you’ll end up attracting nobody. So call out to your target group.

          Example: Do You Make These Common English Mistakes?

2. Once they get past the headline, does your lead capture them?

People can easily be anxious and distracted enough to click the back button, toss your letter in the trash, or switch to another TV station. Can you hold your prospect’s attention with your subhead and/or lead?

3. Does your copy create loads of great benefits?

Do you pile up the advantages in simple short sentences? Your prospect could be a genius, but after the stress of a long work day, he still wants simple.

4. Have you proven its value?

As retailers say, “Was $20… now $9.95.” Alternatively, give a reason for a discount, such as a special purchase price that you’re passing on to your customers.

5. Did you prove you’re trustworthy?

Especially important online, where skepticism is high and face-to-face meetings are rare. Testimonials and referrals are golden here, as well as money-back guarantees.

6. Did you make it easy to buy?

Tell him or her exactly what they should do, how they should respond. Are you driving them to a landing page, phone number, or what? Be abundantly clear, so there’s no mistaking it

7. Did you give them urgency and a reason to act today?

You’ve gotten your prospect to the point of wanting to act. There’s just one hurdle – inertia. The phone rings, he gets a text, he’s not completely sure so decides to wait a day… Now he may never get back to it. Be sure you include a compelling reason to act now!

           Examples: “Price going up”… “Supplies are limited”… “Open only to the first 7 people to respond”

It sounds simplistic, but I assure you, these factors are often missed by SME’s writing their own ads, novice copywriters, and even large corporate marketers.

Carol Parks helps entrepreneurs and companies grow and scale via digital copywriting and smart marketing strategy… both B2B and B2C. Need copy now? Check-out her Services & Copywriting Packages!