Two Keys to Writing Ad Copy

Your business has two main types of customers, and the type of ad you write will determine which group of customers responds. Find out what the two types of customers are and learn what appeals to each group.

In writing advertising copy or preparing a marketing campaign, it is important that you keep two keys to successful ad copy in mind.

There are major differences between “relational” customers and “transactional” ones.

  • Relationals are looking for reliability and a long-term relationship.
  • Transactionals are perfidious. They want the highest value at the lowest price.

Consider writing ad copy to appeal to each type:

  • Reliability, testimonials and well-known quality brands for relationals.
  • Price and value for transactionals.

How relationals think

Let me give you an example of how a relational thinks.

A business friend of ours recently told me he had been disappointed by the tire dealer he had been doing business with and was looking for someone he could depend on. He told a prospective dealer he was looking for a merchant he could buy tires from “for the rest of my life”.

Paul is a sensible man, a creative thinker who owns his own business. He was looking for a relationship with a tire dealer he could trust. His van-driven business depends on reliable tires. 

Paul works hard to take care of his own customers and keep them for life. To do that, he knows he can never let them down. He must be 100% reliable, all the time, no matter what. If one of his people makes a mistake, Paul must be ready to make it right.

Paul is an excellent example of a “relational” customer.

Relationals consider a business transaction to be one in a series of future transactions. They are the best customers we can have. If we take care of them, they are terrific sources of referral business from their friends and business associates.

Relationals fear making a poor choice. They buy as soon as you earn their confidence. How can you guarantee that your sales people and your products and services will give them this confidence? Think about it.


Here’s another example. We recently contracted with a builder for a new tool shed behind our home. We knew the builder and had no reason to distrust him. We agreed on the specifications and the price. Because we thought he was reliable, we did not shop around.

The builder sent one of his associates to do the job. The man took forever to order the materials and then did not do the job as specified. We asked our builder three times to finish the job right. He has yet to respond.

As a result, we have written him off. Now we will not refer business to him.

If anyone asks about him, we will share this sad story.

How transactionals think
In contrast, “transactional” customers like to shop around, to compare your products and services with your competitors. They are look for bargains. They think of your product as a commodity rather than as a solution leading to long-terms relationships.

All of us are “transactional” at times, depending on what we plan to buy. At other times, we are “relational” and want something more than the product or service.

Do you look for the cheapest gas prices? You should. When buying gas, you’re in transactional mode.

But do you shop for a dentist every time you need your teeth cleaned? Probably not. You’re in relational mode with your dentist.

Creating the right ad can be determined only when you know which customer to appeal to.

Transactional customers focus only on today’s transaction and give little thought to future purchases. Their only fear is of paying more than needed. They want price and value.

They enjoy the process of comparing and negotiating. They shop around before making a decision. Because they enjoy the process, transactionals don’t consider time spent shopping to be part of the price.

Anxious to share the “good deal” they’ve found, transactionals are excellent sources of word-of-mouth advertising.

We’re of two minds
Don’t be surprised when you find yourself being transactional in minor purchases and relational in major purchases. Because transactionals will shop all over town and love to negotiate, merchants often wrongfully conclude that most shoppers are transactional and put undue emphasis on prices, discounts and “savings” in ad copy.

Many of us will shop several stores for a new suit or a pair of shoes. But we go back again and again to the same barber or hair dresser.

When we list or look to buy property, we use the same agent if she did a good job for us.

Actually, more purchases are quietly made by relationals. Here’s a simple illustration.

A transactional will go to five stores but will return to only one store to buy.

In comparison, a relational will visit her favorite store and make her purchase.

Transactionals account for 80% of all store visits, but only 40% of sales.

Relationals account for just 20% of store traffic but 60% of sales.

Which would you rather do business with, transactionals or relationals?

Who helps the bottom line most?
Merchants need to know this because heavy store traffic as a result of an advertising campaign does not necessarily mean heavier sales volume or higher revenues.

Ask your customers not only where they learned about you but keep an eye on how much money the ads generated.

The right thing to say to relationals is the wrong thing to say to transactionals.

Changing ads so that they speak to different customers is easy. But changing the essence of a customer’s experience – the product selections, prices and professionalism of the sales staff – is harder to do.

©2004, The Bellune Company, Inc.

With over 40 years in the newspaper business and broadcasting, Jerry Bellune has been involved in every aspect of public communications. He is an award-winning newspaper editor and broadcast personality in several major markets including New York and Philadelphia. Visit his web site at

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