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Comparing Pool Builders’ Ads

Some real examples from the CT RSVP pack…

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

Please forgive me if I bored you to tears last week with my theoretical explanations of how to create more powerful ads using IEEO (Interrupt, Engage, Educate, Offer). What say we cut through all this “theory” crap and show you some real examples of what I’m talking about?

The following postcards are from the June 2009 RSVP direct mail program in Fairfield Connecticut. Remember, the purpose of the front of the postcard is to get people to flip it over and read the back. The front has to “interrupt” and “engage.”

classic pools RSVP front.jpg

So what do you think so far? Does the name of the company get you excited? What about this killer headline?  “Let Classic Pools create your total outdoor living space.” Irresistible, isn’t it?


How about “Get Ready for the summer heat!” Isn’t that unique and gripping?  Something only Newtown Pools can say? No? What’s wrong? After all, it sounds just like an ad, doesn’t it?

Newtown pools RSVP front.jpg

Do you remember the concept of platitudes?  If you can scratch out your name and write in someone else’s, and it’s still accurate, it’s a platitude.  Who else can say “Get ready for the summer heat“?  Who else can say “Let ABC Pools create your total outdoor living space“?

Well, let’s give these folks the benefit of the doubt.  After all, if someone is thinking about buying a swimming pool, and they’re already flipping through the RSVP cards, then they will probably stop simply because of the photograph of the swimming pool.  They may actually ignore the platitude-laden headlines, and immediately flip it over to see if this postcard might help them get closer to their dreams. Let’s see what they’ll find…

classic pools RSVP back.jpg

Oh, there’s the company name again. Good, because I almost forgot their name when I flipped the card over.  And hey, there’s more good news!  They are “a premier builder” of “custom designed concrete pools and spas.”  And look – they’re “committed to superior pool construction.” Thank goodness!  I was afraid I would never ever find anyone like that…

So let’s summarize our assessment of this postcard from Classic Pools. They accomplished the “interrupt and engage” on the front by using a photograph of a pool.  That’s not ideal, but it can work.  Next – Did they educate us with unique and compelling information?  And did they dangle a “low risk offer” that I simply couldn’t refuse? (FYI – Calling a sales person isn’t exactly “low risk.”)

Now let’s take a look at the back of the card from Newtown Pools:

Newtown pools RSVP back.jpg

Let the Artists at <fill-in-the-blank> Pools Design and Create…” Hmmmm, doesn’t really pass the “scratch-out/write-in” test, does it?

I find it interesting that they “include tile, coping and plaster.”  Do some pool builders actually leave that out?  (And if I really wanted to be picky, I would have to ask “who renovates Gunite?”  Don’t you renovate the plaster and the tile and the deck and the coping, and maybe some of the features? I thought the Gunite was the one and only thing that didn’t need renovation.  Oh well, what do I know? I’m just a marketing guy.)

What about a low risk offer?  Well, they have several.  We can ask them about their “Green Pools” (which I must say always leaves me with less-than-pleasing mental image).  We can also ask them about their Pool Studio software, or talk to their sales rep.  To their credit, they threw in some financial incentives, which may actually encourage some people “sitting on the fence” to take some action.

To be as fair and objective as possible, we often use an evaluation form to try to measure the inherent effectiveness of an ad.  Here’s what I came up with when evaluating these two ads:

Classic Pools evaluation.jpg

Newtown pools evaluation.jpg

On a one to five scale, Newtown Pools scored 2.2.  Classic Pools came in at a 1.6.

Now let’s take a look at another RSVP card in the same pack:

Murphy pools RSVP front.jpg

How’s the headline?  Does it hit a hot button?  In fact, it probably does. If you were thinking about buying a pool, then this particular headline would probably interrupt and engage.  You would be seriously inclined to flip card over to find out why now is the right time to buy a pool….

OK, we’re interupted and engaged. Now what shows up on the back?

Murphy pools RSVP back.jpg

Lowest price of the year” — that could be a platitude, but on the other hand, I did notice a specific price reduction of $12,455 on the front.  That suggests that maybe this is, in fact, their lowest price of the year.  And if I’m price-sensitive right now (aren’t we all?), then this could be building interest. The bullet points offer some education, though admittedly limited.  The closing paragraph could be a platitude, since there is no proof behind it.  (Unless, of course, this company is already widely recognized as the largest and most efficient builder in Connecticut. Hard to say.)

The smart clincher here, of course, is the low risk offer.  Whether you’re ready to buy a pool this year or three years from now, it would be hard to turn down that offer.

Let’s see what the score sheet says for Pools By Murphy:

Pools By Murphy evaluation.jpg

Looks like Pools By Murphy scores a 3.8 versus 1.6 and 2.2 for the competitors.  This ad scores low on “education,” but compensates for it nicely with the low-risk offer of a DVD – Perfect for anyone looking for more information, but not ready to talk to a salesperson. Overall, this suggests that the Pools BY Murphy card may perform better than the other two ads. Experience says it will perform 2 to 10 times better.

Ultimately, of course, what really matters is how many pools you sell. This particular RSVP pack has been hitting the mailboxes for about two weeks.  Pools By Murphy tells me they’ve already sold one pool from this mailing, and have several other appointments lined up. Sounds like a good start!

In closing, let me just restate the key point of all this.  The cost of the RSVP postcard (or any ad) is exactly the same for all three of these companies.  But if you or Pools By Murphy can get twice as many phone calls or sell twice as many pools without spending any more money, obviously that’s the way to go. And that, I hope, is some advice you can take advantage of.

Till next time,


PS – If you would like to get a copy of that super-cool “Ad Evaluation” form shown above, so that you can objectively analyze your own ads, just shoot me a quick email, and I’ll forward it to you.



2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

One Response to “Comparing Pool Builders’ Ads – Some real examples from the CT RSVP pack…”

  1. Hey Brett, I would love to use the form you offered in your PS. If you would be so kind to forward it to me I would appreciate it a great deal. Thank you!

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