What you should never say in an advert to teachers


Posted on 26th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

What are the pictures and phrases that can wreck your advert in one second – no matter how good your product?

If you have read my commentaries before you’ll know how often I stress the need for every advert to grab attention from the off.

And you’ll probably know that in my view an awfully large number of adverts simply don’t do that.

Sometimes advertisers do think they are achieving this goal – as with the advertiser who recently told me that his “10% discount!” headline was most certainly an attention grabber because he’d never offered a discount before. Personally I disagreed. For me such discounts are commonplace and instantly ignored.

In other words I think “10% discount!” is simply a failure of a headline. But there are some headlines that are much worse than this. Headlines which actively turn the teacher against you, ensuring that he/she not only doesn’t buy now, but is unlikely to buy next time around either.

One such is any sort of headline that incorporates the phrase “back to school”. It is a commonplace phrase among advertisers, but not one that teachers use. Because they are not going back to school – they are returning to work after a break during which they almost certainly have been working.

Indeed, a recent analysis of the readership of our UK Education News site and our Schools Blog shows that the number of visits we have been getting in August is higher than the number we get during term time, suggesting teachers have more time in the holidays.

I’d also steer very clear of anything that suggests that you hope teachers have had a nice long relaxing holiday. Anything that suggests that teachers get longer breaks than the rest of the population is not a good line to push to teachers.

Likewise I would avoid any of those very old fashioned clip art pics that show someone wearing a mortar board and gown. This is one of the biggest put downs you can have in an advert – treating your customer like a cartoon character.

My advice is that if you have not taught in a school in the last ten years, lay off anything that suggests a familiarity with the everyday life of a teacher, because you’ll almost certainly get it wrong.

Better to focus on your product and the benefits it brings to the teacher. Not the features – they can go on your website – but the benefits, such as the reduction in the amount of time that it takes to do a certain job or the way this product will help raise grades.

But whatever else you do, don’t say anything that could sound patronising. Don’t ever say, “I know how hard it is in the classroom” or anything like that, even if you genuinely do know. Trying to be “one of the gang” with the teacher who is reading, simply doesn’t work.

Remember, if you have got a product that teachers will want at the price you are asking them to pay, then all you have to do is grab attention and answer the two questions that they will ask:

a) Why should I buy this?

b) Why should I buy this from you?

You don’t have to be chummy, you don’t have to pretend that you know how they feel, you don’t have to introduce your company, you don’t have to offer a load of background. Just grab attention and go for the benefits.

If you would like to run your next advert by me, I’m always happy to take a look. Just email me a copy of the advert and I’ll call you back with my thoughts. No charge, no obligation, no horseman will call.

01536 399 000 usually works as does Tony@hamilton-house.com

And if you are interested in further thoughts on how to raise your response rates in email and postal marketing, and indeed how to get more hits on your website, do take a peek at www.blog.hamilton-house.com It’s awfully good, although I would say that since I wrote it.

Tony Attwood


We’ve said it before, now we can prove it


Posted on 22nd August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

Proof that even more teachers read educational websites during the summer holiday

I’ve written many times about the fact that teachers pay as much attention to their emails and to matters educational on the internet during the school holidays as they do in the term time.

Now, however, I am going to have to revise that view, because I’ve just had in figures for the readership of articles that have appeared on our blog www.blog.schools.co.uk

And these stats suggest that teachers spend more time reading about education on the internet in the holidays than they do in term time.

This site is made up of nothing but a stream of advertisements that are supplied to us by our clients who place email advertisements with us. Many of the readers find these adverts by typing a search phrase and finding the site listed on Google. Others find it because they advertise with us on UK Education News.

Now we’ve seen a massive hike in readership in the last month. A month in which teachers have by and large been on holiday.

Added to which the trend throughout the last month is most certainly upwards. Each day has got more visits to those advertisements than the day before.

During the last 30 days the www.blog.schools.co.uk site got 45,397 visits in total – our highest ever. The average number of visits per story is around 800. And remember, the only thing on the site is the adverts that we have placed for our clients.

This will be particularly good news for the companies who took up the offer of free advertising on the service in August. But even if you did not take up that offer, if you send in your copy now, we can run your advert for the rest of August without charge, and you’ll only pay the normal £49.99 plus VAT to cover September and October. Alternatively, advertise through September, October and November, and we’ll only charge £59.99 plus VAT, and give you both the rest of August and all of December free of charge.

Better still you will not only get your listing on the Schools Blog but you’ll also get listings on up to seven other sites, which together get a total of around 100,000 visits a month.

Details of the whole offer and all the sites that make up our network are given on http://www.top5.org.uk/Suppliers.html

But please do note you will have to say that you want the special offer when you book in – and let us know if you want the August free offer or the December free offer.

To talk this through, please call 01536 399 000 or to place your order email Chris@hamilton-house.com  Your advert needs to be supplied as a Word file without illustrations.

Tony Attwood

Writing a winning advert is only part of the trick


Posted on 20th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

How to construct a brilliant advert and
what to do when you’ve done it

This week one of my colleagues presented me with a rather pleasant problem.

An email advertisement which I had written for one of our Velocity clients had got an exceptionally large number of sales. Many more teachers than anticipated had clicked from the email to the company’s landing page, and as a result many more than normal had placed orders. It was good news all round.

Naturally the client wanted the advert to be repeated – after all, once you have had success you tend to want more success. But I argued against a straight re-run.

There are several reasons why I wanted to pause – and indeed why I always want to pause when we have a successful advert (which is, I am very glad to say, far more often than we have poorly received adverts).

The point is that all email adverts provide us with information. First and foremost they tell us how many products are sold from the advert.

But additionally they also tell us how many people read the advert (as opposed to simply hitting delete upon seeing the subject line) and how many people then click through to the landing page ahead of placing an order.

Now it is when one sees analyses such as these that one starts the fun bit – asking “why?”. Why did this advert get so many orders when another one for the same product resulted in far poorer sales? Why did people go straight on to buying the product, while other adverts got readership and click throughs, but no orders?

The answers are varied, of course, for here we are in the complex world of creativity and the way the reader sees the advert.

But the thinking is important because unless one is advertising the product next time to a different person in the school, repeating the advert exactly is not a good idea. A straight repetition tends to lead quickly to a set of diminishing returns.

So I try to understand what I got right – and how I got it right – in creating that advert, and from these thoughts extract basic principles that relate to response rates when advertising to schools.

These principles then emerge to some degree as rules – such as my oft repeated notion that one needs to grab attention through the subject line and headline within the email, and then answer the two questions, “Why should I buy this?” and “Why should I buy this from you?”.

It is in fact the way that one grabs attention and the way that one answers those questions that ultimately enable us to find the answers to the question, “why did this advert work so well?”.

Probably the simplest way of finding out what makes an advert work is for you to send me a copy of one of your adverts, with your phone number, so that I can phone you back and talk to you about the advert.

But equally I am perfectly happy to talk about how we work in terms of writing adverts and sending them out for our clients via the Velocity programme.

If you want to reach me, I am on 01536 399 000. If you want to send in an advert for a confidential and free review then send it to Chris@hamilton-house.com

And if you would like to know more about Velocity, please do take a peek at www.velocity.ac – or if you prefer, just call the number above.

Tony Attwood




Free advertising to schools


Posted on 18th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized


If you want free advertising to schools in September you need to act now

It is always tempting to think that August is a time when one can relax in terms of marketing to schools. Except…

There are a number of ways in which action taken in August can have a major impact on your September campaigns – not least if you want to take advantage of our free advertising services.

“Advertise to schools for free” is an exclusive service from Hamilton House in which we will send out your adverts to teachers by email at no cost to you.

What happens is that at the end of each month you tot up the sales you get from our adverts to school during the month and then tell us how much you’ve taken, as a result of these adverts. Finally, at the end of the following month you pay us a commission at a rate that is agreed at the start.

So there is nothing to pay up front. If you don’t get any sales, then you don’t pay anything at all. But if you do get sales in (for example) September, you will need to pay us our commission in October.

But why should you think about this in August?

The fact is that we limit the number of emails we will send to any particular teacher in any one month.

This means that we might have a space to send an email to a particular teacher in (say) the second week in September and that will then go to one of our Free Advertising customers who has already signed up and has the advert logged with us, ready to go.

A firm that is only just starting to talk to us in September will miss out and might not be able to get a slot for a while. Obviously we’ll get it out as soon as we can, but it might not be immediately.

Thus if you want free advertising in September, you need to be acting in August. In the meanwhile there are more details on our service on http://www.hamilton-house.com/PBR.html

If, having had a look at those details, you want to undertake the preliminaries straight away, just send details of your product or service, along with a link to your website and/or any advert that you have sent out yourselves, to SamanthaBates@hamilton-house.com We’ll come back to you and discuss the commission rate and then, once all is arranged, we’ll start scheduling adverts.

Tony Attwood



No one will read all this


Posted on 15th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

Why is it that longer sales letters and emails will often have a much higher level of effectiveness than shorter version?

When I present one of my normal sales letters or promotional emails to a client for the first time, I do sometimes get the answer back that it is no good because “No one will read all this”.

And the reply I give (“Yes, I know”) can often surprise. But the fact is that my letters (which often run to around 400 words) are not designed to be read in full.

The fact is that most people who get an email or a sales letter are ready to jettison it from the off. So the first thing one has to do is to get their attention – “grab the reader by the throat” has long been my favourite expression for this moment.

Then, if one does succeed in getting attention, one has to take the reader on a journey. A journey which the reader might be reluctant to make, but nevertheless one that manages to persuade the reader to venture into your world.

So what we have is the sales letter or email as a battleground. In our case of communicating with schools, the teacher, administrator or school manager has been drawn in by our headline, but doesn’t want to hang around all day. He/she wants to cut to the chase and get on with life.

After all he/she is the expert. He/she knows about teaching, teaching resources, management, administration or whatever. What can this email or sales letter possibly say that is new? Probably nothing. Skim, skim, skim.

That’s the reality that we have to live with, and it is a reality that the writer of the short sales letter finds hard to turn to the seller’s advantage.

What the writer of the long sales letter or email can do, however, is consider what the reader sees going down the page, taking in the first four words of each paragraph.

But there is more to it than that, for additionally the writer also has to be aware of exactly how perception works at this point; which means knowing what the right and left hemispheres of the brain are doing.

Now at this point and given half the chance, I could talk the hind legs off a donkey, as my mother used to put it. The psychology of perception (which is what we are talking about here) has been my interest from my post-grad years onwards.

But I will exercise some restraint and instead give you the briefest of insights into what this scientific study has to say in relation to grabbing and holding attention when writing emails and sales letters.

First, a lot of focus should be given to the opening of each paragraph so that each paragraph stands a fighting chance of getting the reader to slow down and start taking in your message.

Second, the paragraphs should be short – three lines is a good target – with clear white space between each one, so that there are lots of chances of drawing the reader in. To see these processes in motion, flip back through this piece and read the opening of each paragraph.

Meanwhile the sales letter or email that is looking for a direct sale or a lead onto a catalogue or website where the sale will be made should be answering the two standard questions, “Why should I buy this?” and “why should I buy this from you?” Subtlety is an option here.

In my case, I’m answering the first question by gradually suggesting that you should buy educational marketing services from Hamilton House because the way you write your sales letter and email has a major impact on the sales you get. And I’m suggesting we know stuff other firms don’t know.

There’s a lot more to this than the points I’ve made so far – but I don’t want to risk losing you by putting too much in this one little article.

My key point, however, is that the way people read emails and sales letters is not a matter of common sense. It relates to a whole variety of issues that are rooted within the brain and to the way in which we perceive the world around us, second by second.

Of course, simply making a letter long doesn’t really help us at all. The point is that the long letter or email allows us space and time to manipulate the situation and draw the reader in as the message is put across. This doesn’t mean that other approaches don’t work – rather this approach works better.

There is an example of a sales letter written by me, for teachers, along with an explanation of why it is written as it is, on our email site. There are lots more articles on the issue of how to create direct marketing that works on the Hamilton House blog

Writing in this particular long-email form is something that we undertake for many of our Velocity clients. However using our style is not compulsory. While a Velocity customer might get three emails written and sent out per month as part of our work, a company writing its own promotions will get four a month. Writing copy is there as an option – it’s not compulsory.

Please do call 01536 399 000 if you would like to talk about any of the issues here. Or indeed, anything else. I’m also quite interested in football, dyscalculia, the administration of schools, and murder mysteries on TV.

Tony Attwood

Free email campaigns offer extended


Posted on 13th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

What is the most cost effective way of reaching teachers in September?

There is no doubt that a campaign that involves sending a leaflet through the post, as well as one that gives you a complete free email campaign to schools, then you have a very effective way of getting your promotion to work.

And when the cost of the postal campaign is 10p per teacher – or less – and, as I’ve just mentioned, the cost of the email campaign is absolutely zero – then you can see why I call this the most cost effective approach that we have.

The shared postal campaigns in question are those that run in the first week of September. Until now we’ve said that the free email bonus is only available with mailings to secondary schools. Now we are making it available with mailings to primary schools as well.

But don’t worry if you’ve already booked into a primary school postal shared mailing for this mailing in the first week in September. Just give us a call, and we can sort out your free email campaign.

Here are all the details…

All All 5000 secondary schools: Leaflets by 28 August; despatch 4 September.

Single item cost £450 Two items £575

All All 3800 schools with sixth forms: Leaflets by 28 August; despatch 4 September

Single item cost £360 Two items £435.

  • Largest 5000 primary schools: Leaflets by 27 August, despatch 3 September.

Single item cost £485 Two items £580

  • Largest 10000 primary school: Leaflets by 27 August, despatch 3 September

Single item cost £825 Two items £1010

  • All 24000 primary schools: Leaflets by 27 August, despatch 3 September

Single item cost £1690 Two items £2075

How to ensure you get the best response ratesThere is an article on how to get the best response rates from a postal shared mailing on the Education Marketing Blog. We do recommend that you have a read of this article, and then if you have any questions, please do give us a call on 01536 399 000.

We strongly suggest that you put who the leaflet is for (writing for example, “Attn: Head of English) in large text on the top right, so that you make it easy for the administrator to pass the leaflet on to the right person.

If you have not been in a shared postal mailing before please call 01536 399 000 or email Chris@hamilton-house.com and we’ll post you a copy of a past pack. Please note that if you leaflet (or leaflets if sending two leaflets per school) weighs over 15g there will be a surcharge. Please call for details or click here

To book in a mailing, once again just email Chris@hamilton-house.com who can also give you details of the free email campaign and your free listing on UK Education News.

Tony Attwood


Discounts on postal and email campaigns to schools


Posted on 11th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

What is the most cost effective way of promoting to schools in the new term?

You might have seen that on the Hamilton House blog of late I have been attempting to reduce successful direct marketing down to four basic points. The idea is that if you get those four points right your advertising is much more likely to work than if you ignore them.

I’m continuing to develop this view in subsequent articles on that blog – if you click here you can work back through some of the most recent topics covered.

But at the same time, in terms of promoting to schools I would encourage you to consider acting now in order to get your promotions not only booked in for the new term, but in many cases booked in at a discount.

In terms of postal campaigns, if you provide us with your leaflets so that we can prepare them before the end of August, we’ll give you a 20% discount. The items don’t have to be mailed until any time you wish in September; we just need to be able to do the work now, before the rush starts.

In terms of email campaigns, the summer is a good time for marketing to Scottish schools, heads of sixth form, and schools in Australia and New Zealand who are back from their midwinter break.

Scottish schools are returning around 13th August, while in the rest of the UK heads of sixth form and heads of careers will be in schools from the same day, seeing the results which are made public on 14 August – and helping their students decide what to do next.

The GCSE results come out a week later, and in relation to these it is worth remembering that this year all students have to stay in some form of education or training (full or part time) until they are 18 – so there will be even more for the head of careers to do.

Hamilton House can help you reach these schools in a variety of ways – including (for the UK schools) emails direct to the teachers concerned.

Better still, during August, all these UK emails are sent out at half price – which for secondary school lists means 6p each email.

Finally, if you want to do email plus a postal campaign we have three shared postal mailing programmes which all come with a completely free email promotion, using any list of your choice.

There is a promotion to all 5000 secondary schools (or the 3800 schools with sixth forms), for which we need leaflets by 28 August, and a mailing to the 10,000 largest private nursery schools, for which leaflets are required by 5 September.

The price for a single leaflet is between 8p and 10p per school – with the email promotion completely free of charge. There are more details on www.shared.org.uk

Obviously all of these services (solo mail prepared in August, email despatched in August, shared postal mailing with free email in August/September) can all get fully booked, so while you might be lucky if you leave it until just before the deadline, it is safer to book in sooner.

If you have any questions please do call 01536 399 000, or email Chris@hamilton-house.com

Tony Attwood


There are three types of school


Posted on 8th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

We used to analyse schools by age range and funding. Now we analyse them by how they handle incoming adverts.

Of course it is still possible to select schools according to the age range they teach, whether they are academies or local authority schools, which county they are in, and so on.

But increasingly the focus in terms of reaching the teacher with your message is on what each school does with its incoming advertisements.

Looked at in this way there are three types of school. Schools where emails get through to the teachers and managers, schools where the post is passed on, and schools where neither the post nor the emails are forwarded, but where instead teachers go searching on the internet.

How each school has chosen to be an “email school”, “postal school” or “no adverts thank you” school varies. And, to make matters more complex, many schools change their approach as they go along.

So making sure your message gets through to each school is both a science (in picking the right medium) and an art (in convincing administrators, who sometimes pass the message on, to make it your message that gets forwarded).

For the email accepting schools, the first approach must be the personal email lists as these are created around these very schools. In terms of secondary schools this route will get you to about half the schools in the UK. Details of email accepting primary schools are here, and email accepting secondary schools are here.

For postal campaigns there are few schools that pass on no advertising, but a fair number of schools that will pass on some mail and not others – depending on how the administrator sees each item. If you want advice on how to ensure your leaflet gets through, please do call 01536 399 000. This is particularly valuable if you are doing a shared postal campaign (see www.shared.org.uk).

For a solo campaign we can select schools that are known not to accept emails so that you can use the personal email lists to get to schools that accept those and postal lists for the rest. We can also select schools by area, age group, type of school, etc. Please call with your requirements.

If you want to do a secondary school solo postal campaign, or indeed a campaign to the 5000 largest primary schools, we can supply a list of all 5000 postal addresses including phone numbers and the generic email address at a reduced summer price of £295 each list of 5000. The list is for once only use. You can use it any time you want, but the order must be placed by 30 August to get this discount price.

But what of those schools that don’t hand out personal email addresses and often don’t pass on the post? How do teachers there find anything out?

Quite simply, by searching the internet. They either look at websites such as www.top5.org.uk or read through UK Education News or type “GCSE French revision books” or whatever they want, into a search engine, and study the results.

To reach these teachers it is helpful to be listed on the key education news sites and to run your own blog which regularly adds more and more material about your product and its uses.

I do appreciate that this is now making selling to schools quite complex – and that in the old days we all used to send out a catalogue to each school and wait for the orders.

That approach is still possible, but it is invariably more effective to be a little more sophisticated that this and to pick and choose the schools you mail according to what is known about each one.

Possibly the best way forward is to call 01536 399 000 and talk to us about your product and who you want to reach. We can then offer advice and thoughts on how to run the campaign. No charge, of course, and certainly no obligation. And absolutely no sales calls on the phone.

Tony Attwood


Discounts on marketing to schools in August and September


Posted on 6th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

Email advertising, shared and solo postal
campaigns, web campaigns:
significant offers in August and September.


It is an interesting fact that the companies which plan their late summer and autumn schedules early generally end up paying considerably less for their marketing than those who wait until September and then book in.

Of course, the reason that we give discounts and offers during this time is that we want to spread the load for our IT and warehouse teams. So we offer our inducements…

To move on to some of the details:

Email marketing to schools: 50% discount on all emails sent out to UK primary and secondary schools in August – including promotions to heads of sixth form after the exam results come out. For our list of email lists see www.emails.gs

Postal marketing to schools: 20% discount on envelopes, labels and labour, if we can prepare the mailshot in August. It can then be held and mailed out whenever you wish, up to 30 September – we just have to be able to do the production work in August. More details here

Shared postal mailing to nursery schools: free email campaign. If you join the shared mailing on 12 September to nursery schools we’ll give you a free email campaign as well.

Shared postal mailing to secondary schools: free email campaign. For the shared mailing on 28 August and 4 September again we’ll give you a free email campaign to go with it. Details for all shared mailing offers are here

Advertising on UK Education News and our other websites, August is completely free. Details are here

Also, if you wish to sign up to Velocity (our monthly campaign service) starting in September we’ll give you August free – an ideal time to re-write landing pages, set up the blog and write blog copy etc. Details of Velocity are here.

If you would like to talk through which offer is going to give best value to you, or if you want to check on any of the details, please do call 01536 399 000 or email Chris@hamilton-house.com

Tony Attwood




How to double response rates of each mailshot


Posted on 4th August 2014 by Tony Attwood in Uncategorized

What is the simplest way of doubling the response rate of each and every mailshot you send out?

If you have been paying attention, you’ll know that recently I’ve produced two notes, each of which set out the basic requirements for making an email or postal campaign work.

In case you missed them, here they are in summary. You need…

  1. An offer of a product or service that teachers want at a price they are willing to pay.
  2. A way of grabbing attention in a world in which teachers see around 3000 messages a day. In short, you need a mechanism to make them read your advert, not someone else’s.
  3. An answer to the customer’s question: “Why should I buy this?”
  4. An answer to the customer’s second question: “Why should I buy this from you?”
  5. Then you need to bring in the other direct media so you are using post, email and blogs.
  6. Next you must change the advert all the time. You can return to an ad months later, but don’t repeat one week to the next.
  7. Additionally you must occasionally change the style – indeed having two styles running, to give variety, is always a good idea.
  8. Build a list of customers and enquirers, and email them regularly with a different message.

So that’s it in summary. But now I want to take you on a step further, if I may, with some things you might be tempted to do but shouldn’t.

9. Don’t copy others

Just because you see someone advertising in a particular way, that doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Indeed I have worked occasionally with some huge corporations using big ad agencies, and they have created adverts that have been complete flops.

This is generally because they have followed what they take to be the industry norm, without actually reading any research or recognising that they are writing to the specific world of teachers.

10. Try at all times to avoid any jargon

Write in conversational English in a way that draws the teacher in and makes the teacher accept that you are a reasonable person who knows something about their needs as teachers. Never say “Making education fun” or anything like that, because it has been said a billion times, and it is quite insulting, since it suggests that the teachers are so stupid that they are quite unable to create stimulating and interesting lessons without your help.

11. Be very careful with pictures

You will find that lots of people say, “a picture’s worth a thousand words”, and leaving aside the fact that they are misquoting the original saying, there is no evidence that this is true. In fact, all the evidence points the other way. Pictures can be helpful – but only in certain conditions, which includes how committed to reading your email people are.

You also need to be very careful of colour. The easiest text to read is black on yellow. The hardest are reversed out texts (white text on black) and anything involving red. http://www.theory.bz/factoreffect.html has some more information on this.

Overall, before you pay a designer to put lots of pictures or design into your email, do call 01536 399 000. Also, or if you prefer, take a look at http://www.theory.bz/factor18.html

12. Don’t play IT games

IT companies will offer you all sorts of tricks, such as personalisation, emailing people who went to your website but didn’t buy, adding a YouTube movie to your website, re-mailing the same advert to people who didn’t read it first time round.

Occasionally these ideas can work – if they are implemented with caution and expertise – but 99% of the time they not only fail to enhance response rates, they actually reduce response rates! Take great care before you are drawn in.


If you don’t want to plough through all the articles on design, colour and everything else on our Theory of Direct Marketing site, then simply email across a copy of your email or postal promotion, and we’ll call you back with our thoughts. Email Chris@hamilton-house.com

And here’s a final thought. Direct marketing is not common sense. If it were, all you’d have to do is say, “look at this product”, give the details, and people would buy. Sadly it doesn’t work like that.

That’s why a lot of these IT tricks don’t work. If you want to know why drop Chris an email or call 01536 399 000 and we’ll talk it through.

Tony Attwood