This clunky acronym can prevent your sales funnel from springing leaks

Chief Creative Officer

The woman on the left wore a size 11 shoe. Her mother wore one size up.

I could tell just by eyeballing it, the same way a veteran chef can pull perfect six-ounce portions of pizza dough without using a scale.

They were dressed more casually than our typical customer. And the twisted expressions on my team’s faces made no apologies for judging this pair of books purely by their covers.

Still, nobody wanders into Nordstrom’s high-end Salon Shoe department just to get out of the rain. 

They must have known we were the only store in the area that sold footwear that could double as aircraft carriers. And when the younger one said, “We only wear Ferragamos,” I knew they weren’t being fitted to kick tires. 

After sitting my new friends down, I darted into the stockroom and grabbed a short stack of the styles I knew they would like. Nothing with an extreme heel as they were already burdened with having to duck through doorframes.

The foundation of our “definitely” pile established, I began a line of questioning to help guide the rest of our time together.

We talked about where they worked, where they played, if they enjoyed the beach, if they traveled internationally. We discussed open- or closed-toe preferences, debated satin versus suede, and explored any other miscellany that would give me the knowledge to ensure my ladies were suitably shod for any occasion.

My single-sale total would never be that high again.

People often asked me why I worked in women’s shoes rather than men’s. The short answer was the commission was higher. But the deeper truth was that women are chattier. 

And the more you know about your customer, the easier it is to do a complete selling job. 🤔

If you’re thinking “Who has the time for that, Matt?”, you’re likely losing sales. Remember, your prospect doesn’t care enough about your product to just grab ‘n’ go. They want to know how your product can benefit them before they commit. 

That means you need to present every reason why they should buy while vaporizing every possible objection along the way.

The easiest way to do that is by structuring your pitch in the AIDCA framework.

If you’ve ever heard of AIDA, it’s the same thing only with a “C” wedged in there to make it harder to pronounce. It’s worth the extra step though, you’ll see.

Now let’s break it down before it gets dark …


At the risk of stating the obvious, if you don’t grab your reader’s attention out of the gate, they’re unlikely to read on.

David Ogilvy said: “If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you’ve wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.” (The same goes for subject lines.) So, don’t try to be cute at the expense of relevance.

And one more tip from another dead advertising legend … 

John Caples said there were only three types of headlines: those that speak to the reader’s self-interest, those that arouse curiosity, and those that announce news. That was over 90 years ago. Since then, nobody’s come up with a fourth option. So, stick with John and you can’t lose. 


I know we said the headline is important. But for me, this is where all that audience research really pays off. Because this is the spot where you meet your reader at the conversation they’re having in their head.

People make decisions based on emotion, then justify them later with reason. This is where you make that emotional connection. And if you can win your reader over with empathy—acknowledging their feelings, anxieties, and frustrations—they’ll be drawn to you simply because you “get it.”

The “interest” stage isn’t the only place to use empathy to your advantage. But it’s arguably the most important.


You’ve held back from talking about yourself this whole time. That can be challenging because you know how great you are, and you want the world to know it too. Here’s where you can finally begin to provide some relief to your prospect by positioning your product as a clear way out of their current state.

This is the stage where you begin to back up the promise you made in your headline. If you have a lot to say, lead with your differentiator(s) to immediately create separation from your competitors. 

Just remember that your reader is still the hero. So, even when you’re talking about yourself, continue to bend your message toward what benefits your audience.


Here’s that extra “C” the Town Elders tossed in. It’s where you can dismantle any lingering doubts your reader may have about moving forward.

Until now, you’ve done all the talking. So, go ahead and let your satisfied customers’ enthusiastic testimonials speak for you. One quick note about testimonials … 

Avoid the ones that are pure praise because your reader isn’t there yet. Powerful testimonials include a brief mention of the customer’s former problem state. That gives your prospect something they can relate to, while also helping them see a better future version of themselves through someone else’s positive experience.


You’ve had your reader’s buy-in the whole way through. Now, it’s time to finish strong by telling them exactly what you want them to do. But don’t rely on a simple button to do all the work. 

You need to frame your ask with as much urgency as possible, so your prospect doesn’t delay or dismiss their decision to move forward.

Remove the last traces of worry with a satisfaction guarantee. Create pressure with a limited time to act. Inject scarcity with a shrinking quantity. Do anything you can to answer the question: “Why now?”

I recently saw an ad that sold joggers by layering scarcity and social proof with “get yours before they run out again.” Brilliant.

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So, how long is all that gonna take? Depends on your reader’s stage of awareness. The more they know, the less time you may need to persuade them. Or as my final late ad man, Howard Gossage, put it …

“Use just enough string to wrap the parcel.”

Fitting advice, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s a song to play you out >>> 

See you next time. — Matt

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Chief Creative Officer
Matt is a professional storyteller. That used to be a thinly veiled way to say you still lived with your parents. But the truth is stories have existed since the dawn of humanity and they still have the power to move people, even if it’s no longer from the path of a charging mammoth. Throughout his career on both the agency and client sides, Matt’s work has been known to compel audiences to indulge in higher thread counts, abandon Lenten sacrifice, or move to the suburbs. He’ll even conjugate a noun if he has to. The bottom line: Matt is our agency twofer. Strategy and Creative. The Big Idea and Stealth Deployment. He’s a single expense yielding a dual return. And who doesn’t love a bargain?

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