I know a lady who stands in The Home Depot and asks customers if they'd like a quote on a sunroom. Her mission: generate qualified leads — the same mission as TV and print advertising. And she may be the world's best copy tester.

She was trained in the features of the sunroom, but found that mentioning some product features could cost her the lead.

When she mentioned the structural material, homeowners might react negatively. Some associate aluminum with bus shelters, vinyl with the yellowed panels on the neighbor's garage, or fiberglass with cheap shower enclosures.

She found that the claim, “It stands up to 150-mile-per-hour winds,” leads to the question: “What happens at 151?”

She found that mentioning the energy-efficient glazing system might position her sunroom as better than another but also raise the question of whether additional HVAC capacity would be necessary.

EFFECTIVE REMINDER All of that resistance can be overcome by a good sales presentation, but a few minutes in a retail intercept is not the forum to address those issues. They are best left for the kitchen table.

Instead, she found that those who were real prospects had already thought about a sunroom. They need only be reminded of why they considered it in the first place and offered a painless way to explore their vision.

TAKE NOTE Her lessons for the copywriter are: Your ad is not the forum to tell homeowners why they should want your product. Instead, it should remind them of why they already want it. It shouldn't seek to sell the product, but invite them to move a daydream toward realization. It shouldn't overwhelm them with all the facts involved in making a complex decision, it should promise new and useful information in a comfortable dialogue.

Remember, certain information vital to your close can cost you the lead if delivered in an ad where feelings motivate and facts can kill.

—John Stevens is a partner with Peterson/Stevens, an advertising/marketing agency specializing in the home improvement industry; www.petersonstevens.com.