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Marketing by Numbers: How to Use Numbers in your Ads

1402 words · Reading time: 7 minutes

Numbers can reach people much more quickly than words, however, they also have the power to confuse. Here’s how to use numbers correctly in your copy.

When it comes to grammar, style guides will usually tell you to spell out numbers and put ‘per cent’ instead of %. However, when it comes to creating copy which can be quickly digested, then these rules go out of the window.

One of the things to remember about your copy is that if it doesn’t grab a customer’s attention in the first couple of seconds, then you’ve already lost them.

The trouble with traditional grammar rules is that they were intended for more traditional forms of writing such as novels and essays, and they are used to show that a writer has a grasp of the language. However, when it comes to writing ads, the gloves are off and you need to know how to break the rules to deliver the punches your copy needs.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still learn the traditional rules of writing. After all, if you want to break the rules, you have to know what the rules are!

It is possible to draw attention to aspects of your writing by following the rules and breaking them sparingly. Think about when you read a book and you spot a spelling mistake or a phrase that doesn’t quite make sense. You end up going back and looking at it again, maybe even a few times, until you are sure you understand it. This jarring effect is something which you can get into your ads so that people sit up and take notice. However, you don’t want it to look like a mistake.

Adding numbers into your copy can grab people’s attention in much the same way, by standing out from the rest of your copy, but still remaining a logical part of the ad.

Using Numbers in Your Ad Copy


Numbers provide people with information quickly and effectively, however, there are right ways and wrong ways of using them. Here are some of the things you need to know about using numbers in your ad copy.

Numbers Gain Attention


If you want to draw attention to a number then use numerals. 99% vs ninety-nine per cent.

The opposite is also true. If you don’t want a number to grab attention but feel that you need to include it, then spell it out.

The Power of Percentages


Percentages are actually pretty vague but on the surface, they appear to be obvious. This makes them a great tool for your ad copy.

When people read percentages, they don’t usually think about them that much. However, when you consider that 1% is equal to 1100, things change a bit.

Imagine you knew you had a 1100 chance of being killed if you walked outside. You’d realise that every single time you went outside, the chances of being killed increased. Yikes! Suddenly that number 1 seems much larger!

Now consider that you only have a 1% chance of being killed or a 99% chance of survival. They seem like much better odds, even though they are exactly the same.

Using percentages in this way can reassure your customers that they are safe in your hands or, if you are using fear, then they can motivate them to act.

You Do The Maths


Don’t force your visitors to complete mathematical equations to get the results they need. Some people love doing sums, but plenty don’t. Therefore, if you have a mathematical problem in your ad copy, make sure to work it out and deliver the answer to them.

For example, if you are offering a saving when someone buys 2 t-shirts at $50 each, you can spell the saving out for them.

25% off when you buy 2. That’s a saving of $25!


Buy 1 get 1 Half Price!

Be sure to do the maths for yourself first, so that you know exactly what kind of deals you are offering. It will also help when it comes to split testing, as you can test which of the two offers above works better.

You might also notice that ‘Half’ is written as a word. This is because fractions can be more confusing for customers. We could have used 50% off, however, that would overload the offer with numbers.

As a general rule, don’t add too many numbers, otherwise, your copy will be confusing. The aim of the game is to give people a shortcut to the offer so that they understand it instantly. If you’re not sure which is going to work best, then split-test the offers and adjust them accordingly.

Add Credibility to Your Copy


Numbers aren’t just useful for highlighting great offers. They can also be used to add credibility to your persuasive copy. To do this, you need to use more specific numbers.

It can be tempting to round your numbers up or down so that they end in 0s or 5s. It’s quite natural as these numbers are always easier to comprehend. However, more precise numbers can make it look as though you’ve actually bothered to work out the exact figures and, as a result, can be more convincing.

Here’s a quick example:

‘Last year, we gained more than 250,000 new members.’


‘Last year, we gained 252,764 new members.’

The second shows that you’ve done some research and that you actually value every single new member.

Precision helps to give your figures more weight in the reader’s mind. It can even help to make things seem more affordable.

How many times have you walked into a shop and seen .99 after a number? E.g, $12.99 or $1.99.

The reason these prices are so common is that by taking off just 0.01, the price seems more affordable. They are not $13 and $2, they are less than $13 and $2!

Make Comparisons


Comparisons work really well for subscription offers. In this case, it’s not so much about using numbers but using equivalences of numbers.

Imagine you are selling a magazine subscription for $55.20 for 6 months. How can we make this offer more attractive?

First, 6 months is quite a long time, and when we add the price for the whole duration, it creates a pain at the point of sale. It would be much better to break it down.

If we divide the time up into weeks, then 6 months x 4 weeks = 24 and $55.20 divided by 24 = $2.30.

$2.30 per week sounds much more affordable. Now, think about what else you might regularly spend $2.30 on. How about coffee? In fact, coffee is probably a bit more expensive so we can now accurately claim:

Subscribe to our weekly magazine for less than the price of a cup of coffee!

This method of comparison helps people to understand the value you are offering and makes your deal seem much more affordable.

Bonus Number Hack!


If you’re offering multiple prices, then there is one amazing copy hack which can lead people to choose the option you want them to, and it all about psychology.

If you have never heard of Dan Ariely then it’s time to check out his work, as he is a master of behavioural psychology. One of his best tips and one of the easiest to implement is to offer people something they don’t want, alongside the thing you want them to have. Here’s how it works.

If you had the choice to drive a Lamborghini or get punched in the face, which one would you choose? The answer is easy, unless you’re a masochist.

Now, consider you have these three options in front of you:

$36.99 Online subscription to a magazine

$52.99 Print subscription to a magazine

$52.99 Print and online subscription to a magazine.

Which would you choose?

According to Dan Ariely’s study, most people would go for option 3, because it’s weighted against option 2. Option 2 is essentially meaningless, as it costs the same as option 3 but you get less for your money.

The reason this method works is because people can easily see that they are getting more value for their money, and so will choose the option which gives them the most.

This is a simple technique to implement and test and it will allow you to drive people in the direction you want them to go in.

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