This is a guest article by John Schulte, the President of the National Mail Order Association
Introduction to Creating Profitable Space Advertising… 10 secrets to doing it right!
No matter what business you’re in, learning to create good advertisements is a vital skill. Arguably, it’s one of the most important sales and marketing skills you can obtain.
Even if you hire an agency, you will need some basic understanding of good advertising so you can judge if the ad they create for you follows basic proven principles. You don’t want just “anything” created for an advertisement that may cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to run in a newspaper or magazine.
The best way to learn to create great space advertising is by learning mail order advertising methods. Why? Because mail order advertising is measurable. Each and every ad has to prove itself in results. Mail order advertisers know if their advertising is working or not””whether it’s making them money or not.
In mail order, bad advertising, and the person that creates it”¦don’t last. And because of this, mail order advertising has become a very refined type of advertising, and it’s something that I feel all advertisements should be modeled after. Of course there are creative skills that are applied to each advertisement and/or ad campaign, but they are based on certain “Scientific” and time proven principles.
Take time to learn them, and you will fair much better in making sure your ads pay. This report will give you some key insights in creating good advertisements, but should only be considered a “primer” to get you started. Suggested reading can be found at the end of this report.
The first step in creating any advertisement is describing on paper the key characteristics of your ideal customer. i.e. Who your ad talks to. This can be as simple as; “Women with preschool children,” or as detailed as; “Women, aged 25-35, have preschool age children, works outside the home, drives an SUV, likes camping, has a household income of over $100,000,” etc.
This information will help you pick likely places to advertise; or maybe more importantly, where not to advertise. As an example, based on the above-mentioned characteristics, you would not want to advertise in a college newspaper or a teen magazine.
Your next step is outlining all the important “benefits” that your product or service offers potential customers. Keep in mind that “benefits” are different than “features”. Example: “our snow blower has a ten horsepower motor” this is an example of a feature. It promises no benefits, it’s a technical fact, something that many people will not relate to.
However, when you say; “our powerful snow blower blasts through the thickest and heaviest snow with no effort.” Now that’s an understandable benefit. You need to transform “features” into “benefits” when creating advertisements.
You also must have a clear idea of what job you want your advertisement to do. Stated another way, what steps do you want your prospects to follow after reading your ad? i.e. Call for more information, visit a store, visit a web site, call to order a product, etc. Being clear in your mind on this point will help you develop the right words, (copy) to write in your advertisement.
When you have these three points clear, creating your advertisement will be much easier.
Now, here are ten secrets to help you create good advertisements.
1. Create a compelling headline. It’s the headline that makes the rest of the ad work. Therefore write dozens of them before you choose the one to use. Every headline has one job, it must “GRAB” the appropriate readers attention. To do that, create headlines that deliver a believable promise. The best headlines appeal to people’s self-interest, or give news. Long headlines that say something are better than short ones that say nothing. If you come up with a good headline, in most cases you will have a successful ad. But the greatest body copy can’t overcome a poor headline. You can’t make your ads sell unless you can make people read your copy.
2. Use simple words. They’re the only words that the majority of people understand. When you finish writing your copy, have someone that’s around 16 years old read it, if they didn’t understand a certain word or phrase, change it. Even people who are very educated don’t mind reading simple words.
3. Copy Length. Use however many words it takes to tell the complete story about your product or service, no more”¦no less. If it takes many words, so be it. The more you tell”¦the more you sell. If the ad is of interest to the reader they will read all the copy you can give them. Always write a lot more copy then you will need. Then trim it down. When you’re done, it will be all meat. Every word will have a reason for being there, giving the reader all the facts needed to make a buying decision.
If it takes more room to tell your story than the size of your ad, you need to run a two-step ad campaign. Then your ad’s job is to generate inquiries, not to sell. The sale then depends on the second step you use to finish the selling job. This can be a salesperson in your store, a direct mail package or catalog you send, the web site they are directed to visit, the operator they call, or a personal call from your salesman.
4. Get to the point. This is close to tip number three. Be direct. Don’t try to write cute, or try to be funny, or beat around the bush. Give facts. Start right off with the best benefit. This way you will have a better chance of keeping the reader with you. And don’t stop with telling about all the benefits the reader will get, also tell them what they will miss if they don’t buy. Repeat the main point two or three times using different words. At the end also ask for action. Interested people reading your ad will want to know what to do. Tell them! And give them a good reason for acting”¦Now!
5. Using pictures. When you use pictures remember they are in the ad to help sell goods. No other reason. They take up expensive ad space and must pull their weight in selling your product or service. Your pictures should tell a story at a glance. The picture you use should be of the product, the product in use, or the results of using the product. Other picture possibilities are; dramatic pictures like before and after pictures, and reward or attainment pictures, like a student holding a diploma in an educational ad.
6. Repeat the same ad. Advertisers that don’t use mail order methods can’t measure the results of their ads, and therefore change campaigns too often. They get tired of seeing their ads long before the public does. By using mail order tracking methods you will know what works, stick with it until you develop new ads that prove themselves (through measurable results) to be better. It becomes a fun game, trying to beat the proven winner. If you study your mail order advertising history you will see ads that ran unchanged for 40 years.
7. Changing times and advertising. Many people new to advertising think that the techniques that worked years ago, will not work today. “That was then”¦this is now,” they say. The fact of the matter is this; times change but people do not. The basic human “emotions,” wants and desires remain the same. Words like “Free” and “New” are just as powerful now as they were years ago. Ads that appeal to the reader’s self-interest and desire for self-improvement still work. Ads that offer news still work. They worked 60 years ago, and they will work 60 years from now.
8. Test It! Test It! Test It! With mail order advertising you can test every component in an ad to see what works best. What appeal, what headline, what offer, what price point, etc. There is no guesswork needed. If you have two different headlines that you feel are very strong, you can test both using a split run. Just remember to test only one component at a time, and to key-code* the ads for accurate results. * A key-code is something that identifies the specific advertisement someone is responding to; like a department number, or a special phone number, or a coupon with a code on it.
9. How will it look in print? After you have finished your ad, print it off on your printer in the exact size that you will be running it. Take a magazine or newspaper, depending what medium you are using, maybe the actual publication you are running in, and tape it on the page. You can then get a good idea of how it will look when it goes to press. If you don’t think it does the job, keep tweaking it until you’re happy.
10. Create ads in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to create an advertisement. Many people will decide they need to run an ad, and then quick draw one up in fifteen minutes. This is one of the worst things you can do. Rushing the creation of advertising will most likely result in a bad ad. You should have a few done and ready, and some in the works at all times. These should be created in the most common sizes you can afford, and/or the sizes made available by the media you would most likely advertise in. If you want to take advantage of remnant space or last minute advertising deals, be ready in advance.
Every person that needs to create advertising, or hire an agency to create an ad for their company should read “How to Create Successful Small Business Advertising” http://www.nmoa.org/catalog/advertisingguide.asp and other books by history’s great advertising practitioners; Max Sackheim, John Caples, Claude C, Hopkins, John E. Kennedy, and David Ogilvy.
About the Author:
John Schulte is a Small Business Consultant and Direct Marketing Strategist. He is a 30-year veteran of advertising, marketing, publicity, promotions and sales. He is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of mail order, direct mail, cataloging and overall direct marketing. He is one of the few people in the United States that has been certified by a United States Federal Court as a Direct Marketing and Catalog expert, able to act as an expert witness in federally related corporate disputes. John is also president of the National Mail Order Association and author of Direct Marketing Toolkit for Small and Home Business. http://www.nmoa.org/directmarketingtoolkit