10 steps to a perfect ad

Whatever media you use to promote your business, you’ve got just a few seconds to get your message across to a potential customer. It’s vital that your advert makes an immediate positive impact. It must have a clear message and be simple to understand.

Before you start you should carefully consider exactly what you are trying to achieve, mostly you will be looking for responses to your advert but you may just want to raise awareness of your business. Of course it is also very important to consider the timing of your advertising and the type of people you would like to reach, but that’s another whole topic!

Once you’ve got something drafted take a step back and consider your proposed advert impartially. If this is not possible then enlist the help of someone you can trust to be honest and who is not directly involved with the business to get an ‘outsider’s’ perspective or speak to a professional designer. Also, take a look at other adverts especially those of your competitors – which ones get and keep your attention? When I first started Sussex Local I was wary of criticising advertiser’s own artwork for fear of causing offence. Now I know what works and would rather be honest with my advertisers if I don’t think their advert will be successful but many publications will simply be glad to take your money! If you are a new business and have not advertised before you should consider what sort of ‘look’ you would like your company to have.

The look should reflect what type of business you are running and what type of customers you are looking to attract, you need to consider your company colours and if you are going to use pictures and/or a logo. If you don’t have a logo or are not happy with the one you have this is where a good designer can really help. However, you’ll need to be clear in your own mind about what you are trying to achieve before instructing a designer or you could end up with something which looks very pretty but doesn’t really reflect what you do.

So with your logo and company ‘look’ sorted (and with your target audience in mind) you can now consider creating your advert. Regardless of whether you are spending £20 or £2,000 on an advert it’s important to follow a few simple rules to ensure you are not wasting your money. Here are the 10 key tips to help ensure your advert is successful.

1. Grab them with the headline. A snappy headline that gets your message across will attract readers. Something topical or amusing can work well but consider who will be reading the advert and make sure you don’t offend anyone!

2. Focus on the benefits. The person reading your advert will always be thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ You will not get their attention by simply listing all the features of your product or service. You need to tell readers why they should buy your product or service. For example: ‘Save time and money’ or ‘It will make you look great’

3. Keep it factual. Make sure you can back up any claims and be honest about special offers. If there are exclusions be up front – don’t encourage people to call and then say your ‘offer’ doesn’t apply to them.

4. Keep it short (less is more!). Don’t be tempted to cram in too much – will the reader really be interested in your entire company history? What will interest people is what you can do for them. Too much text and a cluttered design will put readers off. Try and include an attractive image in your advert which will draw the eye.

5. Interest the reader. To get people interested, tell them something new or surprising. Statistics can work well if they are accurate and of course appropriate.

6. Be reassuring / give guarantees. If you are a member of a professional body or Trade Association, put it in your advert. Logos make people feel confident about your business. If you offer a money back guarantee say so! If you don’t – should you?

7. Make it easy to contact you. Addresses, phone numbers, website and email addresses don’t need to be the biggest thing on the advert but must be easy to read. Also email addresses using your company name look far more professional than hotmail, AOL etc

8. How does it look? Your advert should match your company image and your adverts’ design, language and images should all work together to give customers a good idea of the kind of business you have. If you’re not sure about your skills as a designer or copywriter, get a professional to help. Check with the people you’re advertising with, they should be able to design something from your brief. If you are placing a large order or a long-term booking you could ask them to waive their design fee.

9. “Call to Action” . Think objectively about why/if your advert is likely to get a response. Is there a compelling offer? Perhaps your product is unique? If not then include something to encourage response such as a time limited offer.

10. Check it. Then check it again. Mistakes do happen and it’s easy to see what you expect to see so double check everything. You don’t want the wrong phone number printed! Insist on a proof from the publication prior to it going to print and ideally get someone else to have a look over your advert too.

You don’t need to use the same advert all the time in fact it’s important to vary the advert to appeal as specifically as possible to the type of people the media will be reaching. Whilst you should keep your company ‘look’ consistent it’s also a good idea to change the content of your adverts regularly (even within the same publication) to keep your message fresh and interesting and also to showcase different aspects of your business and present other services that people may not know you offer.

Finally, don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a massive response immediately. Even if you advertise in the most appropriate way for your business and follow all the rules above, advertising is also about repetition. People will normally need to see your message several times before responding so be prepared to be patient and don’t give up after a single insert!

Some books to help:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck


About the author:

Kris Thomas runs Sussex Local, a series of community magazines delivered through the door to homes within high value postcode areas of West Sussex. For a free Business Directory listing on the Sussex Local website go to www.sussexlocal.net/localdirectory.html and click on “Add Your Business”
Kris Thomas t: 01903 868 474 m: 0797 606 1109 e: kris@sussexlocal.net

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