Seven Ways to Kick Up the Power of Your Print Advertising - More Small Business Power Tools

If you're a retailer and the only kind of advertising you do is built around sales events, you don't need much in the way of advice. All your advertising needs to do is spell out as clearly as possible what's on sale, the amount to be saved and your store's name, address and phone number. You should also include your web address as most of today's consumers expect you to have one.

But what if you're not a retailer or you don't have a sale to advertise?

Here are my seven tips for kicking up the power of your print advertising

Know thy customer. Close your eyes and try to visualize a typical customer. What's important to him? What problem(s) is she trying to solve? How old is he? Does she have children? How much do you suppose she earns a month? What would make him want to do business with you? What does he want from your product or service? The better you understand your customer the stronger a sales message you can create.

Your headline must capture your propects' interest. Your reader's eye will be drawn to your ad by its main graphic, be it a picture or illustration. The second thing he/she will see is your headline. It must serve as a bridge between the graphic and your ad's copy, and then capture your readers' attention or you will lose them and will have wasted your money. The best way to do this is to build your headline around a strong benefit statement. Again, keep in mind your prospect's needs and interests or the problem they are looking to solve. For example, a strong benefit statement would be"How to retire at age 55 without sacrificing a penny of income." I also like headlines (see the title of this article) with numbers, i.e., "Eight ways to look younger in minutes," "Five mistakes to not make when buying fine furniture."

Everybody wants to talk about their children and not yours. Of course, I don't mean this literally. What I mean is that people don't care about you and your business. They care about themselves and what you can do for them. I know this is going to depress you, but customers don't care how long you've been in business, how big your business has become, how beautiful your new store is, etc. They only want to know what you have to offer that can make their lives better, save them money or help them solve an important problem.

People love stories. I'll bet that when you were a kid, one of your favorite things was story time. As human beings, we just seem to be hard-wired to love stories. If you business lends itself to this idea, try starting you ad with a simple story. For example, if you were selling financial advice, you might start out with: "I have two old friends. Let's call them Scott and Janet. They both loved gardening and their lifelong ambition was to retire early and start a garden shop. Unfortunately, they suffered some financial setbacks and found themselves at age 55, with enough money to retire but not enough to start that dream business. When Scott and Janet came to me ....etc."

Start paragraphs with connecting words to keep your readers reading. Once you've pulled your readers into your ad, the challenge is to keep them reading to the end. The way you do this is by using connecting words at the beginning of paragraphs. Some good connecting words are "also," "in other words," "so," "but," "and," in short," "for another thing," and "plus.

Give your readers a reason to do something. You must end every ad with a call to action (see #7 below). But don't forget that you have to give your reader a reason to take that action. This could be the offer of something free such as a booklet or brochure, a free demonstration, a free sample, etc.

Always end with a call to action. Never, and I mean never, end an ad without asking your reader to do something. The something could be to call you (with a prominent phone number), stop by your store, cut out and mail a coupon, or visit your web site. This is not only critical to "closing the sale," but also can help you track the effectiveness of your advertising. If your call to action is for the prospect to phone you, it's always good to add something like "call us at 303-555-1234 and ask for, say, Bart." That way, whenever a person calls and asks for Bart, you will know your ad generated that response. The next time you run the ad, you could tell your prospect to call and ask for Chuck, etc. If your advertising includes a coupon, be sure to code it so you will know which ad generated the response.

Article by Douglas Hanna. Douglas is a retired advertising and marketing executive and long-time Denver resident. He is the webmaster of http://www.all-in-one-info.com, a free resource for information on a variety of subjects. Please visit his site to subscribe to his free newsletter, "Tips & Tricks to Save Money & Live Better."

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