Have you ever seen an ad on television that was beautiful, slick, and stylish but did not fit the product? How about a magazine ad that, although gorgeously photographed, did not make it clear what was being sold? Or have you heard a catchy radio ad that neglected to give contact information? If you pay attention, you'll notice these money-wasting advertisements in all types of media.
If a corporation puts out a bad advertisement, the marketing department will have the resources and budget to make a mid-course correction (sometimes). Often the thousands of dollars a small business puts into an advertising promotion are the bulk of the marketing budget for the entire year (typically). There's no money, time or resources for a do-over if the ad does not bring in customers. Small business people simply can not afford to spend money on expensive ads that do not work.
Preparing an effective ad is harder than it looks, but even the smallest business can produce an ad that works if some simple rules are followed. Following are four tips you can use to create a great ad for your business, regardless of your budget, marketing experience, or the media used:
1. State the Product or Service Clearly
Make it absolutely clear what product or service you are selling. Keep it simple and honest. Instead of advertising "meticulously crafted, threaded fastening accessories" just say, "best steel wing nuts." Do not make it hard for the customer to pinpoint what you're selling and do not overdo the flowery descriptions.
2. Use a Call-For-Action Phrase
Forgetting the call-for-action is the biggest mistake I see in small business advertising. A call-for-action is a short sentence telling the customer how to get the product or service, such as "call us for a free sample," "order online at http://www.mywebsite.com ," "get Product X at these fine retailers. " The call-for-action is important because it reinforces the customer's decision to buy and gives specific instructions. Without a call-for-action, a certain number of customers will change their minds almost instantly, as their attention is drawn elsewhere. Others will ignore the ad unless you make it clear you want their business by telling them exactly how to spend their money.
3. Check for Correct, Complete Contact Information
You must include a phone number, address, and / or website (preferably all three). Triple check to make sure the information is correct. This sounds obvious but consider this real-life case: A plumbing company in my hometown advertised 24-hour service but only put the number of the main office in their telephone directory ad. The office was only open 7:00 am to 5:00 pm That was little use to someone with a leaking hot water heater at 2:00 am The plumbing company also had a website where, with some digging, a desperate homeowner could ferret out the 24-hour service number … but what customer is going to spend time hunting the number down when he's up to his ankles in standing water?
4. Sell the Benefits
I often see ads that try to sell the customer on the features of a product or service rather than the benefits to the customer. What's the difference? Features describe the product or service; benefits tell the customer how those features will help him or her. Let's take a common product like bread. Say you're selling a special kind of nutrition-packed wheat bread (it was granny's secret recipe). You could list some of the features of this wonderful bread in your ads:
Contains 3 times the usual vitamin D and calcium
Uses only rolled oats
(That all sounds very healthy, but I do not know how eating more of those things will do me any good. bread I've eaten since I was a kid.)
Now let's state those features as customer benefits:
Builds strong bones and teeth
Helps control high blood pressure
(I did not know I could lower my blood pressure by eating a different brand of bread. That's sure sounds easier and tastier than taking supplements.
Translating the features of wheat bread into benefits is not that difficult. What if you have a very complicated product or service? Drilling down to the benefits can still be done quite easily. When I get stuck writing up a benefits sheet, I filter everything through this phrase: "What's in it for me?"
These four marketing tips are a great place to start when preparing your advertisement. See Marketing Tips For Small Business – Advertising That Works, Part II, for more tips and insider tricks.