Advertising Facelift – 12 ways to improve your print advertisements

Get better response rates with these 12 tips for giving your advertising a facelift.

If you’re like me, you love tips. Tips on how to do things better– quicker– easier. Tips are fun to read. Fast. Lively. And they keep you entertained by giving you lots of variety. 

Well, that’s what I’ll be featuring in this article. Get ready for a whole slew of tips to improve your advertising. Tips that you can put to use today. Tips that can save you beaucoup bucks. Here’s a big dozen of ’em. Try them and see what happens!

1. Use coupon borders! Even if your ad is not a coupon, this technique tends to increase response because people have been conditioned to read coupons because of the financial reward they provide. I’ve tried this with my own ads and found that it works very well, especially when offering discounts. I like the bold, broken block-type border. It can be used for any size ad, even an 8-1/2″x11″ circular! 

2. Use a person’s head in your ad! Master advertising guru John Caples once said, “Of all the types of pictures that you can use to attract attention, a head or face is best.” It’s true! And you don’t have to use a particularly fancy photograph, either. Just a plain black and white shot is fine. Even if it’s very small, chances are you will notice the results. I personally use this technique whenever I can. Why do you think my face appears on all my sales materials? Because it adds warmth and personality to what I say. It adds trust and builds “relatedness.” Try it!

3. Use a telephone number!

No doubt about it– using a telephone number makes people feel more comfortable ordering from you. You don’t have to offer telephone ordering, but the mere presence of your phone number is very, very reassuring to people. Especially if you’re using a P.O. box!

4. Try a circle ad!

That’s right, instead of having your ad set as a typical rectangle or square like everybody else, have it set in a circular border. (Your copy will still be set the same way.) Studies show that circular shaped ads get greater noting. Very few advertisers know about this technique, and still fewer have ever used it. Interesting, isn’t it?

5. Don’t reverse it!

Unless your ad is surrounded– literally crammed by other ads– don’t reverse your type, i.e.: white lettering on a black background. Studies show that reversing ad copy may decrease your readership up to 50%. This is because the eye is not accustomed to reading in this reverse fashion. Especially if your type is very small. Avoid using this technique, if you can. It IS effective, however, in headlines when the type is large and there are just a few words.

6. Avoid using overly fancy borders.

Borders that are too frilly or decorative can distract from your sales message! I suggest a one-half to one-point thick rule around your ad. Simple, but it does the job. 

7. Use a street address.

Whenever possible, use a street address. It has been shown time and time again, that people feel more comfortable ordering from companies that have street addresses rather than P.O. boxes. The street address connotes permanence. Makes the buyer feel as though you will still be around tomorrow. Chances are you feel the same way. If you must use a box, why use a word other than “box.” How about Suite 123? Or Drawer 123? Or Mailbag 123? Or Lockbox 123? Or Mail Slot 123? Always prime the post office folks by sending a few letters to yourself to get them used to it. It works just fine! Tricky, huh? 🙂

8. Sell one thing at a time. Don’t try to sell more than one product or service in one small ad if each product needs explanation. If all you sell is candy, it’s easy to just list things like: Gumballs, jaw-breakers, licorice whips, wax lips (with teeth!) and Scooter Pies, etc. Everyone’s familiar with these. Otherwise, sell just one product or service in each ad so you don’t confuse your reader. 

9. Stop playing name games! Many dealers use several different company names when promoting different products or services. Unless it’s absolutely necessary (because of the drastically unrelated nature of the items you are promoting), STOP! Stop working against yourself by not allowing one name to build equity. The more familiar your business name, the more likely it is that people will order from you. People will be more comfortable with you– believe that your product or service is of better quality– and that you’re less likely to be a fly-by-night, even if they’ve never seen your name before. For example: Would you rather buy fresh chicken for your next barbecue from Perdue or Imperial? Names can make or break your business. So make yours work for you! 

10. Use a serif typeface!

Do you know the difference between a serif and a sans serif typeface? Your eye certainly does. A serif typeface is one that has little feet and embellishments on the tips and base of each letter; sans serif faces do not. The serifs help connect the letters together and assist the eye in following sentences more easily. That’s why most newspapers always use a serif face, such as Times Roman. In brochures, ads and sales letters that contain a lot of copy (especially if the type size is small) a sans serif face could be difficult to read. On the other hand, big bold headlines look great in sans serif faces. One smart way to select the typeface you want is to notice what the big corporations use for their packaging– annual reports– magazine ads, etc. These companies spend thousands of dollars to have a professional designers do their work. Simply show your printer or typesetter a sample of what you like and have him or her match that look. Just be sure that it’s appropriate for what you’re selling. There’s nothing worse than a headline for “HOT NEW MLM SYSTEM!” that’s set in Old English type!

11. Do something different!  Find a good product to sell. Become the World’s Best Web Page Designer. Write your own report about something you do incredibly well. Or interview an expert– type up what you learned– and sell the report! (A great idea!) Buy books wholesale– write a wicked sales letter– mail it to a list of mail order book buyers and see what happens! Find a product that you’re passionate about and market the heck out of it! 

Do you know how to bake Swiss Fudge Chocolate Chunk Brownies? Shredded Cheese & Garden Herb Pizza Crust? 

Write a zany ad or circular that goes on and on about why your recipe is the most incredible thing since the invention of the fork. Give it an irresistible name like those above. Write L-O-N-G copy about it! Load it with lots and lots of colorful adjectives. See if you can tempt some taste buds and open some wallets online. Also try classified ads in local shoppers– even national tabloids 

Forget the trashy, worthless schemes (This includes chain letters. Sorry, Mr. Rhodes.) All they’ll do is waste the time and money you could be spending to build a legitimate profitable enterprise.

12. Use professional designers!

Unless you’re a graphic artist, please– please– please don’t design your own circulars, ads and brochures. Your image is the most important thing you have when selling to folks who’ve never bought from you. Unless you find a publication that has a flair for creating eye-catching display ads, get a professional designer to do the job for you. 

You simply supply the copy and your designer will create the layout, select the typefaces, choose the borders– everything! Ugh! I’ve seen circulars that looked like someone designed it with their left foot dipped in Hollandaise sauce: Broken, inappropriate type styles– ridiculous, overused clip-art of delirious guys holding money bags above their heads– confusing layouts and much more. 

Ask your local printer if s/he has a designer on staff or can recommend one to you. Or better yet, call some local ad agencies– ask to speak to the Art or Creative Director– say, “Hello, my name is [your name here] and I was wondering if you could help me. I run a small business and I’m putting together an [ad, brochure, flyer, etc.]. Could you recommend a freelance designer that can help me?” Believe me, they know a slew of them — ask for a few. 

Contact them and describe what you need (ad, brochure, etc.). Ask how s/he charges (per project or hourly). Some are expensive, some not. Many charge depending upon how big a company they think you are. (Hint: Don’t sound big.) Tell him/her that you’d like a rough ‘comp’ of the new piece first before s/he gives you finished, camera-ready work. This lets you make changes if you’re not happy with the first submission. Another idea! Call local graphic arts schools. They can usually recommended students who would be happy to do the job– cheap! 

(c) Copyright Drew Eric Whitman
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part is prohibited 
without prior written permission from the author.

DREW ERIC WHITMAN, D.R.S.Direct Response Surgeon(tm)Author of

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