PRIMER: Creating Advertising That Really Works

What Works?

What works in advertising? Well, ask yourself this question: What works for you? Begin to notice what sorts of ads catch your fancy. Open the newspaper, or a magazine, check out Facebook, listen and watch ads on TV, online, and on the radio and to notice which ads stick out, and then ask yourself why.


Usually it is a combination of a few key elements, all aligned at the same time.

Ads That Work Target the Right Market

Great ads begin when you know exactly who it is you are targeting. Once you know that, your job is much easier, and conversely, if you don’t know exactly to whom you are advertising, then you are wasting your money.

Too many freelance businesses, especially early in their life-cycle, try and appeal to everyone. A few expensive lessons later, and they learn that they just have to reach a few, key, select people – their niche, their market.

So begin by figuring out for whom it is, exactly, that you are creating this advertisement: Their age range, gender, income-level, what they want from you, and so on. Once you know your market, choosing the right medium is much easier.

Advertising 101: Benefits, Benefits, Benefits

Think about those times when you are looking to buy a certain model car. All of a sudden, you begin to see that car everywhere, right? The reason for that is psychological: The brain filters a lot of information every day, but when you focus on something new, whether it is a car or whatever, it’s a signal to the brain that the information need not be filtered out anymore. The benefit of the new thing is allowed to seep through.

That’s how good advertising works too. You may never notice an ad, even if that ad typically runs again and again… until you have a need for what the ad is selling. So it is incumbent upon you to stress the benefits of what you or your freelance business are selling.

People remember benefits.

Successful Advertising Has Already Been Tested

It is always smart to test an ad first to see if it works, and then tweak it as necessary, and then roll it out once you know it’s a winner. Testing can improve:

  • The headline. Since the headline is the most important part of any ad, testing to see what works is important. Try different words, or graphics.
  • The cost: Does a big ad pull that much better than a small ad? Maybe you could simply keep a big headline with a small ad and save money.
  • Success rates: Throwing a lot of money at an untested ad is risky business.

There are a few ways to test an ad:

  • “Mention this ad”: Of course, the most tried and true way is simply to ask. “Bring in this add and get an additional 10% off.”
  • Use a lower price: Offer some tomatoes for a quarter on a certain day and see how many you sell that day. This loss leader strategy helps you learn who is seeing your ads.
  • Use two prices: Mention one price in one publication or station and a different, albeit similar price, in a different one. The prices can’t be too different because that will skew the results.

Remember the Frequency of the Advertising Matters

When it comes to advertising, repetition is the key, repetition is the key, repetition is the key.  What is the key? See!

How much repetition? The short answer is: As much as you can afford. If you want people to notice that ad, then it simply has to be repeated, and repeated, and repeated. Of course it depends on your budget, but just know, buying an ad and not repeating it is a waste of money.

Advertising is not rocket science, but it does take planning and a lot of forethought for maximum effectiveness.

Did we miss a key aspect of advertising that you think other self-employed business people ought to know about? Share it with us!

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