Although the information in this article was written a while ago now, there is still something that can be learned from it. I wrote this when I was running my workshops on how to set up your own business from home, back prior to the Internet. Even though the information might be old, the principles remain the same. Plus, you can still use this information in the larger newspapers that remain well circulated.
Where to Advertise
Advertise where the competition is. If there is another classified with the same or similar product, place your ad in the same publication. Just as you followed the leaders in the choice and pricing of your product, follow the leaders in advertising. Remember that one day you may well be one of the leaders!
Although some publications will cost more to advertise with than others, do not try to save money in less expensive places to advertise. In the long run your ad will pull the best responses where it has been tested and proven before. Do not be tempted to place an ad in a magazine that does not have items similar to yours advertised – even if you have a hunch of think it may bring in stray orders. For starters, follow the professionals and list where they do!
There are two main types of advertising in publications – Classified ads, which are run together in a section, usually at the rear of the publication, and are only for words – they are normally reasonably inexpensive to place, and then there are…..
Display, or space ads that are those that run throughout the publication. They are best to use if you need to show a drawing of your merchandise. Although they are more expensive than classifieds, your product response may do better with the extra investment and exposure.
However, for a modest beginning, classifieds are the bread and butter winners for the direct mail business. Your dollar investment per word in a classified will pull many dollars in responses.
The best way to use classifieds is with a two-part approach. First, you place a small ad that describes your product or service. You give a full postal address, etc, and mention free details or free info. Do not ask for money or mention a price!
From the enquiries in response to the ad, send out a direct mail piece describing your product more fully – giving a full sales pitch and an order form. This sales piece has the most effect in generating orders. Writing classified ads is easy. But again – do what the others do – read the classified ads!
First, there is a lead-in, or heading – a word or two that grabs the readers’ attention. This is followed by a promise – some benefit the product offers. Then comes the description of the item itself. Finally, offer a guarantee and push for action. Place the classified ad in the publications you choose under the categories that seem most relevant for your product or service. Give it at least three months to test it. Then watch those enquiries turn into orders, AND the orders turn into money!
Running Display Ads
If your product will sell well with a visual presentation, such as a line drawing or photograph, then you will get better results with a display ad. Display ads come in all sizes – from one inch to a full two-page spread. Choosing the size of your ad will be a matter of testing the responses.
As with a classified, use a catchy heading with the display ad to grab the readers’ attention. Along with the illustration and order, describe the item and point out some of the benefits of owning it. And, be sure to mention a guarantee!
The rule of thumb for deciding how big to make the display ad is to test the responses. Increasing the size of the ad could cost more than the profits it generates. Some products sell well with a larger ad, some don’t.
Offer a Refund
An important element in all advertising, and especially in direct mail, is to offer a refund if the customer is not satisfied. The reason is simple. More people will respond to an ad that backs up its claims with a guarantee. If a buyer can return the product for a refund, then the order is a low risk. Since your product will fulfil the promises in the ad, you will have a low refund rate. For those few returns you may have to honour the requests promptly.
Use an Address Code
Whenever you place an advertisement, whether classified or display, you need to code the address so you know which ad the inquiry came from.
This coding system is called ‘keying the address’. Take a look at the classified you have been studying. See those codes? ‘Department WD-5; Division 9A; Drawer 4B’. These are all address keys to use in recording and tabulating you responses. They are most important in testing the pull of your ads.
You can use any combination of letters and numbers to ‘code an address’. Most businesses use the words ‘department, suite number, room number, division or drawer’. A simple key is the initials of the name of the publication and the number indicating the month of the issue. However, you can use any code that is easy to keep track of.