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The 7 Deadly Sins Of Writing Your Own Ads

Advertising should always be an investment, giving you more money back in sales than you spent. Avoid these deadly sins if you want to invest wisely.

1. Writing your name/your companys name as the ad headline. To be honest, unless youre MacDonalds or Microsoft, no one except your mum is really interested in your name. Every potential customers favourite radio station is WII FM – Whats In It For Me – so they only care about what you can do for them.The headline is the most important part of the whole ad because its the bit that gets peoples attention. It should reach out to tell them and say why they should come to you. And in order to really speak to your prospect, try to include You or Yours in the headline – eg: Is Your Conservatory Too Noisy When It Rains? Asking a question is a good tactic too, because questions are always answered, arent they?

Size wise the headline needs to fill about 1/3 of the space you have to fill. Make sure no one can miss it.

2. Not Knowing Who Your Potential Customers Are. Youd think the answers obvious – everyone is my customer. So who is your ideal customer? Think about where they live, are they male or female, what age, what size of company they have, what kind of car they drive and what newspapers and magazines they read. Answers to these questions (and more) give you a profile of the kind of person you want to attract, as well as how youll speak to them – the sort of language youll use – and where you might place your ad.

3. Selling on features not benefits. Features are the list of things your product or service does – eg, silences rain noise, heat insulation, cuts out glare, are 3 for a conservatory roof covering. But remember the customer is only interested in what those features mean to him/her and the answer is that they solve his/her problem. Your ad needs to show how. To change a feature into a benefit, just add the words which means that or similar.

4. Making your ad the same as everyone elses. Take a look in Yellow Pages or another directory and pretend you are a prospect for a particular product or service (youre not a customer until youve bought something). What would make you pick one company and not another? Now look at your ad if you have one in a directory; what makes you stand out from the crowd?

5. Selling on the price not the value. There are some products or parts of a service that are price sensitive, but not everything. You know your business so you know what these are, but being the cheapest isnt the same as being the best. Often if a customer hears a cheaper price than he expects he may think hes getting sub-standard service.

Instead of advertising a discount (where you loose money if youre not selling at the full mark-up cost), offer a free gift with purchases. This is something that is of value to the customer but of low cost to you. For example, a carpet cleaning company could offer to shampoo a bedroom carpet for free (value £X if done when the offers not on) when the hall, stairs and landing are done. This sort of thing is of little extra cost in time as youre in the house anyway, no extra petrol or travelling, and the customer feels shes getting great value for money.

6. Not testing and measuring your ad. If you place an ad in one of the big directories for a year it can cost a fortune. And if you dont ask people where they heard about you from, how will you know whether your ad was an investment (giving you back more in sales than it cost)?

Also, if youre running several different ads, you need to know which is working well so you can use it more than the ones that arent. Testing and measuring are easy to do – just make a tick list of options (including just walking by the shop if its appropriate) and put a reminder on the till for staff or on the telephone order sheet.

7. Not having a call to action in your ad. Your potential customer needs to be told exactly what to and when to do it – dont trust that he will call you at some point because hell forget or a better offer will come along.

A call to action comes at the bottom of your ad, next to the telephone number/ address and tells Mr Prospect to call right now. Create urgency by making a limited offer or encouraging him to let you solve his problem – noise on the conservatory roof, dirty carpets, and embarrassingly scruffy drive way.

Make it really easy for the person to do what you want him to do: include a map or directions to the shop, a free-phone number or web-based ordering. After all the whole point of advertising is getting a prospect to do something that they probably wouldnt have done if they hadnt seen your ad.

There are loads of good books and websites that will give you all the top tips for writing winning ads. The basics are easy and, for a business, can mean the difference between profit and loss.

Further reading and surfing:
- The Secrets of Successful Copywriting. By Patrick Quinn.
- Teach Yourself Copywriting. By J. Jonathan Gabay.

Kindly supplied by Elspeth Raisbeck.


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