You may know that today, there are more ways to advertise than you can imagine. But one thing is almost certain — at some point, you will need to use print advertising.
This post will give you the essential elements of successful print ads, but first, let’s back up a few steps to remember the big picture. Successful advertising in any media focuses on the one receiving the information, not on the one giving it. Like many aspects of business, just because this sounds simple doesn’t mean that it is easy. We all see all to frequently advertising that is all about the business and how great it is, but which totally misses connecting with the wants and needs of the intended audience. Think like your audience. Of course you’re proud of your products, service, or record, but the purpose of advertising isn’t to toot your own horn.
People choose to do business with those they know, like and trust. The elements of your advertising must always focus on that. If you forget that, you will be disappointed in your advertising results because people will not respond.
Let’s now look at the essential components of your print ads.
First, there is the headline. A proper headline will accomplish two things: it will get attention AND it will get the reader to continue reading. That’s it. There’s no magic to it, but there is some skill. People are turned off by gimmicks, but you still must create a header that grabs attention. For instance, contrast the headline “Losing Weight Is Hard” with “Dieting Options.” Use active voice and focus on the thoughts and feelings of the reader.
Next comes the sub-headline. The purpose of the subhead is to provide more information and to get the reader to continue reading. (Yes, there is a pattern developing here!) The information in the subhead should be consistent with the headline, but lead the reader further down the path toward your product.
Once your headline and sub-headline attract attention and keep the reader interested, the next essential element of your print ads should be a picture or graphic. There are two things you want your picture or graphic to accomplish: to also attract attention, as do your headline and sub-headline, and also help the reader to know, like and trust you or your product more. These three elements are critical, so when you choose your picture or graphic, consider what images help accomplish them. Don’t go overboard here with anything wild or distracting, though. You never want to design an ad that distracts people from reading the first sentence. Every aspect of your ad should give the reader a reason to keep reading. Imagine a funnel. You want them to start at the top and continue down, until they reach the end, where you provide the call to action.
The next element of your print ads is the copy. The copy is your main selling message. In it, you will place your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, also known as a value proposition. Your USP tells the world who you are, what you stand for, and why your product or service is both different and better than any other. This is a powerful and often overlooked advertising tool that is available to everyone. An example of this was Burger King’s successful advertising theme that they “flame-broiled” their burgers. Well, guess what? Most hamburger chains also flamed-broiled their burgers, but in the public’s mind, which chain do you think they identified as the standard bearer for flame-broiled burgers? Stress concepts above products or services.
Also in your copy, always include your price and your contact information. By advertising your price, you help build trust with the reader by being upfront and open. Remember again, people do business with people they know, like and trust. They trust you more when they know what they can expect to pay. Including your contact information is essential because once you have included all the other ad essentials, your ad will fail miserably if you win over the reader but the reader cannot contact you. What’s the point of that? Always include your contact information.
As people read your copy, they should say yes to each of your statements. All of your claims should resonate with them, and your goal is to write from their point of view so that they get the feeling that you know exactly what they want and need.
These are the essentials of successful print ads. In my book Step by Step: Achieve Small Business Success, I include some very specific information regarding the use of color, font type and size that is based on years of research and experience.