Classified ads, when used effectively, can be one of the quickest and inexpensive ways to increase sales and customers. A single well-written classified ad can generate hundreds of thousands in sales, yet can cost you pennies to run.
Unfortunately, most people don’t appreciate the pulling power of classified ads. They think classifieds ads are for selling cars, or finding jobs, not for expanding a business. And while it’s true a classified ad is a good way to sell a car, or find a job, it is also true that classified ads can be used to launch and operate multi-million dollar business.
In fact, many businesses rely exclusively on these small low cost ads to generate all their sales. The reason is simple. Once you have discovered how to harness the power of these ads, you really won’t need to run expensive display ads.
The key point about classified ads is that they are most effective when used as ‘lead generators’. In these ads, you are not trying to convince someone to spend money with you in the ad. Instead, you’re trying to identify a potential customer by having that customer contact you as a result of the ad. Once potential customers have identified themselves, you follow up with your direct mail offer for the product or service you want to sell.
Writing an effective classified ad is one of the most exacting forms of copywriting. With twenty words or less you have to say something that will cause potential customers to call you. And you can’t rely on eye-catching illustrations or professional layouts to catch the reader’s attention. It’s all in the wording.
Here’s what we do when we need to write a classified ad that really works:
1. Define what we want the ad to accomplish. Do we want the customer to read the ad and smile? Or do we want him to read the ad and call us? (In most cases we want the customer to call us immediately upon reading the ad.)
2. Define the profile of the person most likely to purchase our product or service. (Is it a man or woman, young or old, rich or poor?) If you can’t identify who you are going to sell a product to, it’s almost impossible to write an ad that will get their attention.
3. With the ‘most likely customer profile’ developed in step two, you should list the ‘hot buttons’, those words, ideas, and concepts most likely to gain the immediate attention of anyone in the profile group.
These hot buttons might be phrases like ‘work at home’, financial freedom,’ ‘overnight weight loss,’ ‘immediate loans’ or ‘overseas jobs’.
4. Using the list of hot buttons we came up with in step three, we
should see how we can weave them into a 20 word or less ad that
accomplishes the goal we set in step one. When writing the ad, the first three words are extremely important and must be selected with purpose. They should call out to our potential customers.
5. If our goal is to get the reader to identify himself to us as a potential customer we should offer free additional information.
This way we get the customer to call us and give us their name so we can send them something. We normally do this by saying, ‘For Free Information Packet call 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx.’
6. After the ad is written to our satisfaction, we search out a number of highly targeted newsletters and magazines that our customers read. Then we find the ones with the least amount of classified ads, and run our test ads there. (We always avoid general interest publications. The ad rates are too expensive and the response too small.)
7. Before the ads appear we develop our ad response pack. This is
free information that people who see the ad will be calling about. And it is this response pack that will generate the sale. Obviously having a good response pack is critical to the success of the project.
8. When the ads appear, we keep track of the total number of inquiries for each ad, from each publication. This lets us know which ad works best, and which publication pulls best. We use this information when we roll the ad out on a wider scale.
One final point. The success of a classified ad is determined by the Sales are related to the follow-up effort, the response pack, not the lead generating classified ad. Generally if you get five or more responses to a low cost classified, you are on the right track.