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10 Tips for Unleashing the Power of Classified Ads

Note: This article was excerpted from Direct Response Advertising Made Easy, which is available from

An eager real estate agent wanted to use classifieds to generate leads for a home she had to sell. But to her surprise, her boss looked at her with a cold stare and said, "Honey, the people we want don't read classifieds."

Unfortunately, there are a number of myths associated with classifieds. And not surprisingly these views are often held by people who have lost money on classifieds or they simply have not done their homework. The scenario, in a sense, is like the classic story about the fox and the grapes. When the fox failed to get the grapes, he dismissed them as being no good anyway.

Although people can be mistaken about the value of classifieds, this is not to suggest that classifieds are without limitations. The truth is, because of the size of the ad, it does carry a number of built-in limitations, so to speak. For instance: It does not allow for photos; it is not suitable for detailed copy; it is surrounded by a mass of other ads; it doesn't provide space for demonstrating the benefits of a product; it doesn't allow space for testimonials, etc.

While all of these issues may rightly be a concern, it is useful to remember that classifieds have advantages that should not be ignored.

  • Classifieds are inexpensive. This is perhaps the biggest advantage of using this form of advertising. Payment is generally based on the number of words or the lines of copy used in the ad. Given the low cost, you can actually run an entire series of classifieds for the price of one full-page ad. The inexpensive nature of the ad means you can reach out to your prospects on a regular basis without breaking your bank account.
  • Classifieds are great for low-cost testing. If you wanted to test various elements of a large display ad, it would indeed be costly. The reason is obvious: Each time you test, you'd have to pay for the space of the whole ad. On the other hand, classifieds allow you to inexpensively test copy throughout a series-and at the cost of a single large display ad.
  • Classifieds are ideal for testing new concepts. Whenever copywriter Ted Nicholas was brainstorming for a new book title, he used to narrow his list of ideas down to a few titles. Then he would run classifieds and use the titles as headlines for each ad. The ad that pulled the biggest response would provide him with the winning title for his new book.
  • Classifieds are great for generating leads. The two-step approach means that you make an offer in your ad that prompts the reader to make contact with you. You invite them to contact you by phone, mail, or e-mail, etc. When the contact is made, you simply follow-up with a sales call or direct-mail package.

Ideally, you would generate leads by offering something FREE! This could be a booklet, newsletter, more information, 30-minute consultation, discount, CD brochure, or catalog.

Another benefit with this approach is that it allows you to build a mailing list of prospects and customers. Once you have their contact information, you can stay in touch with them by publishing a newsletter.

  • Classifieds can be used for local, regional, and national audiences. It's been said that the classified is the one tool that allows the little guy (or gal) to be more competitive. It enables the small businessperson to reach his or her audience on a small budget, no matter where they live.
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