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Creating Effective Advertising Materials

Don't understand why your ads and direct mail aren't working? Find out what you may be doing wrong and how to fix it.
September 18, 2000

Q: I created a flier and sent it to everyone on a 400-name mailing list I purchased from a direct-mail company but saw no results. Then I bought a small ad in a trade magazine and, once again, got no response. Is there a way to get people to respond to something like this?

A: It's a given that any mailing list has a certain percentage of outdated or invalid addresses. People move, die or change their surnames through marriage. For whatever reason, no list will be accurate by the time it's typed, let alone printed and sold to you. Normal response to a good direct-mail piece is only about 1 to 2 percent, so there's not much point sending out only 400 pieces to start with. You didn't tell me what your product is, but unless you're selling a really high-ticket item, you just can't recoup the cost of renting your list, printing the piece and postage, let alone make a profit with that small of a list.

You had no response at all, which indicates that one (or more) of the following bloopers was in play:

If you used the same ad in the trade magazine, you probably had the right audience that time, so the ad itself, both in the magazine and in the direct-mail piece, may be to blame. Ask yourself these questions:

Next time, consider all the information above, then think about the ideas below:

Take another look at your advertising materials, follow these tips and you just may see more customers knocking at your door.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent Partner Advertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets for retail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written for businesses owners who are working with small advertising budgets and can't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy via her website at

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.