Space Craft

Want to make the most of a small-space ad? Use it to lure readers to your Web site.
Magazine Contributor
6 min read

This story appears in the May 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

These days, that meager little ad budget of yours, and the ravioli-sized ad space it buys, are all you may need to create the promotional impact you were hoping to get for your business.

I say this because it's now possible to use a dink of an ad to lure readers to your whale-of-a-Web-page ad . . . on the Internet, that is. Rather than require prospects to phone or write for the information you couldn't fit into the ad, get them to log on to your Web site and view your full story in luminous color on their monitors.

This approach, however, comes with a big asterisk. Many people are not yet Internet-savvy. And even if they are, getting them to log on to the Web to view your page can be a challenge. That's been the experience of Max Lloyd of Raleigh, North Carolina, who wrote recently requesting a small-space ad makeover.

Lloyd publishes a suite of software products to help the traveling professional get the most out of being constantly on the road--or, more accurately, in the air. Lloyd's Travel Tracker helps you maximize the amount of frequent flier miles you can accumulate. Then there's his Travel Guide, a database of information on what's worth seeking out wherever you happen to land. Both products are priced at $39 each. He rounds out the suite with a few other travel-related utilities and offers a total package price of $79.

Lloyd runs his small ad in two travel publications and says he's getting more orders (average sale $39) directly from the ad than through his Web page. That's because it's a hassle for travelers to access the Internet from their destination city. Overall, though, business has not been great, and I can understand why. It's almost impossible to titillate readers about five sophisticated products in a puny, 2-inch space.

But Lloyd originally figured he'd use the tiny ad to lure a lot of prospects to ogle his expansive Web site. No such luck because of the inconvenience and also because, frankly, he doesn't really promote the site. The address is hidden in barely squintable size at the bottom of his ad. I'd make it leap out near the top of the ad and include an incentive to visit the site. Plus, I'd make the rest of the ad enticing enough to grab--and hold--the scanning reader.

Bursting At The Seams

I'm not at all against wedging a lot of copy into an ad, as Lloyd does. There are many successful ads out there with copy that is literally the length of a short story. But that kind of ad typically addresses a single product on a full page. Trying to pitch five products in a little patch of space is ultimately futile. Instead, my suggestion would be to showcase Lloyd's hot product, Travel Tracker, then complement it with a sales pitch for the Travel Guide. Finally, as a P.S., I'd bring in the other utilities.

Therefore, my recommended headline is: "Amazing mileage multiplier." The copy reads: "Wait until you see how many overlooked frequent traveler miles and points you can gain with new Travel Tracker software on your PC. Includes powerful mileage accounting, tips, new mileage partners and much more. `Paid for itself the first time I used it!' says one owner. Just $39.

"BONUS EXTRA free with Travel Tracker! The Laptop Concierge . . . a priceless program that
instantly accesses local travel and guest information for hundreds of cities around the world. Where to stay, where to dine, what to see and do. Even weather, local customs and laws. Retail value $39--yours free!

"Also ask about our unique Expense Reporter for T&E simplicity and other exciting software created expressly for the busy business traveler. Call today 800-243-1515, ext. 450."

Let's talk about why I did what I did. First, Lloyd's original headline, "Travel Software," reads more like a file folder label. It's too generic and doesn't promote his products. To be fair, it's not that easy to come up with an umbrella headline to cover five different software programs. But since I'm recommending he lead off with the hotBODY of his programs, the headline has a promotional focus.

To his credit, Lloyd does make a "buy one, get one free" offer. That can be a powerful inducement. But in this particular case, I feel it might cheapen a set of sophisticated business software. So instead, I'm recommending he offer a second program as a "bonus extra" free with the purchase of Travel Tracker. Moreover, I recommend he change the name of his Travel Guide to Laptop Concierge to give it more originality and perhaps a higher perceived value.

Finally, since Lloyd told me he already has a few solid BODYimonials on Travel Tracker, I included one in the copy. This is absolutely essential for the credibility of a new piece of software, short of getting a thumbs-up review in a respected software publication. These suggestions should help Lloyd's ad draw more business.

BODYing, BODYing

Over the last few months, I've received quite a few inquiries about my examination of bulk e-mail programs in this column (December 1996). These software programs enable you to send out thousands of marketing letters a day as e-mail messages to targeted names you extract from the membership of online services. There are no lists to buy, mailings to print or postage to pay. Thus, on the face of it, bulk e-mail seems like a slam-dunk opportunity to make some money.

However, a lot of people are angered by this form of advertising because they view it as electronic junk mail. One reader even e-mailed me to assert that, technically, sending this kind of unsolicited material over phone lines was illegal, which made me wonder if I should be getting the cops to go after all those annoying telemarketers who call me at dinner time.

On the positive side, I've received a number of e-mail marketing letters that I thought were both powerfully and tastefully executed--even though I've never purchased anything that's been offered. So the question remains: Do these letters work, or is it just the folks who developed the software who are getting rich?

Since no one has come forward to tell me of his or her own success in this medium (perhaps an answer in itself), I decided to put it to the BODY myself. I sent out a bulk e-mail sales letter of my own promoting a manual I had written. But rather than purchase the software to make it happen, I paid a service that uses the software to handle the solicitation for me. I'll reveal the results of this experiment--good or bad--in next month's column. Stay tuned.

Contact Sources

Max Lloyd, c/o Lloyd's Travel, P.O.Box 13842, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709,

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter. If you'd like him to consider your materials for a makeover, send them to the address below. For information on his new manual, Creating Successful Small Business Advertising, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to "Advertising Workshop," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614, or contact Jerry via CompuServe at 73150,132 or America Online at

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