Once Upon A Time

Share your success story, no matter how small the window of opportunity.
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3 min read

This story appears in the March 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you're a small-space advertiser, it's a given that you must try harder to get your ad noticed amid all the leviathans around it. But hoisting your company name to the roof of your little ad is not trying harder. Nor is putting a "Sale" sign up there, the most ubiquitous approach in advertising. A totally unexpected alternative is to tell a first-person story in that space. And, yes, even in such a cracker-sized square of ad area, an anecdotal experience will fit--and get read.

That's my suggestion to Carol Steele, an interior designer in Shingletown, California, whose current ad you see here. My suggested makeover has a headline that says, "How I Became a Decorating Genius*" (with byline) and an asterisk drawing the eye down to a footline that says, "*I had a secret mentor." The rest of the ad is a personal account of how empowering it was for one client to work with Steele. More than a traditional testimonial, this is a more expansive approach in story form.

Naturally, Steele will have to get one of her clients to agree to be the subject of this ad, but that shouldn't be difficult with someone who was very satisfied with her efforts--and learned from them. If it includes some unique experience (for example, how friends reacted), all the better. And would such a story testimonial be just as provocative and persuasive on a Web site? You bet it would.


This ad is well-intentioned, but its typical, kitchen-sink approach simply has no intrigue.

1. Leading off with a lackluster company name and following with a grab bag of products stacks up to a forgettable ad.

2. To add interest, the advertiser might have led with the "Shabby Chic" idea.




This ad has an intriguing focus, and arouses enough curiosity to stop the browsing reader.

1. The interest-piquing first-person headline flags down the prospect, with an implicit benefit.

2. The asterisked subhead has an advertising power word: "secret." It's almost guaranteed to get attention.




Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter in the San Francisco Bay area and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising (available through Bookmasters, 800-247-6553). If you'd like Jerry to consider your materials for a makeover in this column, write to him c/o Entrepreneur or e-mail him at jerry228@aol.com


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