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Make Newspaper Ads Work for You

Is your print campaign falling flat? You may be neglecting two keys to success.

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Q: Over the past 10 months, I've spent $300 per month on advertising in a local community newspaper to promote my financial planning practice. But I have yet to receive one phone call from my ad. Should I drop advertising altogether? Or should I change where I run my ad or alter its message?

A: You need to consider both of these questions. But before dropping advertising or changing where you run your ad, try reworking your ad first to see if that improves your results. If you're still not getting any phone calls, then look to adjust your strategy. To help you maximize your efforts, here are some basic success strategies for newspaper advertising.

Writing the Copy

When it comes to print advertising, you have to get to the point-fast. You're vying for the attention of consumers who are bombarded each day with advertisements from countless companies-some being your competitors. Don't waste any time getting your message across.

Your headlines should motivate readers to want to read on to learn more about your product, price and offer. Get ideas about what headlines to use by scanning different types of ad copy, particularly those from the competition. Effective headlines address a pressing customer need or desire. You should stay away from using your company name as a headline, a common mistake made by many business owners. The reality is that people care more about themselves-and what you can do for them-than your business. You'll get a much higher response rate when your headline quickly answers the question, "What's in it for me?" So, craft a headline that gives your audience a compelling answer.

In the body of your copy, offer an incentive for the reader to call you or come to your store. You may want to offer a discount, a 20 percent off coupon or a free giveaway like "Register to Win a Free Palm Pilot," for instance. Also, try not to overload the reader with a bunch of facts about your business. Your objective is to put in just enough copy to get readers' attention and inspire them to respond.

Placing the Ad

Newspaper ads are very effective for businesses that market their products and services locally. Not only can you reach a large number of people in a specific metropolitan location, but you can also target prospects via their interests (in the sports, lifestyle and business sections, for example).

Take a trip to the local library and study back issues of the newspaper in which you'd like to advertise. What would be the best day for you to run an ad? If you were running a catering business, for example, you would want to choose Wednesday or Thursday because those are the days most newspapers print their food sections. What section of the paper would be best geared to your target market? If your offer is directed toward men, the sports section may be a good one to consider.

Advertising costs depend on a number of factors, including the size of the ad, where it's placed, the day it runs and so on. Call and request a media kit from the newspaper so you can determine what advertising steps you can take that will fit with your marketing budget.

Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.

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.

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