How to Write a Small Advertisement
Small ads can be good opportunities for a business if they’re done right. When you first sit down to create your ad – before you do anything else – ask yourself:
What do you want them to do?
This is the ‘why’ of your ad. Why are you running it? What are you hoping people will do?
If you can’t answer this, advertising is a waste of your time and money.
Imagine you’re an attorney (specializing in family law) looking to place a small ad. You want people to make appointments to see you. You want them to hire you to represent them through a divorce, or custody issue.
That’s your ‘why’ – your reason for placing the ad.
But how do actually write it?
The obvious limitation with small ads is a lack of space. You have to use it efficiently.
With small ads, less is more. You don’t have room to make a sales pitch. Your headline needs to grab your reader’s attention, and your offer needs to be strong enough to seal the deal. Otherwise, your readers are going to skim over your ad – and that’s a waste.
The key to a successful small ad is targeting. Focus in on who exactly you’re trying to reach with your ad, and write it with them in mind.
And remember to keep it simple. Don’t use five words if two will do. You cannot waste a single word. If it’s not serving a purpose, get it out of there!
Now, before you start worrying that you need to be a world-class writer or editor to make a small ad work, I’ve got some good news for you. You don’t. In fact, you already possess the writing ability you’ll need to write a fantastic small ad.
The reason for this? There’s simply no room in a small ad for extravagant copywriting. Clear, simple language is what’s going to get your point across.
To be effective, your ad only needs to have three things:
1. A compelling offer
2. A relevant headline to get your audience’s attention
3. Easy to find contact or response information.
That’s it. Everything thing else is extra. Get these three pieces right, and you’ll get a response. But miss any of them, and watch your responses drop.
Let’s look at the offer first.
What’s your offer?
Your offer is how you’re going to convince people to call you. Or buy from you. Or whatever else you want them to do. Why are they going to do what you want them to do? What’s in it for them?
Your offer will determine the response of your ad. Too weak an offer and no one will bother to respond. Too strong, and you’ll ‘give away the store.’
You know your business, and you know your customers. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, what would motivate you to come into the store? A coupon for 10% off the next visit probably doesn’t mean much to your customers.
Keep in mind, running an ad with a weak offer is a waste of your time and money. Your offer has to be compelling enough to make your customers pick up the phone and call (or stop by the store.)
Whatever your offer, make sure it can be explained in simple words. Things like “Free!” or “Huge Sale!” work fine. Because your space is limited, you don’t have much room to explain complicated terms and conditions.
In the case of our imaginary attorney, the offer gets a little tricky. You can’t put your services ‘on sale’. You can’t give them a free trial. But what about a free consultation?
Be aware: An ad isn’t usually enough on its own to sell someone higher priced services.
The ad’s job is to get your reader to pick up the phone and call you. Once they’re meeting with you, you can ‘sell’ them on your service.
But what if the offer is too good? Will an offer of a free consultation attract too many curiosity seekers, and waste our attorney’s time? Not if you use the right headline.
How to write a good headline.
Your headline is what grabs the reader’s attention and pulls them to your ad. If your headline doesn’t get their attention, your ad doesn’t get read.
Luckily for you, with small ads, the best headlines are often the simplest.
Coffee: a one word headline and offer that works wonders for diners and coffeeshops everywhere.
In the case of our Attorney, an effective headline might be as simple as:
“Divorce Lawyer” (in big letters.)
That headline is extremely relevant to people who are considering or just beginning the divorce process – exactly the kind of people our lawyer wants to reach.
Make your headline large. Let it take up some space. Your headline is what will draw your reader’s attention, or let them scan right past your ad. It’s worth the investment in space to make it stand out.
What about contact information?
Keep your contact info short. Ideally, you’ll pick one way for them to reach you and list it in big visible type.
If you want them to call, give them a phone number and tell them to call you. If you want them to visit you on the web, give them a website address and tell them to go there.
Tell them to use it.
Remember the very first thing I told you to do before writing your ad? (Figure out what you want your reader to do.) This is where you tell them to do it. Did you want them to call? Then tell them to call and give them the number they should use.
Just keep in mind the three things every good ad needs, (a strong headline, a compelling offer, and contact information), and you’ll do fine.
About the Author
Andy Duchow writes damn good direct mail (and ad) copy for small and mid-size businesses. He loves what he does, and can’t imagine doing anything else. Find him at www.greenbaycopywriting.com
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