1) Less is more.
Use as few words as possible to communicate your message. Avoid listing many items and using more than one slogan. Instead, use key words and short phrases to attract customers. Also, include only pertinent information – skip the mailing address and fax number unless there is a pressing reason.
2) Simplify your message.
Ask yourself, “What is the primary goal of my ad?” If your intention is to let customers know you are having a sale, then select text accordingly; save promoting your high-end, non-sale items for another day to avoid diluting the ad with too many messages. Conversely, a “branding” ad should be clean and have few graphic add-ons, such as banners and starbursts.
3) Consider the medium.
Choose colors and photographs that will reproduce well on newsprint, which is by nature less predictable than glossy mediums. The best way to determine what will work is by using examples in the newspaper to guide you. Remember also that exact colors aren’t always possible – search for approximate colors to get the job done.
4) Think like your customer.
What speaks to your customer? What are their needs and what are the current trends? Use this information to cater your advertising accordingly.
5) Examine your own consumer habits for clues.
When you flip through the newspaper, what catches your eye and why? What helps you choose a restaurant – is it because the advertising suggests cleanliness and credibility, or is it because the establishment seems lively and fun? Chances are your customers’ behaviors are similar to your own.
6) A picture is worth a thousand words.
High-quality images can be great advertising tools. Choose something – symbolic rather than all-inclusive – to represent the type of services or products you sell. When it comes to black and white photography, opt toward uncluttered, high contrast images.
7) Learn some basic software terms to save time and mistakes.
If you create your own ads, understand the software you are using as it relates to newsprint to ensure better results. A “jpg” or “tiff” will not print as well as a “pdf,” for example, and there are reasons why. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
8) Work ahead.
Familiarize yourself with the deadlines and issue dates so you’ve got plenty of time to conceptualize your ad. The more time you allow, the smoother the process will go on both ends and the better the result will be. Also be sure to have your materials collected in one place to reduce back-and-forth with your ad rep; the less time you spend on logistics, the more time you can spend on your message.
9) Put time on your side.
Marketing works best when implemented frequently over time. Placing a large one-time ad and expecting overwhelming results limits the potential of your marketing dollars. Instead, select a more modestly-sized ad and run it for a longer period of time.
10) Strive for consistency.
Variety in your advertising message can be a good thing – just be sure that the overall branding of your business remains consistent. Use one logo and be sure to not dramatically alter the identity of your business from week to week. Let your branding reinforce itself over time.
11) Don’t devalue your product.
While it’s tempting to portray yourself as “cheaper” than your competitors, be sure you aren’t doing so at the sacrifice of your customers’ impressions of your quality. Seek ways to artfully blend your great value and great quality simultaneously through word choice, graphics, and timing.
12) Coupon or no coupon?
Coupons, in certain instances, can be an effective “call to action” for your customers – but be careful to not place unrealistic expectations on them. Coupons assume that a consumer is a “coupon clipper” which many people, tourists especially, are not. An art buyer, for example, would not be likely to bring in a “$5 off” coupon to an upscale gallery, whereas a family making a weekly grocery trip may bring in several coupons as a course of habit. Instead, evaluate the publication’s exposure and audience-reaching ability to determine an ad’s effectiveness.
13) Be original.
Relaying an accurate, simple message to your customers is only one part of the equation. It’s just as important to grab a reader’s attention in a positive way through innovation. Look for ways to graphically break from the pack – tie what is singularly exceptional about your business to the look and feel of the ad, and don’t be afraid to take a risk or two. Getting noticed is the name of the game.