How to Avoid Advertising Mistakes (written December, 2007)

Advertising isn’t hard to do. You prepare an advertisement or write a classified ad to sell your product or generate interest to send people more information. But the way most people make mistakes is either by their inability to write effective ad copy or by sending it to be published in the wrong publication. Here are some pointers to follow:

Writing Effective Copy – Never try to sell anything costing more than $5 in a small display ad or a classified ad. First of all, you don’t have enough room to tell people everything they need to know to entice them to order. Instead you need to employ the “two-step” method of advertising. Request the reader to send you $1 or 4 first class postage stamps for more information. When they respond, you will send them a brochure, flyer, order form and cover letter so they can place an order for the real product.

Here’s an example of an ad you could use to sell automobile wax: Free information on the best wax available on the market. If you care about the lasting beauty of your vehicle, send $1 for complete details to (your name and address.)

Advertising in the Right Publication – Even if you make and sell the best candy in the world, you probably couldn’t sell very much of it to people who are diabetics. The same goes for selling for selling race car parts to women or dentures to teenagers. Although this may sound a little silly and you think it is only common sense to know this, people will often overlook this fact. Many times when choosing the publication to place their ad in, they will look for the lowest price for the amount of circulation they receive. Unfortunately this does not work out.

Even though you need to look for good deals that make it easy on your pocketbook, you will be throwing money away if you don’t pre-qualify the publication you choose. One way of pre-qualifying the publication is to send for a sample copy. Most publishers will send them to you free of charge for the asking. Study the publication to see what other people are advertising it. Contact some of the people who sell items similar to your own with the hope of networking with them. You would be surprised how much free publicity you can get just from corresponding, calling and networking with others. Once you locate a publication you want to advertise in, give it a try for 3 months. If you don’t get any response or only a few orders, try another publication. There are millions of them and eventually you will hit the right target market that will be interested in what you have to sell.

One Publication – Just because you locate the target market of people who are interested in purchasing your product there is no reason you can’t advertise in more than one publication. In fact if you don’t your ad will become stale. If the same people continue to see your ad every month they will probably get tired of looking at it. Besides if they wanted the product they would have ordered it by now. Don’t tire them out! Alternate different size ads and get rid of ones that don’t work well. Leave your ad running as long as it brings in orders for you but also advertise in 5, 10, 20 or 50 other publications to generate a steady stream of orders and to reach more people.

Key your Ads – Many beginners in mail order never key their ads so they know what publication people saw their ads in. In fact I personally never did this myself and ended up losing a lot of money. So please don’t make the same mistake I did. Keying your ads means that you place a code of some sort in your address so that when people write and order something from you, you immediately will know where they saw your ad. Keep a record of every name and address of the publisher you send an advertisement to. Record the date you sent the ad and the date you received a checking copy, proving that your ad appeared. Also record the “code” you used so you can immediately identify where it came from.

An example of coding your ad would be: If your address is “123 Anytown St,” it could become “123 Anytown St, Suite A” for one publication and “Suite B” for another. The postman will still deliver your mail to “123 Anytown St.” Of course if you live in an apartment complex and there are other apartment numbers you could turn “111 Johnson, Apt A” into 111 Johnson, Apt A-1” for one publication and “Apt A-2” for another. Post office box addresses are also sample. You could easily turn “PO Box 585” into “PO Box 585, Dept A-1” for one publication and “Dept A-2” for another.

People will sometimes even change their name on the ad for keying purposes. You might see the name “Harriet’s Recipe Book” instead of Harriet Ranger. Harriet might also use “Harriet’s Cookbook” or even “Harriet’s Solution to Stress” on her ads relating to these products. Use your own imagination and pretty soon, keying your ads will be a normal part of your life. Be sure and keep track (on your record sheet) of how many responses you receive from each publication. After 3 months look over your record sheet and get rid of the publications that didn’t do well. You’ll go broke if you spend $10 per month advertising a 2-inch ad if you only receive $1 back in orders. After a while you’ll be able to see where it pays you to advertise your particular product and then you can send in larger ads to those publications. Never stop using this method and you’ll never stop getting orders in your mailbox. It’s a win-win situation for everybody!

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.