"We're moving online!! Blow out sale at our store location. Phone orders welcome." That's what was on the postcard.
This advertisement was sent to me by Teresa, one of my readers, who was humorously nominating the ad for "Worst Use of Marketing Resources." Why did Teresa find this particular ad funny? Not because of what the ad said, but because of what it did NOT mention:
What the company sold
Where the store was located
What the new website address is!
Few things are more frustrating to a customer -- and more wasteful for a business -- than when vital information is left out of an advertisement, flyer, or brochure. Yet, I'm surprised at how often basic details are overlooked.
A few days after I received Teresa's letter, for instance, I was reading a newspaper when an advertisement for a big sale at a business caught my eye. Once again, the ad didn't mention what the company sold, where it was located, a phone number, or its website address.
And I could have told you K-Mart was going to be in trouble long before they entered bankruptcy. Why? A few years, I needed a patio set. I saw a set that interested me advertised by K-Mart in a glossy, 4-color insert in my regional Sunday newspaper. Not knowing where the nearest K-Mart was located -- and since no locations were printed on the ad -- I called the 800-number on the insert. Imagine my frustration when K-Mart didn't answer their phone on Sundays! Needless to say, I bought my patio furniture somewhere else.
One of the most common reasons for omitting necessary details is that the person writing the ad takes basic information for granted. After all, you already know what city you're in or what your area code is, so you forget that it's not obvious to the reader.
It's easy to forget details, so clip out this column and before you print any ad, flyer, or brochure, go over this checklist:
Name of the company!
The nature of your product or service: Unless you own Macy's or Microsoft, don't assume readers automatically know what your business sells. Even if you send your ad only to existing customers, many people remember a business by what it sells -- not its name. (e.g., "The drycleaners at Main and Second streets," "that cute clothing store downtown.")
Where you're located: Include the city and state (perhaps even country if doing business internationally or online). This is critical if you're in retail, but even if your customers don't come to your store or office, including a location helps customers relate to your business.
Hours and days you're open or hours and days of the sale.
Website address: You do have a website, don't you?
Phone number with area code: If you're not going to be available to answer calls, record a message with vital information. Include country code if you do business internationally.
Email address: This can be omitted if you're never going to answer emails.
Special terms or limitations, if any: In other words, are the discounts not applicable to certain types of items or services, or does the offer expire after a certain date?
Those are the basics. Once you've got those covered, what can you do to make your ads more effective in getting sales?
Create an eye-catching headline: The first thing you have to do is get attention. This doesn't have to be incredibly clever -- "Fifty percent off" gets my attention.
Tell the benefits: Let potential customers immediately know why they should be interested in doing business with you. This can be something as simple as "Lowest price for your auto insurance."
Provide lots of information: Ads chock-full with specific products or services are often surprisingly effective.
Include a call to action: Customers often respond to a direct appeal for action, such as "Hurry -- Supplies are limited," or "Call today to book your appointment!"
Finally -- before you go to print, have your ad read by at least two other people. I might start sending mine to sharp-eyed Teresa.
Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies and is a popular speaker for conventions, workshops and conferences. For her free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com>rhondaonline.