You’ve decided to put an ad in the next issue of your local bridal magazine. Or you’ve decided to invest in ad in the next several months’ editions of a trade publication reaching out to your target market.

Advertising is a long way from being dead. And if you create the right ad, in can bring you in business for a long time to come.

In many cases, the scenario goes like this.

You do your research and find a publication that looks perfect for your target market. You make contact and find out you can be in the next edition … IF you get your ad in by next Friday. So you quickly throw some ideas together and ship it over to the publication’s in-house marketing section. They throw something together using your images and your words, and send you back a proof. You okay it and it goes into the next edition.

But the problem with that scenario is its lack of thought and focus. Your goal is to get it completed quickly. The in-house creative person’s goal is to get you to buy.

No where in that scenario is the concept of helping you create the perfect graphic to maximize your exposure and maximize your potential for clients and profits.

Pick up any magazine you have lying around you and you’ll quickly see a bunch of ads that all look the same. They may be selling a new water heater, tax services to help you with your business accounting, or a clothing store that caters to kids. It really doesn’t matter what business they are in … they all use the same concept in design.

They include a photograph of their product or service concept. They include the name of their company in large font. They include their contact information: address, phone number, store hours, etc. And they may include a price if it’s relevant.

But the purpose of the ad really isn’t to motivate you to take action. Instead, it’s simply more about brand awareness.

Brand awareness is fine for the big companies like Coke or Xerox. But as a small company, we really can’t afford to place an ad to improve our brand awareness. We need sales. We need leverage.

But that’s never going to happen in 80 percent of the ads being used today.

So what can you do?

Start by asking these 7 questions before you begin creating your next ad.

1. What is the purpose of this ad? Are you trying to sell a product or a service? Do you want them to visit your websites? Do you want them to use a coupon? Start with your ultimate purpose in mind before you start the design process.

2. Is your ad engaging? A good ad makes people think. In this case, simple photographs aren’t always your best choice. Don’t believe me? Pick up a local bridal magazine and you’ll see how quickly you become overwhelmed with ads featuring little more than a photograph. Instead, ask questions, provide benefits, and motivate people to think beyond your ad.

3. Do you use the space effectively? Yep, ads can be expensive. But if you have a lot to say, bump up to the next ad size to give yourself more room to say it in.

4. Are you copying what’s already there, or blazing the way towards something new? When you see dozens of ads that virtually look the same, that doesn’t mean that concept is working. That simply means the person putting the ad into the publication has no idea what else to do.

5. Are you marketing with a theme? Concepts should always hold through from one place to the next. What they see in your ad should follow through to your website. Create landing pages to help people transition from one place to the next.

6. Does it appeal to your target demographic? When the typical viewer sees your ad, you want them to say WOW. Make sure your ad uses an approach that works for your target.

7. Is it amateurish or professional? Do you have great graphic design skills? Just because you can play around in Publisher doesn’t mean you should be designing your own ads. Map out your concepts. Write up your content. Then work with a graphic designer to give it the extra pizzazz you’ll need to grab attention.

And probably the biggest thing to consider when deciding on an ad is time. How long will you run the ad?

You can’t place an ad in one publication and make a determination if it was good marketing or not. Many factors come into play, including seasons, issue content, and time of the year. The reason magazines give you a break on long term advertising is it takes awhile to get your ad noticed. Make the necessary commitment to give your ad a chance

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