In Part 1 of What Antique Dealers Can Learn from Junk Mail, we discussed the criteria for developing a good display ad. Next, let’s apply the guidelines to our sample ad and see what we can come up with.
The most important part of a display ad is the headline. Headlines, whether online or in print, are written to grab the attention of “scanners.” Consumers read headlines first, then sub-headings. If the headline piques the readers’ interest, they will read your sub-heading. So, your headline must be strong enough to attract attention away from all the competing ads on the page.
The sub-heading is the second most important part of your ad. In fishing terms, the sub-heading is where you “set the hook” – if you don’t, the rest of your ad won’t be read. So, let’s first focus on how to write a good headline and sub-heading.
What will grab your reader’s attention? Well, that depends on what the reader’s motivations are. A headline that grabs the attention of a teenage boy probably won’t appeal to a middle-aged woman. So the first thing to do when writing a headline is to decide who you want your ad to appeal to. Who are your ideal customers? Who do you want to attract? What satisfaction will they get from your store and/or products?
The headline should appeal to your target group. Since you’ve already considered what satisfaction the target group will get from your store and/or featured product, build your headline around that concept. By doing so, you will have a headline that will most likely get their attention. One of the best ways to capture attention is by using a testimonial as a headline.
Creating a Headline Using a Testimonial
If you’re already in the habit of collecting testimonials, chances are good that you have one that is headline material. Flip through your testimonials and look for a snippet of wording such as “Loved Your Selection!” or “We told our friends about you” or “I can’t put it down!” Keep your target group and their “hot buttons” in mind. What you are looking for is an offbeat comment that you can distill into a few strong words. Those words can then be enlarged and used as an attention-getting headline. Not all testimonials are worthy of becoming headlines, but all are worthy of consideration.
If you don’t already have a collection of testimonials, here’s how to start one:
- Build an infrastructure. Testimonials are more likely to be given if you provide opportunities for your customers to comment. Place a feedback form on your website, and a guestbook on your checkout counter.
- Ask for them. If you have taken the time to build long-term relationships with your customers, they are usually willing to give you a testimonial. This can be done in person or via email.
- Keep your ears open. In all likelihood, you’re already getting feedback on your products or services and are just not aware of it. Develop awareness for positive feedback, and write it down as it occurs. Say to the customer “can I quote you on that”?
Other headline options: You can also create a headline “hook” by asking a question, making a bold statement, or offering news (if you have made a special or rare acquisition). No matter how you craft your headline, make sure that it contains a benefit to your target group, either stated or implied. Your headline should answer the reader’s question “what’s in it for me?”
In the sub-heading you will expand on your headline to include the desires of your target group.
Writing the body copy
Don’t go overboard here; you don’t need to write a book. Make the ad easy to skim; just hit the high points. The object is not to get the reader to click a “buy now” button; the object is to get them into your offline or online store. Give them enough information to accomplish that and no more. Make it easy for readers to skim the ad and still get the message. Use bullets, sub-headings, bold text, or an eye-catching graphic.
How to Choose a Graphic
Remember the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”? That’s still true today, even when you factor in inflation. Don’t leave the graphic up to the newspaper’s layout department. Choose a graphic that illustrates the benefit stated in your headline. For example, if your headline is “Travel Back in Time,” a graphic showing a grandfather/grandson playing with a train set provides visual support for your main concept.
Make an Offer
Your ad should give readers a compelling reason to come into your store. The offer can be a special price on a particular class of items (sports memorabilia, for example), a giveaway (tickets, a drawing) or simply a coupon. Coupons are popular; readers will often read a coupon (even if they haven’t read the ad) just to see what they can get.
Call to Action
You’ve given your ad a good headline, a supportive graphic and compelling body copy. Now, tell your customer what you want them to do: call for details, visit your website, come into the store, buy online, or something else. If you want your ad to deliver a response, you have to include a call to action. If you don’t, then all you have provided is some entertaining reading material.
Let’s use the information above to re-write Joe’s ad, step-by-step (you’ll recall that the original ad was in Part 1). Here are Joe’s assumptions about his target group and the offer he has devised:
1. Joe has decided to create some new buyers for his art and home décor items. His shop is in northern Virginia, which has a high median income and lots of people moving in, moving out, and moving up. His target group is upwardly mobile Gen-Y 30-something women.
2. Joe has some good testimonials, so he will use one for his headline hook.
3. Joe’s offer: Joe has an abundance of open edition art prints that he bought for a good price at auction. He’ll offer a 2-for-1 coupon for these prints.
Here’s how Joe’s ad might read (the image used in the as is a photo of Joe’s store showing the variety of his inventory):
“No One Else Has A Lamp Like Mine!”
Express yourself with unique decorative items from Joe’s
*Glass & porcelain
This Weekend Only! 2-for-1 Art Prints
While supplies last! Visit our website for coupon!
123 Main St. Arlington VA
Come in or visit us online at: www.joesantiques.com
Open 7 Days 10-6
Uniqueness is an important value of Gen Y, hence the headline appealing to that trait. Cookie-Cutter decor from a catalog is out of favor, so the appeal to personal uniqueness is repeated in the sub-heading. The 2-for-1 offer appeals to new homeowners who have a lot of empty wall space to cover, and the photo supports Joe’s claim to have a large variety of items. The coupon is good for only one weekend, which motivates the reader to go into the store right away; making the coupon available online will drive traffic to Joe’s website.
There are dozens of ways which this ad can be re-purposed, depending on the merchandise that Joe wants to sell. The basic principles, however, remain the same.
Previously published in Antique Trader Magazine