I have a confession: I am a junk mail junkie. Unlike most sensible people (you, perhaps?) who throw junk mail into the trash, I read everything. Offers for credit cards and insurance, car dealership flyers, coupon mailers, newspaper ads, and long-form sales letters get read from beginning to end. I’ve been doing it for 40 years. My mother would be so ashamed.
It’s not that I have nothing to do and lots of time on my hands. My problem is that I am addicted to advertising. When I started my first business, I couldn’t afford to hire an agency to develop my ads. So, I let the newspaper write my display ads for me. Big mistake. Perhaps The Washington Post had a good ad department, but my hometown newspaper did not. The ads that my local paper created were awful, and I decided that I could do better myself.
More than 10,200 listings highlighted by 4,300 color photos cover all major categories of American, English, European and Asian ceramics from the 18th through the late 20th century.
That’s when I started analyzing other company’s advertising. After all, banks and car manufacturers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop and test each advertising piece. I could learn from their example. I studied headlines, sub-headings, paragraph headings, body content, offers and calls-to-action. Who was the ad aimed at? How did it get my attention? Did it hold my interest until the end? If not, why not? When I found something that I thought might work for my business, I placed the ad into my files for future reference. I also read all the copywriting books that I could get my hands on.
Antiques dealers and other small business owners can seldom afford to hire an agency to develop their ads. Like I did, they either write the ads themselves or have a friend, relative, employee, student, or ad sales rep write the ads for them. For this reason, small businesses ads are almost always poorly written and ineffective.
Nevertheless, small businesses are still in need of effective advertising. By following a few simple guidelines, antique dealers can produce effective advertising copy that will have a positive effect on their sales.
My seventh-grade art teacher once told me that “before you can accurately draw something you must know what it looks like”. Sound advice. Let’s explore how a good ad reads. I’m not a graphic artist and am not qualified to discuss layout so I’ll leave that subject on the table. My focus here will be how to deliver your message so that your ad will be noticed and read.
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