Promote Your Business

Four things you must do to get classified ads that sell!

You’ve heard the old saying, “It takes money to make money.” They might as well include “It takes BIG money to make big money.” The local furniture store that always has a TV commercial on the evening news may be spending a million dollars or more each year to get those ads.

So what’s a small or home-based business to do? How can you get AFFORDABLE advertising that really works?

When your budget is tight, use classified ads. These small ads come in a variety of sizes, costs, and appear everywhere from neighborhood newsletters to big national magazines to websites on the Internet.

Classifieds really work. You can grab important prospects, get new customers, sell your products and services, but ONLY IF you know how to use classifieds smartly.

Here are three simple things you can do today to make your classified ads sell:

1) Target your best prospects. While this might sound like marketing mumbo-jumbo, it’s by far the most important way to make ads work. Every newspaper, newsletter, and website has its own particular kind of audience. Your ad won’t sell unless your product or service is something that the publication’s particular audience would buy.

To figure out the audience a publication is reaching, look at their articles and ads. What kinds of businesses are advertising?
What sorts of things are they selling? What group of people would buy these things? Think about age, gender, lifestyle, income, and level of education. It won’t take long before you have a pretty good idea of what kinds of prospects the publication reaches.

The Wall Street Journal attracts a large multi-national audience of well-paid business people. Your local bargain shopper newspaper probably focuses on working-class folks looking for inexpensive bargains. The daily newspaper tends to do best with home owners. A mail order tabloid often goes to thousands of individuals interested in making money through the mail. Many of these readers live in small, rural towns. The Internet, by its very nature, appeals to up-scale, well-educated audiences that tend to be in their 20s and 30s.

2) Write a good headline. With classified ads, the headline makes or breaks the ad. Think about how you read a page of classifieds.
You skim the first few words of each ad (often printed in bold
type) to get a split-second idea of what the ad is about.
Internet ads give you a subject line of four or more words. This means your headline has to get the prospect’s attention and tell them what your ad is about.

Pack as much key information as you can into just a few words.
For example, if I’m selling a computer, my headline would vary depending on the audience. For a general family audience I would
write: COMPUTER, POWERFUL, CHEAP. In three word I’ve told prospects what the item is, something about its quality and benefit (powerful), and a clue to the price of the product.

If I were advertising the same computer on an Internet newsgroup used by computer enthusiasts, I would change the headline to reflect their more advanced understanding: PII333, NEW, UNDER 2K (a good deal at the time I’m writing this.)

3) Keep the body of your ad short. Shorter ads cost less. Even if you can stretch out with a 50 or 100 word ad, make your writing concise. There’s no need to write in complete sentences in classified ads. Lay out the essential information on your product or service, show the prospect how it benefits them, and give your contact info. To write that same sentence in ad-blurb form:
Essential information, incredible benefits, call now 555-1212.

Here are some words that work best in classified ads: free, new, amazing, now, how to, and easy. Veteran copy writer Bob Bly adds:
discover, method, plan, reveals, simple, advanced, and improved.
I always try to use the word “you,” often in all capitals “YOU.”

4) Track your ads. You’re poking your money down the drain if you don’t know which ads are working and which aren’t.

Key your ads when you can. Good classified advertisers always code their ads so they know which work and which publications pull the best. If respondents are writing to you to buy or get more information, include a “DEPT-A” in your address. The “A” is code for a specific ad in a certain publication. When prospects are responding by telephone, have your ad include an extension number for them to ask for.

Web entrepreneur Kevin Needham advises a clever tactic for coding on-line classified ads. He creates a separate web page to correspond with each ad. Then he counts the number of visitors to each page to see which ads pulled the best.

By using these three simple techniques in your classified ads, you’ll reach more of your best prospects, sell more, and reduce the money you spend on classifieds.

About the author
Kevin Nunley provides marketing advice and copy writing for businesses and organizations. Read all his money-saving marketing tips at Reach him at or 603-249-9519.