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If you plan to sell by mail order -- no matter what your product or service -- it will be
important that you have available a power-packed, order-pulling advertising circular. You
will need one to include in your direct mail campaigns and to publish in various
publications. With a little know-how and practice, you can design and produce it all by
In the past, many mail order dealers relied upon one or more of the national mail
order advertising designers to create and produce a suitable ad. Unfortunately, so many
dealers relied on the small number of ad designers that many of the ads that appeared
in mail order magazines were very similar in layout. The same tired ad designs, the
same clip art, the same basic text... Boring, boring, boring! It's no wonder that many
dealers got less than the expected results from their ads... they all looked the same!
It doesn't have to be that way, however. You can design and produce your own
advertising circulars. With only a small amount of artistic know-how you can produce
a full page advertising circular that will say what you want, to whom you want, and sell
your product as well as any ad created by a professional.
No matter what you are selling -- a book, a product, or a service -- the basic concepts
of direct marketing are all the same. Once you learn a few basic marketing rules, you
can develop the technical skills necessary to produce your own circulars. Study these
suggestions carefully. Look at the ads in some of the popular national magazines and
see if these tips haven't been used by the pros to design those ads. You'll find that the
best ads all incorporate these rules of thumb.
Any advertising circular is designed around the headline. As super salesman Vic
Schwab once said, "The headline must select an interested audience and promise the
prospect a worthwhile reward for reading further." According to professional designers,
the headline should:
If the headline cannot capture the reader's attention, you have missed your
opportunity to offer your sales pitch. If it fails to qualify your prospects, you may
generate a number of unresponsive sales leads. And, if the headline cannot lure the
reader into reading the rest of the ad, you will fail in making the sale. Your headline
must begin selling the product before the reader even realizes what you are offering.
A good headline will speak to each individual reader -- not to the faceless
thousands. The headline must offer the reader specific benefits. As he turns through
the pages and sees ads, the reader subconsciously is asking himself the question, "What
is in this for me -- right now?" You must convince him or her that your product can
provide something unavailable elsewhere.
The headline should pointedly address the reader's need. Whether your offer will
make him feel better, be richer, get smarter, look younger, get ahead -- whatever the
benefit, the reader must grasp that with the first glimpse.
To create your own successful ad, you must be able to transform the features of the
product into reader benefits. By proclaiming benefits rather than product characteristics,
you will entice the reader to consider your offer. Before you begin to write your ad, sit
down and make a list of all the features of the product or service. Then, convert each
feature into one or more reader-benefits. Your headline can then be built around the
biggest feature that you converted into a benefit.
After you have developed the list of reader benefits, begin to develop your headline.
It should be as striking as possible. Your headline can stand alone to grab the reader's
attention, or it can be combined with a supporting illustration. Sometimes an illustration
can stand alone as a visual headline. Generally speaking, however, your headline will
be a brief phrase, sentence, or question that displays the product benefit or otherwise
impels the reader to continue into the body of the ad.
Headlines appear in a larger type size than the body of your ad. They are generally
set in a bold, sans serif typeface such as Franklin Gothic or Helvetica. The stark
headline stands out against the text that is usually set in an easier to read type, such as
Times Roman or Palatino. Studies have demonstrated that a headline enclosed in
quotation marks will attract 28% more readers than one that is not. Quotation marks
lend the headline an air of authority and importance, compelling the reader to take
notice. Remember, if your prospect doesn't notice the ad, you'll never make the sale.
Your headline benefit should be tailored to fit the target audience of the publication
in which it is to appear. An ad for a food processor in health magazines would want to
stress the health-related benefits of processing fresh fruits and vegetables. However, an
ad for the same product in a magazine for working mothers may instead stress time
One effective headline style is to ask the reader a question. The customer is
challenged to consider the question and develop an answer. But, the reader must not
be able to easily answer the question without reading the entire ad. You want to draw
him into the body of the ad, not simply answer the question. Your question must be
designed with a degree of sharpness. It must provoke a deep-down sense of
introspection by the reader. It should also be personal, implying a subtle benefit to the
reader that he can only fully understand by reader further.
It is usually a good idea to use some type of art with your circular. It helps break-up
the monotony of the page, as well as reiterate the reader benefits. Electronic clip art is
inexpensive and widely available to computer users. However, inexpensive collections
of royalty-free stock photographs are now available on computer diskettes and CDs,
providing you a chance to insert a professionally composed photograph into your ad.
Carefully weigh the benefits of using an illustration versus the loss of ad copy space
where the art is inserted. Sometimes it may be more important to include more text and
less art, depending on your product and offer. Professional advertising designers state
that using photos in ads can increase or decrease response levels, depending on the
publication. If you chose to use a photo, include a caption. Insertion of this one or two
sentence sales message is often overlooked by ad designers, but may be one of the
best opportunities you'll have to entice the prospect to read your full ad.
If you use an accompanying picture or piece of art with your headline, make sure
it relates to the product. A photo of a swimsuit-clad model initially will draw the reader's
attention to your ad, but unless the headline relates closely to the photo, you will have
wasted your chance to get the prospect to read more. Don't let your headline deliver
one message and your illustration another.
The reading habits of your prospects have been formed through years of reading
magazines and newspapers. Your circular should be created in approximately the same
format. Set your circular with at least a one-half inch margin on all four sides. Many ads
are set in an "advertorial" format; made to appear like an editorial write-up. You will most
often make your ad three-columns, just like a magazine article. However, there are times
when you will want to use a two-column layout. Shadow boxes and other bordered
inserts can also be added to break-up the text. It does not matter whether you justify
the text within the column or make a jagged right edge. Studies have shown that there
will be little, if any, difference in the results.
The main copy of your advertisement should systematically lead the reader through
the benefits of the product. It should stimulate him to recognize his personal need, how
the product can fill that need, and exactly how or where he can get the product. Most
writers use what is called the AIDA formula.
The AIDA acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. You grab the
reader's Attention using your headline and introductory copy. You convince him to
consider your offer by reading further. You create an Interest on the reader's part by
outlining the fantastic benefits of the product. You create a Desire within him by offering
the opportunity to fulfill his needs. And you prompt him to Action -- filling out the order
coupon or calling in his order.
If you have properly led the prospect through the first three steps, you must ask him
to take the final step and purchase. Too often advertisers do a good job of leading the
reader through the benefits of the product, but never ask for the order. You must make
it clear and explicit how the reader can order. Include all the details. Make it as easy
as possible for him to take the final step and buy. It is also important at what point in
the text you ask for the order. You must wait until the prospect is ready to order. Prod
him too soon and you'll lose the sale. Generally, it is best to wait until the end of the text
to reveal the price and ordering instructions.
Always, without fail, include a money-back guarantee with your product offer. Your
guarantee will increase your credibility in the eyes of the customer and will allay any
fears he may have of "wasting" his money. While the length of your guarantee may vary
-- ten, thirty, sixty, ninety days, a full year, a lifetime -- you should make sure you include
it. The return rate will likely be small, but the increase in orders over not using one will
If you are asking the customer to return their order through the mail, it is preferable
to include an order coupon within the body of your advertisement. Although using a
coupon takes away much needed copy space, the coupon reinforces the customer's
desire by making him physically respond. He fills out the coupon, indicates the form of
payment, and mails it off. Customers will still order if you do not use a coupon, but the
response (especially for mail order only offers) will frequently not be as great.
A coupon should have a dotted line to set it off from the text. However, don't let the
line be too thick. This can draw the reader's attention away from the copy and toward
the coupon too early in the sales pitch. Let the line be thick enough to delineate
between text and coupon, but not overly noticeable.
Make sure your mailing address can be easily found within the dotted lines of the
coupon and on another spot in the ad. This is important since many buyers will fill out
the coupon, insert it into a mailing envelope, seal it, and then will not have the mailing
address to copy onto the envelope. You want to make it as easy as possible for the
prospect to order.
If you offer toll-free telephone ordering, make sure you place your number and
business hours clearly on the ad. Do you accept credit card sales? Place the logos of
the credit cards you accept on your circular. The logos are easily recognizable and
visually inform the reader how easy it will be to order. Also, leave a space on your order
coupon for credit card number, expiration date, and customer's telephone number.
Thus, if you have any trouble processing the charge, you can contact the customer
The easiest and most economical method of designing, laying out, and modifying
your advertising circular is on a computer. Software programs available in both IBM■
and Apple Macintosh■ formats make page layout a snap. If you have your own
computer, you can purchase a desktop publishing program such as Pagemaker■ or
QuarkXPress■. If you don't have a computer, consider renting one for a short time or
using one at a full-service quick print shop. You will save a lot of time and frustration
doing the design on a computer screen, laying it out just so, and then printing it off on
a high-quality laser printer.
If you cannot gain access to a computer, you can still design your layout and write
the text copy on your own. When you have it in a final form, hire a freelance or
professional typesetter to do the layout work on a computer and print out the final
product. You should not simply type up some text, paste up a little clip art, and have
copies of it made. You want to present a professional appearance and create the
strongest sense of consumer confidence in your company and product as possible.
You can create your own order-pulling advertising circulars. With a little study,
some writing and rewriting, and a good deal of persistence, you can develop your own
sales circulars that can transform doubting prospects into satisfied customers. You can
do it yourself!
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