7 Tips for Writing More Effective Space Ads

Writing successful space ads is harder than you think.

Yet, you see them everywhere. In newspapers, brochures, phone books, magazines, and email newsletters…online in Facebook and Google ad campaigns…and more.

And in the world of direct-response marketing, their ability to generate new leads or sales is critical to your business.

Yet, if you struggle getting, nurturing, or converting leads from yours, there’s a good reason…

Why your space ads aren’t working

‘Cause here’s the thing…most small businesses are doing them completely wrong!

That’s right.

Businesses are wasting time and marketing dollars writing ads that just don’t work hard enough.

The reason is simple…

Most ad writers today know nothing about the psychology of selling.

Go ahead…open up any newspaper, business journal, or shopper and see for yourself. I’m looking at a local business newspaper right now. Here’s the gist of the ad:

  • It’s a half-page lead-generation ad for a financial institution…
  • A full quarter of the ad shows a picture of one of their senior loan officers with his name and phone number (sure, he’s easy on the eyes…but exactly how does this self-serving display motivate a prospect to pick up the phone and call?)…
  • The headline stands out in bold, italicized lettering, but is merely a clever slogan “Building our communities one business at a time” (yawwwwwwn!).
  • The only real ‘selling’ (sales copy) shows four bullets listing some standard loan features like ‘lines of credit’…’real estate’…or ‘vehicle and equipment’ (big mistake!…if you’re trying to sell something, ALWAYS turn features into benefits…see Tip #2 below!).
  • And it wraps up by making a weak attempt at inspiring a potential customer to take action (Contact Chris today!)…

This is nothing short of lazy advertising. Essentially, these guys are telling their prospects that “we’re just like every other lending institution in town”. Ads like this will not book many appointments—but will cause small business owners to miss out on tons of new business.

Sadly…they don’t even know it.

Because chances are, they take advice from the paper’s advertising sales reps. So, they simply copy what everyone else is writing…run the ad more often and for longer timeframes…and usually run it in all the wrong places!

Even worse…they try to sell the wrong thing in the ad!

In the example above, these guys are trying to “sell” their loan services. As a business owner, would you feel compelled to get a loan just from reading a half-page, 20-word ad?


Okay, I’m being too nice here…

Of course you wouldn’t!

Stop trying to sell your main service or product in your ad

Seems counter intuitive, right?

Yet, whether you’re presenting to your audience a space ad in your email newsletter…an advertorial in a regional magazine…a small display ad in your local newspaper…or other, you should NOT try to sell your main product or service in the ad.

Instead, you simply give them some information that shows them they can trust you to help them solve their problems, fulfill their needs, or satisfy their desires.

You must educate them! By educating them, you build credibility with them. But only after you take the important first step of building a relationship with them.

It’s the most critical step to making a sale. One almost always skipped by businesses, both online and in print. Yet it’s essential. You MUST ‘warm up’ your prospect before you try to sell to them.

Let’s face it. Today’s consumers are wary, sceptical, and intelligent. They want to be sure they can trust you before they give you money for your ideas or solutions.

If they don’t find you credible, they’ll move on and search until they find someone who is.

So, if you struggle with getting a response from your advertising, instead of doing what everyone else is doing in their ads…do the opposite!

Here’s how to write better direct-response ads

There are really only a handful of credible tips for writing more effective space ads. Here’s one that suggests a specific formula for writing space ads. You might find it helpful in framing your own ads.

That said, the following suggestions are specific techniques proven to help you “talk” more effectively to your audience in your advertising. Over time, you’ll discover they become more eager to hear from you and eventually…they’ll buy from you.

If you can nail down these basic requirements for writing a space ad, you’ll consistently begin to acquire dozens of new leads. Leads that are better qualified…and easier to convert to buyers.

So here you go, 7 tips for writing more effective space ads:

1. Your headline must stand out. You’ve heard me say it before…spend as much as 30% of your copywriting time on creating a good headline. Hey, if you don’t get their attention, they can’t read your message, right?

But be sure to go beyond the standard bold-face and larger font. Grab your reader’s attention by making a bold statement or big promise…arousing curiosity…or listing one big, must-have primary benefit.

Check out my revised headline for this lending institution…

Discover the Secret Strategy for Getting a Business Loan
That Those Other Banks Won’t Tell You About!

Sure, writing an effective headline will seem harder to do than you first imagine. So if you haven’t yet, check out my previous post on the top 5 characteristics that make up a winning headline.

Additionally, you’ll want to test your best two or three headlines against each other and tweak your best performer to maximize response.

2. Turn features into benefits. There’s hardly a better way to boost sales in a marketing message. It shows your reader you care. In the example ad above, every lending institution offers loan options for items like cars, real estate, and construction projects.

So merely repeating these standard boring features is a waste of time and advertising dollars. If you want emotional impact that compels a reader to act, you must turn the features of what you’re selling into specific, powerful benefits your reader can relate to emotionally.

So instead of saying “we offer loans for all your real estate needs”, say, “we’ve put more of your friends and neighbors into their dream home than any other lending institution, and we can do the same for you,” or similar.

3. Show your reader you understand. That means you must make it about them…not about you. So be sure to talk about what’s in it for them…a LOT!

Plus, write as you talk. “Advertising” talk is boring and uninspiring…” barstool” talk is exciting! To better understand this concept, go check out my previous post on some easy ways to master conversational writing.

Also, know who exactly your target audience is. Then talk to them, and only them. Get a deep understanding of their biggest problem or greatest desire. And be sure to ‘sound’ like you’re talking to just one person…the one reading your ad.

Use language and phrases—or ask some questions he’d never have thought of—that could help your reader bond with you…that show you understand and care about helping him solve his biggest concern.

In our newspaper ad example above, you would be more effective by affirming how expensive it is, or how much work it is, for a business owner to get a loan these days. This would elicit the reaction, “Man, you aren’t kidding!” Which means the same thing as “go ahead, you’re talking my language now, tell me more.”

4. Make it look more like an article. That’s the basic theory behind advertorials and many other small display ads. All these ads should have the look and feel of either an objective opinion editorial, independent news story, or informational article.

By being less obvious that it’s trying to sell something, it tends to stand out from other traditional ads. When written using core direct-response principles of persuasion, these ads will do a much better job of selling without your prospect feeling like he’s being “sold to.”

5. Give a gift! Look, FREE is still the most powerful word to use in any marketing communication. So much so that consumers now expect some kind of gift as an entry point into doing business with you.

In fact, if you ever expect a prospect to one day pays for your solutions—rather than the competition’s—you had better take that first step in building credibility by offering him something for free.

Free information always works great…as long as it carries a high perceived value. If it seems like you just “threw it in”, or its value doesn’t stand on its own, he’ll see through it as just another stunt designed to get his business, rather than a sincere effort to help him solve a problem.

Our lending institution above could have quickly and inexpensively put together a Free report titled Top 5 Roadblocks to Getting a Business Loan, and What You Can Do to Overcome Them!, or similar.

What business owner is hoping to get a loan wouldn’t want to know what these “roadblocks” were, and more importantly, what she could do to make them irrelevant in the loan process?


6. Make a clear offer with strong call-to-action. This space ad tip may very well be the heaviest hitter when it comes to converting a reader. In fact, most prospects actually read an ad’s offer first. So visibility and content are critical if your ad’s call-to-action is to be effective at motivating a reader to act.

In our sample half-page ad above, there is no mention of an offer at all. And the CTA (Contact Chris today!) is weak and uninspiring.

What would more compelling sales copy look like? How about…

“We’ve put together a brand new Special Report called Top 5 Roadblocks to Getting a Business Loan, and What You Can Do to Overcome Them!. This report is yours—absolutely Free—and I can even mail it out to you today.

To get your Free Special Report and consultation, without any further obligation, just call Chris at 903-793-3629.”

7. Provide social proof. Direct-response experts often refer to social proof as the “New Marketing.” In fact, using social proof—heck, using proof of any kind—in your sales messages is one of the quickest, most effective ways to build trust.

Yet it’s nothing new. Think celebrity endorsements (Nike and Michael Jordan)…crowd popularity (McDonald’s “Over 1 Million Served” sign)…user success stories (I lost 30 pounds in just 5 weeks!)…approval from credible experts (Dr Oz and light therapy)…and more.

While a few small business owners have access to professional athletes or TV celebrities, customer testimonials can be just as powerful. Our lending institution above could have easily wrapped up their ad by including a strong testimonial from a satisfied customer, something like this…

“I had reservations about qualifying for a business loan. But after just 15 minutes with Chris, I walked out with $15,000 more than what I’d originally requested. Now, I can remodel my storefront…expand my product line…AND hire additional help to make it all happen. So grateful!” — Carlos Sandinino, Brantwood, WI

You see, using just one or two of these powerful techniques listed above—along with a bit of creative thought—you can make any underperforming space ad work harder at getting and converting new leads.

Here’s one final example of some effective promotional ad copy I wrote for a client’s email newsletter. While these types of ads are shorter by nature, notice how they use:

  • Headlines that grab the reader’s attention by arousing curiosity or stirring emotions…
  • Strong, specific benefits to connect with their reader…
  • Conversational writing that affirms an understanding of the reader’s problem…
  • Language that lacks the “hard sell” feel of traditional ads…
  • A motivating call-to-action…
  • Convincing social proof that backs up the big claims…

To be sure, this will take a little practice. But don’t worry about getting it perfect on your first try. If you just start using these 7 tips for writing more effective space ads, whatever progress you make, you’ll be light years ahead of your competition…and a whole lot more profitable!

Got any of your own unique tips for writing better, more profitable advertising messages? Please share them with our readers in the comment section below.


About the author: Jerry Bures

Jerry Bures

Jerry Bures is a direct-response web copywriter and marketing consultant. Since 2010, he has helped natural health, self-help and business opportunity clients—as well as local small businesses—become more visible, credible and profitable online.  Read more.

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