The 7 Rules of Print Advertising


Rule 1: Print Adverts Should MAKE Money Not Cost Money.

This is THE most important rule of advertising for new, small & medium sized businesses, but it’s the rule that almost everyone gets wrong.

So what does this rule mean?

Advertising should always be seen as an investment – not a cost. Yet so many businesses advertise over a period of time and make no real money, while others don’t advertise because they are afraid of wasting money.

What if you understood how to turn every €1 in advertising spend into €2 or more in profit?

Many business owners think that their ads simply need to tell people they exist and that potential customers will see the ad and remember them in the future. They try this and are hugely disappointed when there is no increase in demand or revenue.

The bottom line is that if you are a retailer, restaurateur or anyone trying to sell a product or service then your advertising should NEVER simply say “WIDGETS R US – We sell widgets in all shapes and sizes”.

You never hear an ad on the radio that says “Hi, this is Harvey Norman, I just wanted to let you know that we’re still here, so next time you need anything for your home, come and visit our store.” That’s because Harvey Norman is in the business of selling units and the only way to make that happen is to get a potential buyer’s attention and then make him or her want to come into the store.

Understand the difference between “Offer-Based” ads and “Branding” ads. Small to medium companies should always run offer-based ads. The ads you see or hear from Boots or Tesco for “Buy One Get One Free”. Large corporate companies run branding ads, these are the ads you see from Coca-Cola or Nike. Basically the difference is that Boots are trying to get you into store today, whereas Nike are trying to persuade you that next time you buy some trainers you should buy a pair from them.

Can you afford to spend money in the hope that someday, someone who realises that they want a widget might remember your ad and give you a call?

Or do you want people to see your ad and immediately act on it?

Still not convinced? Think about this:

It is estimated that

  • The average person will see anywhere from 150 to 500 adverts every single day, but there are literally thousands of ads blasted out in print, radio and TV daily.
  • The average person needs to be exposed to a brand or product name a minimum of 8 times before it starts to become memorable (and that’s for a well designed and interesting ad).

To get your ad in front of this average person 8 times in a reasonable time-frame would cost much more than any small to medium business can afford,.

Basically the small amount you might spend becomes a cost.

Rule 2: DON’T Discount – ADD Value!

Most people immediately think that an offer should be a percentage discount.

That could be the right strategy if you’re a mass merchant or a provider of budget products or services, but what if you want to be seen as an exclusive restaurant or provider of high-quality clothes or furniture?

Discounting in this case can undermine your branding efforts and whereas it might bring you some short-term return it could also harm your long-term success.

A better approach is to add value, this not only helps to cement the status of your brand, but it is also a far more cost-effective way of bringing customers to your business.

To illustrate this point let’s imagine Business Man A and Business Woman B both sell an item for €100 and their cost is €75. That means they both make a respectable 33% margin. Business Man A decides to run a 10% off promotion, which means that he now sells the item for €90, reducing his percentage margin to 20%. Business Woman B on the other hand decides that she is going to add value and finds an accessory item that she normally sells for €15, but only costs her €5. She promotes this value-add deal, which allows her to continue to sell at €100 and although her cost increases by €5 to €80, she is able to maintain a higher margin at 25%.

The bottom line? Be perceived as the place where you get more for your money.

Maintain a decent margin throughout.

Whatever your business involves, find something that has value to your customers but costs you very little and has some tie-in to the main product you are selling.

Be more creative with how you structure your offers

Another option if you don’t have a low-cost item to attach to your deal . Supermarkets could easily give 50% off certain items, but isn’t it more appealing when they say “2 for 1” or “Buy One Get One Free”? You can even run a “3 for 2” campaign, which is basically a better way of saying 33% off.

Why DO you want to run these offers in the first place?

Are you looking to make short-term revenue and margin or build a long-term loyal customer base?

If it’s the latter you might want to consider a high-value offer that is guaranteed to bring customers to your store, but that may dramatically impact on, if not wipe out, your margin. However if you prepared properly for this it could help build a large and loyal customer base. It should be noted that this is extremely effective during times of financial stability.

However, during times of recession (when consumers’ minds are focused on saving money) and especially where surrounding businesses and/or competitors are running heavily discounting related promotions; running value-add campaigns may not deliver the return you might otherwise expect and so you may be forced to join the crowd and run pure discounting-based offers.

Rule 3: Are You Definitely MAKING money from your ads?

Many business owners make the mistake of running ads month after month without any idea if they are working.

So how do you know that the ads are effective and most importantly paying for themselves?

Never advertise without a tracking system in place.

The simplest way to track an ad is to assign each one a code and then ask for that code when people call you.

Each ad in each publication would have a different code and it is best to also change the code for each month that the ad is run. However even if you simply asked people which publication they saw the ad in and the date of the publication then you still get a good idea of which ads are generating a good response and which are not.

Track the break-even point for this investment.

In simple terms, if you spend €100 on the ad and you are advertising a product or service that makes you €10 per sale in margin then you need to make 10 sales before you start to even make money on the investment.

So let’s say that on month 1 you don’t advertise and make 5 sales and on month 2 you do advertise, the break-even point is 15 sales. Anything over 15 and the advertising was worthwhile, but less than 15 and there is something wrong. In reality it’s a little more complex than this because you need to take the cost of advertising out of your margin and so the number of sales needed for your business to make the same money while advertising goes up accordingly, but the above example gives you the general idea.

You may not get it right first time, so don’t give up straight away.

Advertising is all about testing

Reviewing different approaches and publications.  Even when you find a combination that works it won’t work like that forever. Continue to measure your return on investment for every ad.

Ultimately, you need to be ruthless about your advertising investment. Don’t run ads that don’t make you money.

Rule 4: Print Advertising Layout – A Mystic Art Or Just Common Sense?

When creating an advert there are a few basic rules that when followed will help you to create ads (and even leaflet designs) that really stand out from the crowd.

Here are the simple basics:

  • ALWAYS use a professional designer
    Most business owners simply don’t have the skills or creative background required to allow them to create an effective ad design. So use a professional, but give them a very strong brief as to exactly what it is you want to achieve and how you want the ad to look.
  • Stick With Your Company Colours
    Determine what colours should be used in your ads, and wherever possible match these to your company colours. Using the same colours in all future ads helps to create a brand identity.
  • Use An Eye-Catching Image
    Always use an image at the top of your ad and try to make it as eye-catching a possible. Nobody is going to get excited about a picture of your building or team, so make it interesting. Additionally make sure it tells a story and is relevant to what you are offering.
  • Use A Strong Title.
    Create a strong title that catches people’s attention. Match it to the theme of your image and ad.
  • Don’t Be Afraid Of White Space
    Don’t cram your ad full of text and images. Say what you have to say, but be concise. White space gets attention in a packed magazine or newspaper.
  • Company Name At The Bottom
    Don’t put your company name in large text at the top – That’s just not important or interesting. Sell your product or service in the ad and then tuck your company name at the bottom.
  • Go With The Flow
    We were all brought up to read from top left to bottom right and so we do this naturally even when perusing a page. Therefore make sure your ad flows in this direction. All the elements mentioned above should be laid out in your ad so that they are easy to follow and your eye doesn’t have to jump around to take it all in. This means making sure you use only one or two fonts maximum and that your ad text is justified and not aligned left or right. Also your contact details and sign-off should be located bottom right.

Rule 5: Print Advertising Text – The Four Steps To Heaven!

While the ad design gets a reader’s initial interest, the element that keeps their attention and makes them take action is the text. To create compelling ad text all you need to do is remember the following acronym – A.I.D.A:

What I mean by attraction is that your initial text should be so compelling as to make people want to read it. Your headline should highlight an unbelievable offer you are providing for a limited time or a big problem that your product or service resolves, or it could be linked to a seasonal product that everyone wants. Whatever it is, make it big and make it bold.

Using a “Sub-Head” is a good way to get a reader a little more “on the hook” before you get into the meat of the ad text. For instance your headline could read “Your Back-Pain Relieved Or YOUR MONEY BACK!” and your sub-head would then read “Why Suffer One More Day Of Back Pain When With A Few Treatments In Our Clinic You Could Be Pain Free!”.

Once you have their attention you need to keep it, so make sure your main body text is interesting. Don’t go on and on about how great your company is or all the technical features of the product, instead talk about the benefits of the product and how it will make the buyer’s life better.
If you have a special offer or you are giving a satisfaction guarantee then allude to it, but don’t give all the details yet – that goes at the end.

D is for DESIRE
So you got their interest? Now you need to create the desire for the product. I also call “D” the DECISION stage because it’s at this point that they decide whether to stop reading the ad or to call you. So think about how the product or service will make their lives better, play on their hopes and fears and tie the guarantee or offer into this also.

A is for ACTION
This is where the majority of advertisers let themselves down – They don’t go for the kill! In marketing terms your sign-off is called the “Call-To-Action” and it means that you have to make the reader want to take immediate action or they might lose out. So tell them that the offer is time or availability limited – for instance “Act Now Because This Offer Is Only Available While Limited Stocks Last!”

And Finally…
Be concise and remember that your ad doesn’t need to tell them every small detail of your product or service;

It only needs to tell them enough to call you.

Rule 6: Advert Variety – It’s The Spice of Life!

At this point we have covered a great deal about designing your ads, so now it’s time to discuss running them. This is another area where business owners make a fundamental mistake – I call this the “Yellow Pages Syndrome”, or in other words the concept that they can run the same ad over and over again, never even bothering to change the content.

3 reasons why you should vary your ads:

  • Keep It Interesting!

In rule four we discussed how it is important to standardise your key design elements to create a business identity, but that’s as far as the repetition should go. When it comes to your content make sure you vary it. For many businesses there’s nothing wrong with having a range of four to five ads that you rotate over time, but if you are in the retail industry even that won’t do as your ads need to look as fresh as your product offering.You also need to make sure that you have a much larger cache of offers that you can choose from and this means that you might have a set of ten to twenty different offers that you can choose from when placing each ad.

  • Return On Investment

We talked about this in rule three, where we discussed that your business is not a charity that provides funding to newspapers and magazines. You run an ad to make money and having a variety of ads allows you to gauge which ad types deliver the best return. For instance if you were selling baby products, does your ad containing the image of a crying baby or smiling baby get the best return? Varying your ads allows you to test and measure how each does against another.

  • Seasonality

Another factor to take into account is seasonality and so an ad design that works for you in the summer, may not work in the winter. But in some cases your standard design could incorporate seasonal elements to make it look fresh. So the ad you ran in August that worked so well could work fine in December by incorporating some snowmen and snow in the design, or bunnies and eggs for Easter.


Rule 7: Get Yourself A Promotional Partner

No matter how closely you follow the six rules of print advertising covered  –  advertising costs money!

Another fact is that the larger the audience for the publication, the higher the advertising cost . You could be looking at thousands of Euro for one ad. For established companies that’s not an issue, but for fledgling businesses it’s a big problem.

So here is the final rule, which actually is more of a tip. Find another local business offering a complimentary product or service and partner up with them. Work out between you a really compelling offer and then create your ad as normal but with an extra special offer delivered by both companies.

Let’s imagine that I own an Italian take-away business. I could run an ad offering free garlic bread with every take-away ordered, but that means that I have to fund the offer as well as every ad that I run. But what if I partner up with my neighbouring off-license owner and agree that we are going to combine our offers and take turns running our ads? This means that I now only run half the volume of ads because he runs the other half.

It is true to say that asking someone to buy a product from two different businesses will require a larger offer than normal, but that’s far outweighed by the fact that you have halved your advertising spend. So whereas my normal offer is for a free portion of garlic bread and the off-license would offer 3 for 2 on all wine purchases. I would instead provide free garlic bread and minestrone soup for 2 and the off-license would provide double-up deal (2 bottles free with every 2 purchased).

Some logistical aspects to iron out.

You need to make sure the value of the offers is roughly the same and you need to figure out how people claim their extra offer, i.e. do you need to see receipts, will you use vouchers and will the buyer redeem the offer at time of purchase or at next purchase.

Just make sure it’s easy (but not too easy) to redeem and then enjoy the increased business and lower advertising cost.

By the way, this same approach works beautifully with leaflets too and even better you halve your print cost because each business uses one side of a double-sided leaflet.

There You have it – Great Advice

#TalktoSnap and we’ll help you make some sound decisions when it comes to Print Advertising.

Irelands Market leader in Business Printing with 30 years’ experience across 17 Centres nationwide.

Get a quote at 1850 812 002 

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