Most businesses have, at one time or another, used print advertising to drive sales of their products or services. Perhaps you spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on ads in various publications. Here’s the question you should ask yourself: “Are the print ads that I’m investing in paying off?”
The answer to that question may be found in asking other questions such as: “Am I advertising in the publications that my potential customers are reading? Are my ads large enough? Should they be full color or is black and white okay?”
This article will focus on just two areas of evaluating your print ads: setting goals and effective design.
Frank and Flora were in the house minding their own business when suddenly Frank announced, “Oh my, it’s time to leave already! Let’s get in the car, Flora.” Flora quickly grabbed her purse and jumped in the passenger seat and off they went!
They hurried on their way turning down one street and then another. After 30 minutes Flora realized she didn’t know where they were going nor could she quite figure it out. With her head slightly tilted, she asked, “Honey, where are we going?” Frank’s unfocused eyes blinked as he answered, “I don’t know, but we sure are making time!”
Now we all know that 99% of the time, the goal of transportation is to get from point A to point B. How ridiculous it seems that Frank’s only apparent goal was to get away from point A!
But do you run print ads because you know it’s a good idea and thus feel compelled to do so? Or do you have clear and specific goals in mind that you identify and communicate in the ad design process? Sometimes these are goals you know ahead of time and can share with your ad designer. Other times you may need help determining what point B really should be to bring about the best results.
Before you invest in valuable print advertising, identify your goals or consult with a marketing professional to help you determine your key goals so that your ads can work for you.
Once you have set your goals, it’s time to choose the vehicle and the route to achieve your goals in the most effective way possible. The content and design of your ads are paramount to their success.
One of the most common weaknesses seen in print ads is the effort to include too much information. It is not unusual for designers to receive a quantity of information fitting for a tri-fold brochure and be expected to cram it into a 1⁄4-page ad.
There is truth in this quote: “If you try to tell your customer everything at once, you run the risk of them not catching even one thing.”
The goals you set previously come in very handy to guide the content and design needed for your ad to get you from point A to point B without a lot of costly detours along the way.
I’d like to walk you through a brief example of an ad design project guided by clearly defined goals.
A&L Paint Co. of Rebersburg, PA, is a manufacturer of paint and coatings for the shed and outdoor building industry. They are a company dedicated to premier quality and customer service. A&L advertises in a trade magazine that targets their exact customer base.
They invest in full-page ads inside the back cover of this publication regularly. The ads they had were nice, but they perceived that there was another level of communication and opportunity that should be tapped.
When they came to us in May of 2017, their advertising goal was to better present who they are as a company and just how dedicated they are to their craft. Why? Because that turns into a massive benefit that their customers experience. And to be fair, potential customers should know about that.
We began by clarifying, through a research and discovery phase, what makes them stand apart as a brand. The result? “Continual product enhancement, proven outperformance, peerless customer care and unwavering commitment is what makes A&L the company you will want to do business with.”
Together we developed messaging points to use in the ads, and the design process began.
Without goals our process could have looked something like this: Advertise shed paint and coatings. Okay, let’s see, we’ll show a picture of a really nice shed that looks like it will last a long time. We’ll say high quality and great prices. Maybe have the 16 or 20 color swatches across the bottom here and put the phone number in the bottom right where all good contact information should go.
That reminds me of Frank behind the wheel.
Brand recognition. Benefit clarification. Simple, bite-sized messages. Attention-grabbing colors. We chose this trail instead.
Here are several of the first conceptual drafts we explored with our client:
If you notice, there are no product listings with pricing and features. There are no pictures of sheds wearing the paint proudly. There isn’t even a “Buy some today!” call to action. Why? Because we identified the goals and purposes of the ads before we began designing and the best route to the goal was not through those methods.
Here are some further developments which were finalized and printed in the next three issues of the trade publication.
Now how tangible are the results of this ad campaign? Because the primary goal of this particular series was to improve brand perception and communicate the benefits a customer can rely on with A&L, it will take some time to measure that. However, it is apparent that these ads attracted attention and are communicating a clear message in the marketplace.
We could conclude with that, but I want to give you more of A&L’s story. Setting goals at the beginning is essential, but that does not mean you cannot shift or change those goals as time goes on. You want to fine-tune your results? Fine-tune your strategy.
After this series of ads printed, we re-evaluated the goals with A&L. They identified a current desire to attract more prospective callers.
We shifted gears and headed down another road, but still in the same direction. Now we are developing and deploying a series of ads with a similar clean and straightforward approach but with a keener focus on several benefits of a featured product.
A&L Paint’s HD Enamel Urethane Paint saves its customers time and money because it affords one-coat coverage, is very easy to apply, and is virtually odorless—no small feat in the paint and stain industry!
These designs get attention with their white space and action-oriented graphic portrayal of the product. The call to action includes a solid hint at the benefit a wise customer will experience by choosing A&L as their paint supplier.
Now the testing and measuring process can be applied to determine the effectiveness of these ads to generate more calls and orders.
Are Your Ads Working?
What can you gain from the advertising dollars you are spending on print ads? The ad space will cost you the same whether you have goals and effective design or whether you don’t. Evaluate your ads today. If they feel “same-old, same-old” or look like every other ad in the book for your type of business or product, it may be time for a performance tune-up.