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10 Commandments of Good Advertising

Originally published: 08.01.06 by Terry Tanker

One of the most difficult tasks for business owners, especially those whose background is more from the technical side than the business management side is developing effective communication programs with customers and prospects.

There are few things more important, though, than finding new customers, retaining old customers, and upgrading existing customers. All of those activities rely on communication skills for effectiveness and efficiency.

Marketing communications is an asset your company owns and an investment in customers and prospects. The challenge is to use this asset wisely. Most of the advertising I’ve seen has been done poorly with little attention to graphics, headline and copywriting. But that’s why there is such an enormous opportunity to stand out with ads that are well done, better written and with offers and appeals that stand out and get noticed.

Here are a few tips and ideas to help improve your advertising.

1. Design the ad so one component dominates the advertising area. 99% of the time this is a graphic. Use a captivating picture or illustration. This is the most important element of your ad.

2. A strong headline is the second most important element and together with a compelling graphic they will stop your audience long enough

for them to investigate your copy.

3. Tightly worded text will quickly bring the reader into the ad and keep them reading through it. Avoid clutter, multiple fonts and font sizes. Stay away from noisy and hard-to-read copy. Keep it simple.

4. Approach the design of your ad with this thought in mind for the reader: “Hey, this is for you!” It’s a bit like walking down a crowded street and suddenly yelling at the top of your voice. People will stop and look. Just what you want to happen with the first glance at your ad. Keep that in mind as you review graphics, headlines and copy.

5. Advertising is a solution in search of a problem. Your ad is looking for prospects that have, whether they know it or not, some kind of problem with their hvac system. This includes the lack of regular service and maintenance which should be scheduled for this critical equipment. Ads that offer a solution to a problem seek out readers that you want to respond to your advertising.

6. Good ad copy offers something of value to the reader. Brag and boast headlines usually turn the reader off in a hurry. Copy that rewards the reader with information or a promise to “save money and cut maintenance costs by 25%” increases readership. Effective copy makes reading your ad worthwhile.

7. If you make a promise in the ad, make sure it’s believable and valid. Testimonials and case histories of satisfied customers are powerful incentives and help call attention to your advertising.

8. Emphasize your product or service not your logo or company name. The ad should make the reader want to buy or consider buying before telling them who you are.

9. Organize the sequence of the ad so it flows logically for the readers. Many times ads are so cluttered and busy you don’t know where you are suppose to look first — and rather than working that hard they simply skip by your ad.

10. Successful advertising reflects the company’s character.

Advertising represents the best opportunity to portray your company’s personality — the things that make the company liked, respected and admired. Messy ads indicate a messy company. Dull-looking ads suggest there is nothing to get excited about, you’re behind the times, and you may be slowing down. Brag and boast and you appear inwardly focused, not customer focused. Certainly these things are a matter of subtleties, but the fact remains — like sex appeal (which is also not easily defined), some companies have it, some don’t. But whatever it is, keep it consistent over time and in all of your communications.

Here’s a key thought to work with when working on your advertising. Keep asking the question: “What do we want the reader to do after they have read the ad?”

Often I find companies can’t answer that simple question. Some answers are, “We want them to take some kind of action, like picking up the phone and calling us.” Great, will the ad you just created encourage them to do that?

Or do you just want them to be able to keep you in mind (remember branding from last month?) so that when something breaks down, you own that little share of mind whereby they pick up the phone and call you.

Advertising, in whatever form — print, TV, radio — wants to affect a behavioral change in the reader, listener or viewer. Make sure you know what that behavior is. It will help you create more effective marketing communication tools.


About Terry Tanker

Terry Tanker

Terry is the owner of JFT Properties LLC and publisher of HVACR Business magazine. He has more than 25 years of experience in the advertising and publishing industries. He began his career with a business-to-business advertising agency. Prior to forming JFT Properties LLC in January 2006, he spent 20 years with a large national publishing and media firm where he was the publisher of several titles in the mechanical systems marketplace.

In addition to his experience in advertising and publishing, Terry has worked closely with numerous industry-related associations over the years including AHRI, NATE and ABMA. 

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