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Advertising flyer critique: what's wrong with your ad flyers

John Kuraoka, a project of www.kuraoka.com

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In this article, you will learn how to improve your advertising flyer, and specific ways to turn your ad flyers into more-effective marketing tools. A more-effective ad flyer increases your sales and reduces your work and expenses.

Admittedly, I have not seen your advertising flyer. Then again, I probably don't have to. I have reviewed hundreds, if not thousands, of advertising flyers for small businesses. And, after 20 years I have found that nearly every small business ad flyer contains the same mistakes and missed opportunities. Avoid these nine common mistakes, and your advertising flyer - and your marketing in general - will be the stronger for it.

Advertising flyer mistake #1: Using your business name or category as your headline

Remember, your flyer is an ad, not a business card. It needs to sell. Your potential customers aren't interested in your name. They're not even interested in what you do. They're interested in their own needs and wants. So, hit them with a headline they can't ignore, because it addresses their needs.

Instead of:
John's Lawn Care

Try:
Get your lawn in shape for summer fun - and save!
or:
A lawn you'll be proud of in 14 days, guaranteed!
or:
Spend your weekends with your family, not your yardwork!
or
Are you spending too much on lawn care?

You get the idea. Figure out what's important to your potential customers. Then, use your headline to immediately answer their question: "What's in it for me?"

Advertising flyer mistake #2: Listing services instead of raising problems and solving them

Do I want vacuuming or dusting or mopping? Not right now, thanks. Do I want a clean house, without drudgery? Yeah, maybe. Do I want to regain the use of about four hours of lost time every week? Time that I could spend creating memories with my family, but instead I'll spend on my knees scrubbing out the toilet bowls, getting splashed in the face, putting bleach spots on my clothes, and inhaling toxic cleanser fumes? Would I like those hours back? Oh yes! Absolutely!

Although your ad flyer copy should include your key features or services, each feature or service should be attached to a clear, customer-oriented, benefit that addresses a problem, or hassle, or pain. Also, tell - or, better, show - how those benefits prevent or solve problems for your potential customer. Tip: research has repeatedly shown that people are more averse to pain than attracted to reward.

Think about all the problems, both real and potential, that could stem from not using your product or service. Put yourself in your customer's shoes. Talk to them. Listen to them. Learn what their problems are, and identify things about you or your product or service that make a difference in relieving or overcoming them.

Emphasize in your flyer copy the problems and solutions that set you apart from your competition. And, never forget that your competition, in many cases, includes do-nothing, do-it-yourself, and kid-down-the-street options.

Advertising flyer mistake #3: Not personalizing your business

Much has been said about making ad copy "you"-oriented, to make sure it speaks directly to your potential customer's needs and wants. However, one key thing your potential customer needs and wants, is to feel good about you. Are you knowledgeable? Are you trustworthy? Do you understand my problems? Am I comfortable doing business with you?

The more-comfortable someone feels about buying from you, the more-likely they are to do so. That's why I recommend that you have an "I" section - a section where you talk about yourself, your qualifications, your values, your personal commitment. Many small businesses and sole proprietorships avoid "I"-talk, for fear that it makes the business seem small. On the contrary, it makes the business feel personal. Big businesses pay big bucks to achieve - or simulate - that same rapport with customers and clients.

By personalizing your business, you also prevent turning your product or service into a commodity, where competition is based entirely on price and you have to work harder and harder for ever-decreasing margins.

Advertising flyer mistake #4: Closing passively

This is the typical close to a flyer: "for more information, call 000-0000." That's passive. Instead, make an offer to motivate action and close the deal! Here are five basic, proven closers:

Use your imagination, and see the Tightwad Marketing articles Tightwad Promotion: sales programs that sell and How to promote your sales promotion for more ideas. Then, make sure your call to action calls for action.

Advertising flyer mistake #5: Not asking for pass-along

Asking for pass-along is a Tightwad Marketing secret technique, which might be why I buried it in the middle of this article.

It's well-known that a word-of-mouth referral is the most-powerful form of advertising. So why not ask for one? It could be as simple as putting this line of copy at the bottom of your ad flyer: "If you can't use our service, please pass this flyer along to someone who can!"

Granted, most people, if they're not interested, will throw your flyer away. But, the cost of adding that little line of copy is exactly zero, and the potential pay-off is big because any flyer that does get passed along gains the weight of a personal referral to the secondary recipient. You can't buy that kind of credibility. Nor should you pass up the opportunity to get it, free.

Advertising flyer mistake #6: Leaving the back side empty

With an advertising flyer, the printing or photocopying is but a small part of the overall expense. The larger expense, in time or money or both, is distribution. So, distribute a two-sided flyer, for twice the opportunity to make a sale! Just make sure your second side doesn't compete with your main message side.

The second side could be used for:

You get the idea. Use the second side to support, expand upon, or enhance the message on the main side. With an advertising flyer, covering the back could cover your back.

Advertising flyer mistake #7: Doing a one-time blast

One-time advertising efforts are seldom effective. It is a rule of thumb among advertising agency media planners that you need to reach people at least three times before they even notice you. Anything less is just wasted effort. That's why you tend to see the same ads over and over in magazines and on television.

So, follow up. I recommend that you plan to hit each household at least three times with your ad flyer. If possible, combine that with other localized advertising, so you reach those homes through a variety of media channels. At the very least, combine door-to-door distribution with posting in public areas where allowed. Community centers, schools, stores, and libraries often offer public bulletin boards. Tip: keep a few flyers in an envelope in your car so that when you see a public bulletin board, you can take advantage of it immediately.

Advertising flyer mistake #8: Flyer distribution errors

Distributing ad flyers in the wrong area is a costly mistake. But, getting business from the wrong area could be even costlier. Here are four objectives in targeting neighborhoods for your flyer distribution.

Advertising flyer mistake #9: Failing to test

No other advertising medium lets you control your message quite as easily as a flyer. If you want to compare two headlines, it's easy to print up or have copied several hundred of each. You should test headlines, offers and deadlines, paper colors, and even distribution days. Most small businesses don't do this because they think it's too hard to track responses. Yes, tracking responses to your ad flyer takes a little extra work. But, learning that one headline or offer will outperform another by a factor of two or three or ten can make you a lot of extra money. And, in the end, you'll massage your flyer into a stunningly effective marketing piece.

A few final tips about advertising flyers. You can double your reach and frequency (or, cut your expense in half) by creating your ad flyer two-up - that is, two on a single page. That way, 500 copies will produce 1,000 flyers. Experiment with vertical, horizontal, and even diagonal orientations. Cutting the paper horizontally produces mini-pages with a traditional look and feel. Cutting the paper vertically produces long, narrow flyers, ideal for door hangers. Cutting the paper diagonally produces triangular, pennant-like flyers, funky but attention-getting.

You might consider using brightly colored paper, as long as it is not so deep a hue that it makes the print hard to read. Research indicates that the most attention-getting color combination is black type on a yellow background, which is why many highway signs use it. The color red connotes "sale," or "discount,"or "urgent," so that might be a good choice if you can print in color (red paper is usually too dark). Tip: if you're going to photocopy your flyer onto a colored or specialty paper, you may be able to save money by buying the paper separately from your photocopying order. For example, I recently had 1,500 ad flyers photocopied onto a paper that would have cost an additional 3 cents per sheet ($45). But, I bought the same paper separately for $7.50 per pack of 500 sheets ($22.50), then had the photocopying center use my own paper. Look at the photocopying price list to see if it makes sense to do this, and if you do, make sure the service person writes "customer-provided paper" on your order form so you don't get charged for the paper again.

Remember, you're already paying for printing and distributing your advertising flyers. Making those flyers more-effective costs you nothing more, but could make you a lot more. That's the Tightwad Marketing bonus.
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