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Print Advertising Tips for Local Businesses

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

by Yoon Cannon

If you want to attract more customers to your local business print advertising should be a foundational part of your marketing mix. Advertising serves to increase awareness, visibility and mindshare; particularly, if you’re trying to attract more local customers to your business.

I started running print advertising in 1992 with my first business in the direct sales industry.

Since then, I continued to run many different types of ads to promote three other local businesses that I started from ground zero, turn-keyed and later sold. That means for over two decades I have tested measured and tested again to figure out the formula for what makes some ads get a higher response than others.

Whether it’s advertising in magazines, newspapers, direct mail, radio or billboards, the first key lesson I learned quickly is this, you just can’t throw an ad together on a whim, let that same ad run for a year to then evaluate if advertising works for your business or not.

So, unless you’ve hired an experienced, competent marketing manager who is trained in direct response copywriting, advertising, media buying and marketing for your specific industry, then as the owner of your business it’s your job to keep testing and improving your ad copy, design, layout and offers.

Once you learn how to do this you can test and improve your ads in less than 20 minutes a week. Keep in mind however, that advertising works on repetition.

If your ad has only published a few times in the same publication that is way too early to determine if advertising is working or not working for you. But, in the meantime, make sure you avoid making these 9 classic print advertising mistakes.

Here are Print Advertising Tips for Local Businesses that will Help Generate More Leads

#1. The headline does not speak to what they care about.

Remember, that no one opens the publication to sit and read ads. The headline in your ad needs to grab their attention and get them interested in skimming the rest of your ad. Some ads I find don’t even have a headline at all. Often times you’ll see ads that have the name of their business at the top where the headline should actually go.

While some people may still read your ad, I find you end up getting a lot more people to notice and remember your ad when you use a curiosity or benefit driven headline.

#2. The ad copy ONLY tells them what you do.

Let’s say you’re a landscaping business and your ad copy simply says:

Joe’s Landscaping

Hardscape; Landscape

Design and Installation

Property Maintenance

Address … Website … Phone Number

You have to keep in mind that your prospects will see numerous other ads from 47 other landscaping businesses who do exactly what you do. Often, some of your competitors will be advertising in the same publication you’re in. Your ad should tell them in just a few words what makes your business stand out from the rest.

#3. The design layout focuses the eye on the wrong thing.

Take the 2 second test. What is the first thing you notice when you glance at your ad in 2 seconds? Show your ad to 10 people and ask them the same question. If the first thing people notice isn’t the headline or an attention grabbing photo your design layout is bringing attention to the wrong thing.

#4. The text in the ad is not easy to read.

Remove anything in your ad that makes your reader strain to read or look at your ad. Blue text over a dark grey photo is not easy to read. A lot of font styles are tough to read. Sometimes a graphic designer might try a shadow effect on the font, but it will hurt your ad if it makes the text too hard to read.

#5. There’s too much text.

Remember, an ad is not an article. People don’t read ads they skim. Trying to get them to read too much makes them read nothing at all. And of course, the smaller the ad size you buy, the less space you have for text.

#6. Your services are not specific enough.

When you buy a bigger ad size you have more room to share more information about your business. This is a great opportunity to outline some of your popular services, but you need to be more descriptive.

Whether you’re a caterer, a relationship coach or an elder law attorney, be more specific in what services you offer. You may think “catering for all occasions” is specific, but you’ll trigger more reasons to call your business if you specified things like:

40th, 50th, 60th+ Birthday Parties

Baby Showers

Backyard BBQ’s, Picnics

Cocktail Parties, Holiday Parties



#7. Poor choice of images.

A great image can grab attention, boost your brand and support the core message you’re trying to convey in your ad. However, choosing the wrong image can really plummet an ad’s effectiveness.

Choose a photo of something your reader cares about, sells your work and/or grabs the their attention. If you’re in the trade business, I hate to break this to you, but a picture of your company work van does not make the list of something your reader cares about.

#8. You’re selling the wrong thing.

Remember in advertising people are driven more by emotions than they are by product messages. If you sell pool tables, you’ll get greater response if you change your headline from “we sell pool tables” to promoting an emotional driver like:

“making family game night a tradition” or “every man needs a man-cave”

#9. There’s no call to action in your ad.

Simply saying call now with your phone number is not really an effective call to action. The best call to actions (CTA’s) are geared to generate leads of potentially interested prospects rather than a CTA to buy now or hire you now.

Brainstorm different call to actions you can promote each month in your ads. Can you host a workshop, a social, an open house, a special event at your place of business? Offering a free lead magnet is also a great call to action to include in your ad.

Ok, so there you have it. I just shared the 9 most common mistakes I see small business owners making in your print advertising. I want to help you take action on what you just learned, so I created a free template you can use to help you avoid these print advertising mistakes and start generating more leads from your local business..

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