• 16 Common Print Advertising Mistakes to Avoid

    A recent IDG survey showed 55% of IT buyers and marketers still rely on tech-related print publications as a key information source, so despite the focus on online marketing, print advertising remains a viable way to generate leads.  B2B sales and marketing consultant M. H. “Mac” McIntosh recently published a list of proven techniques for improving B2B sales lead generation with print advertising.

    Here are 16 guidelines to help you avoid common print advertising mistakes and improve your B2B sales lead generation with print advertising:

    1. Overusing image ads

    Many image ads are simply not designed to generate B2B sales leads, says McIntosh. Rather than focusing the customer’s attention on elaborate image ads created to enhance the company’s image, bring attention to the specific benefits and applications of your products and services. Let the layout and design of the ad speak to your company’s image and reputation, but focus the ad message on your products and services.

    2. Using headlines that don’t highlight benefits

    Headlines should be used to catch the attention of potential customers, says McIntosh, and the best way to generate inquiries and requests is to include specific benefits in your headlines.  An effective headline should highlight the specific benefits of your products or services, rather than list vague features that potential buyers may or may not need.

    3. Not putting applications front and center

    If your product or service offers specific applications, say so in the ad.  Potential clients are more likely to inquire if they recognize the potential value of an application.  A potential buyer from a medical records department, for example, is more likely to inquire if your ad describes the bar coding software that would be ideal for tracking patient’s medical records.

    4. Creating information-rich, difficult-to-skim ads

    We are all pressed for time, so make sure print ads are detailed, but still easy to skim.  Use bulleted copy, subheads and illustrations or photos to efficiently communicate key selling points.

    5. Neglecting testimonial ads

    Using testimonials in print ads is a proven technique for increasing sales leads.  List the companies you serve, include quotes from satisfied customers and use statistics to persuade potential buyers.  Be specific, listing the full name, title and company affiliation of the person being quoted.  If you use statistics, back them up by including the source of the data.

    6. Opting for occasional full-page ads, rather than consistent use of fractional ads

    For B2B sales leads generation, establish a presence in print by using cost-efficient fractional ads.  You never know when a potential buyer will be seeking solutions to their problems, so consider running fractional print ads in every issue of your target publications rather than opting for a few full-page ads a year.  If you are a new or small operation, running print ads in every issue can also help your company appear well-established and successful.

    7. Not harnessing the power of “wrap ads”

    Wrap ads are a type of fractional print ad designed to look like a new product announcement.  This is another cost-effective format for generating sales leads.  Wrap ads generally run on a single page surrounding an “island” half-page ad, but the format can also be used with regular half-page and third-page ads.  Although more common in tabloid-size magazines, wrap ads are also used in standard-size publications.

    8. Not including a strong call to action

    To increase sales lead generation, print ads should offer potential buyers a convincing response to the question: “What’s in it for me?”  To do so, says McIntosh, ads should make customers an offer they cannot refuse.  Potential buyers will have to decide whether it is worth the time and effort to respond to your ad.  To generate more B2B sales leads, consider including application notes showing how your product or service solved their problem.  Another way to increase the number of inquiries is by offering a useful premium or advertising specialty, but try to make offers that will interest only truly qualified prospects.  Offering samples or a demonstration CD to interested buyers is another way to generate more inquiries.

    9. Using “free” and “new” without care

    The temptation to use words like “free” and “new” in print advertising can be difficult to resist.  But although both words are powerful inquiry generators, they should be used with care.  Consult a legal advisor if you’re not certain whether your product or service can legally be described as new, and make sure you are prepared to offer free products or services.

    10. Forgoing first-person copy

    Speak directly to the needs of potential customers by using words like “you” and “your” in ad copy.  Rather than using words like “we” and “our” products or services, use words like “you” to tell customers how your company can help them.

    11. Not asking for the order

    It may seem obvious, but experienced salespeople know that simply asking for the order can work wonders.  Use benefit-oriented offers, such as “Call, write, fax, email or visit our web site to request your free selection guide to quickly help you determine which products meet your needs.”  A term like “selection guide” is also more effective than words like “brochure” or “catalog,” which do not place emphasis on the customer’s needs.

    12. Not making print ads timely

    Generate more leads by designing your offer to reward those who respond right away.  Limit free offers to the first few hundred inquiries, or place time restrictions on offers (“Request more information before December 31st and get $500 worth of free accessories”) to compel timely inquiries.

    13. Not matching customers in the sales cycle

    Potential buyers may be at different points in the sales cycle when they come across your ad.  Meet potential buyers at all phases of the sales cycle by creating different types of offers.  For example, some customers may just be starting to gather information and are not ready for a sales call. Increase sales leads by creating a selection guide for these buyers. For potential buyers that are further along in the sales cycle, create application notes, newsletters, demonstrations, a test, samples or a sales call.

    14. Not merchandising ad offers

    Direct marketers know that the way you package your offers is an important part of sales lead generation.  If you are offering free literature in your ad, include a small picture of what potential buyers can expect to receive.  For coupons or important phone numbers, use illustrations (a pair of scissors cutting out the coupon or contact information) to encourage potential buyers to engage with your ad.

    15. Making it difficult for potential customers to connect

    Generate leads by making it easy for potential buyers to reach you.  Buyers will have different preferences for getting in touch, so offer multiple means—phone, fax, email, website, in-reply cards—for them to respond to your ad.  Be prepared to receive inquiries at all prospective business hours.

    16. Not highlighting the website

    It can be difficult to showcase all products and services in one print ad.  Make it clear to potential buyers that they can learn more about your products and services by visiting your website.  Prepare your website for inquiries by making it easy for readers to locate information and contact a salesperson.  Adding an “Information Request” button on every page is simple way to generate sales leads by letting visitors fill out a form with their name, contact information, description of their needs, and request for information that can be faxed, quickly mailed, or downloaded.  Ask your webmaster about using a unique web address for each ad that allows you to track where each inquiry originated.

    Expect a more active B2B sales lead generation program by avoiding these common mistakes and making consistent use of proven B2B print advertising techniques.

    Read M. H. “Mac” McIntosh’s article here: http://www.sales-lead-experts.com/tips/articles/print-advertising.cfm

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