Saturday, 26 July 2008

How to write classified ads that work

The first place to look when seeking a new pet, a second hand car or a rented appartment is the classified ads. The classified ads is an open marketplace that is often the first choice for people wishing to buy and sell a whole range of goods and services. The medium is usually very cost effective and can produce fast results.

Placing a classified ad in the newspaer of your choice is a quick and simple procedure. But responses are not always forthcoming. Before placing your advert think about what you are trying to sell, what makes it appealing and your target audience. Selecting the right publication can make a difference. In some cases a specialist magazine may be the best place to reach the target audience. Think about what it is that makes a classified advert effective. Put yourself in the buyers shoes - where would you look to find a similar item?

Next, decide on your price. What is the item worth to you? Remember that a competitively priced item will attract many more responses than one that seems expensive. Invest a few cents in marketing. $99.95 is much more appealing than $100. Retailers have used this for years for a good reason - it always works!

Some publications have specific days to advertise cars, houses or boats. A little investigation will reveal the answer. Advertise on the right days when the prospective buyers are there. You will pay the same price on any other day, but will reach a smaller audience.

Getting to the advert itself, think about the reader. People tend to skim through the adverts to find the item that they want. The key to success is to provide as much information as possible in a few words. Long classified ads are expensive and don't work.

Start with a catchy title. The title should provide some key words (no, these weren't invented for the Internet!) and appealing information to provide the reader with a reason to stop and read the rest. Examples of titles for home sales include "Inanda. Luxury mansion", "Sydenham - Renovator's Dream", "Berea, Character Home for Immediate Occupation", "Ferndale - Give the kids a chance to romp" or "Sandton bargain - be quick!"

These titles all provide a little information about the house being sold. Something that will appeal to the right buyer.

Staying with homes, the next line should provide information about the accommodation. "3 beds, 2 baths, dream kitchen, open plan living area onto patio, pool, parking for 4 cars" provides the key details. Use descriptive words to add to the appeal - "in park-like setting", "needs a little TLC" or "with spectacular view". Adjective and descriptive phrases can make all the difference.

I hardly ever follow up a classified ad that doesn't have a price, yet many classified adverts miss this key information. Having caught the reader's attention, the price is probably the main decision factor for the reader to make that call. Include the price even if you are open to offers. The abbreviations "neg." (negotiable), "ono" (or nearest offer) or "onco" (or nearest cash offer) indicate that you are willing to negotiate. You can even try the reverse - "best offer over $10 wins".

Closing with a catch phrase such as "must be seen" or "be quick" can be very effective.

Contact details are very important. I have come across many adverts that include a phone number but no name. A name provides an identity of a person. People like to have a person to contact when responding to an advert. A first name will do fine. Don't forget to provide alternative contact details - these can be very useful. A business number, home number and cell number provide a choice. If you are only available after hours then say so. The "ah" abbreviation is well recognised. A second number also provides some insurance against typing errors when your advert is published! Add an email address if you wish but most people prefer the immediacy of a phone call.

Classified ads allow anyone to advertise almost anything. Success rates are high. If you are selling a popular item, then be prepared to have your phone ringing off the hook!

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