Hard hitting? Well, that particular expression may be a bit dated, but the old idea is to clobber the reader with intent. Nothing’s changed. Any ad, whether it appears in print or online, is intended to motivate the reader to BUY your product, or at least allow themselves to be pitched. We’ve discussed how important it is in book marketing to define just who your reader actually is. Now it’s time to utilize a relatively inexpensive device to reach out and grab their attention.
A simple tool…
Ads are communication tools, nothing more. They are part of a complete marketing plan. Ads can either be designed for a mass market, or targeted to a specific niche. It all depends upon the medium carrying the advertising, and it’s positioning in the medium, as to which the ad should be be designed for. You need to focus on who you intend the ad to reach.
So before you even consider running advertising, do your research to find several different publications, or online sites, including social networking and blog sites where you are pretty sure your market can be found. If you are truly intrepid, you’ll take the time to contact the advertisers you see in these locations to find out how effective their experience with that medium has been. If your product is not perceived by the advertiser as direct competition, you may be lucky enough to get some really useful information.
Questions you might ask after the initial introduction and explanation (should you be lucky enough to get a favorable response) run through ad sizes used, positions that were found effective, and any seasonal adjustments the advertiser made or considered making. Was the artwork varied? Did the message vary? Which worked the best? The answers will help you parse your list down to the ones you believe will help you reach your market.
Once you have made a “list” of potential locations and have some idea of how well they will work for your needs, contact the webmaster or their own advertising department to get their “media” kit. A typical media kit (or advertising insertion page, if online) will usually include some demographic data regarding their readers, which can in most cases be considered accurate (if not spun in whatever direction they intend). Print media must provide factual circulation information by law, but the internet, as you know by now, is not so well-regulated, so proceed with “Caveat Emptor” playing softly in the background.
A media kit will also have the publication, or website’s requirements regarding size, image resolution, linking limitations(for online ads) and, of course, cost. I’ve always looked for the smallest ad space that will effectively stop my own eye when skimming a publication or site. I’m especially careful if the publication or site tends to relegate smaller ads to their own pages rather than inserting them within the content. While a “Buying Guide” page format may work for some products seasonally, being stuck in with a bunch of tiny ads doesn’t usually give you the best visibility, unless it is specifically targeted towards buyers of YOUR product. I prefer to run my ads where they can appear with content or editorial material. The reader’s attention will be focused on that page longer, so you’ll get better chances to grab it. If that kind of position means buying slightly “upmarket” (Oh, how I just love the old jargon…), then by all means do so, unless your budget can’t really handle it.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume you’ve decided on a specific medium and location, and need to choose your ad’s size. One thing to keep in mind is that, unless you have unlimited funds, the right size is the smallest size that will carry everything you need to say, effectively. Effectively means legibly and with as much impact as can be mustered. Even a nice, big ad, if poorly conceived and badly executed will not have any results beyond emptying your wallet.
Never say no…
The idea here is to reduce your pitch to its simplest, most direct terms: “Want to find out?” “Buy this book”. One thing I always do when beginning to conceive ad copy, is to NEVER allow any question you pose to be answered by the reader, “no”. Questions are good things, but they must persuade the reader to respond in the way you intend. So, create a few alternatives and ask friends, other writers, people you meet (all carefully selected to be confirmed “members” of your target reader group, of course) which question holds their attention longer. It should be short, and to the point. It should convey emotion, and be connected – even obliquely – with the subject of your book. Just be sure that none of the possibilities can be answered by “no”, such as “Do you need to know what happened to little Judy?”
To get them to actually read your ad you’ll use graphics initially, to draw them in. We’ve discussed the importance of color in designing a book jacket and expanded that to using cover graphics in collateral pieces, such as bookmarks and flyers (The “One Page” that most book sellers and distributors expect to see). This carries over into print and online advertising as well. If you have designed an effective cover, then the chances are that an element of your cover graphics will make an effective ad. It also creates recognition for your book, by planting the seed, which may be useful later, as your reader browses a bookstore’s shelves and tables.
Use what you’ve already got…
If your cover conveys a particular emotion, as it should, then by all means, USE that in setting up your hook copy. Always bear in mind, however, that the reader of your ad will have less than a second to make the decision to read your copy, so keep it short and to the point. One real benefit of online advertising is that you don’t need to use up ad space with contact information. That’s what the link does for you.
Do it now: Click!
Just a single click, and your reader is transported to the wonderful world of online retail and sublime pitching. They don’t have to write down your bookseller’s address or remember a phone number! All they have to do is click that mouse button! That single act is what your online advertising is designed to do – get them to click on your ad. You don’t even have to direct them to do so – just make the ad compelling enough and they’ll do it.
One really good tool, that most ad responders appreciate, is the use of the link attribute “target”. I use target = “_blank” when setting up ad link codes, so that the link opens in its own new window, making a return to the medium content very easy. Look for it, if you’re using an online form for links. Using it, you’ll have moved the reader to a new stage where your pitch in all its glory can unfold properly.
Print ads are much more difficult to control and predict response in that they demand a lot of a reader. I believe it is better to use smaller print advertising to simply create recognition for your product. You’ll have other ways to draw them in once recognition is established.
For a reader of a print ad to respond directly, they will have to retain or write down the information you direct them to. If you pose a compelling question or make a strong statement in a compelling graphic setting and they see it enough times, your target reader may be motivated to respond when they are in, or close to a retail venue. Or they may respond in other ways leading to an eventual sale such as giving them the idea that your book is a wonderful gift for someone “special” (insert qualifier here).
Track, track and track…
Another device used for ads in print, besides creating recognition, is to offer the reader an opportunity to express themselves. This may be still easier to work into an online ad. Your ad may carry a suggestion that the reader’s own opinions or experiences are somehow meaningful to you, and you’d like to hear from them.
Responses from your advertised invitation can lead to your gathering a lot of data regarding the effectiveness of that medium and your ad design, but it can also overwhelm your in-box if you’ve done your job well, so use it with care. Always be sure to set up a special email address for this kind of response, so that your private in-box doesn’t get spammed. You can usually set up several “child” email accounts with most IPs, so that you can easily separate responses by mediums, etc.
Another tracking/response device you can use effectively, that also doubles as a direct sales motivator is the “coupon” code that will save the reader money. Savings appeal to almost everyone and depending upon your target readers, may be an important element to any ad you design. Specific coupon “codes” you create are also useful in tracking which mediums are more productive, so you use your media budget most effectively.
Of course, if budget is no consideration, you can just fill up the available media slots with your pitch, but most of us need to keep our costs down. Consider that each new use of any medium is really a test for that medium and for your ad’s effectiveness. Give it a few cycles to get enough exposure to determine if it works. If it doesn’t…move on. Find another medium on your list, or if you’re absolutely sure that your readers inhabit that medium, change your ad design.
Arriving at the correct mix of ad copy, design and media placement is an art that needs lots of cultivation. That’s why the top agencies and marketing consultants make the big bucks, but if you approach the entire process as a learning opportunity, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts in lots of ways you won’t even think of when you begin. The nuts and bolts may litter the floor when we’re finished, and you may have some sweeping up to do, but you’ll know where you want to go and how to get there.
Next week: Ad layout: What to keep in, what to throw out. Small can be good!