Local advertisers: key ways to p*ss off potential customers

What with we-weeing and more we-weeing being discussed at some length across the social media lately, with most comments and observations being positive and curative (!!) several readers have asked me to go into a bit more detail on the cringe making mistakes some local advertisers make with their hard-earned ad budgets in local magazines and other publications.

Local advertising mistakes on How To Write Better

Where I did my research on local advertising

In order not to get all the air let out of the tyres on my car and/or my house being burned down, I decided to preserve anonymity and gathered together a selection of local magazines – the types that are handed out free or put through mailboxes – from a number of locations in and around central England. These tend to be produced on glossy paper in either A4 or A5 sizes.

The common denominators were frightening in their vastness – it didn’t seem to matter what English county or city was involved. Everyone was making the same basic advertising mistakes that can be the difference between capturing live leads and losing them. Here, then are the main issues local advertisers need to put right. (I’m writing about the actual words and phrases that p*ss readers off in a few days’ time.) NB: I have NOT made any of these up…

Meaningless headlines sell diddly squat

One of the best examples of this was in a full page ad for an estate agency (real estate brokerage). The image was of a high-rise apartment building and the headline read, “Raise Your Expectations.” Where? Why? What’s in it for me? Should I be looking for a roof garden? The only other copy on the page was the name of the company and contact details. Not only is this headline vague, but also it’s rather patronising and rude and offers nothing to the reader other than an expectation of pompous hot air. Such a waste of a whole page ad spend.

Another pearl was “The Difference Is Crystal Clear” … what would this be for? A window cleaning service? A water purifying product? Maybe a double glazing (storm windows) company? Nope. It was for a company that makes and sells front doors with windows in them. OK, I sort of get where they were going with this but where’s the benefit? Why not something like “Instantly brighten up your home with a new XXXXX door?

Then I found “See The Range Of XXXXX Sculptures.” That one wins my SO WHAT? prize for the week. 12 scrappy little photos followed showing some examples, ending with the name of the company selling them and the location of the store. What about the products themselves? What would they do for me? What would my mother-in-law think if I gave her one as a gift? Maybe something like, “A Fascinating Finishing Touch For Your Home” …?

The moral of this story, as is the case in all local advertising (and national, for that matter), is never mind what you think is a choice of clever words. Clever headlines are best left to the big fashion and perfume brands who a) can afford to spend millions on ad campaigns and b) have very little to differentiate themselves from their competitors, so have to hire expensive copywriters to wring some pretty prose out of a brand image. Local advertising needs to be simple and direct if it’s going to get those leads and conversions coming in.

Meaningless images for the sake of including a picture

Wow, did I see some horrors when I was researching this. Probably the best example I saw was a company advertising flooring and carpets. Now, you’d think they would use an illustration of some beautiful, pristine flooring just installed in a happy customer’s home, wouldn’t you? But no. The pix here – two of them – were of racks upon rack of flooring samples in the company’s magnificent showroom (see next section) of which they were obviously very proud. What on earth would attract me to that? I could almost see mice running around on the floor and glimpse a forklift truck just beyond the window.

For more articles and tutorials that help you improve your local advertising, click right here on HTWB

The whole point of including images is to add a dimension to the main selling message. Here, the selling message should be something like “First-Class Flooring That’s A Member Of Your Family” and if you can’t show something to enhance that – child and puppy playing on it, perhaps? – then it’s better not to show anything at all.

Largest showrooms and warehouses etc.

Once again, what’s in it for me? I know you’re proud of your premises and are probably staying up most nights wondering how you’re going to repay the loan for it, but as a customer I don’t care, as I mentioned in this article. What matters to customers is the quality of your product/service and how it will solve a problem for them – not how long it will take them to walk from one end of the showroom to the other.

The size of the place is NOT a perceived benefit for the customer, so if you want to avoid sounding boastful and amateurish, include something like “Come and make your choice this weekend at our new X,000 square foot showroom” near the bottom. Better still, leave it out altogether.

Your new website is NOT a perceived benefit for customers

I was amazed at the number of local ads that flashed up something along the lines of “Come And Take A Look At Our Brand New Website!” I really can sympathise at how important a good website is for any business, and of course I know the agony and teeth-pulling that companies often go through when having a new site built … I witness it often enough when I have written the text for them and they then go through all the growing pains of development.

But yet again, customers don’t care. They don’t care if your website is old or new as long as it works. The fact that your new site works many times better as an eCommerce operation and leads prospects through the sales funnel gently but firmly, “helping them to buy,” is brilliant for you and your business. To brag about it makes you look amateurish and almost childish. So where the customer is concerned, it will just have to be our little secret…

So, these are the main areas where local advertisers go wrong

There are many more, but you’ve probably had enough to think about in this 1,000 word piece above! Needless to say if you have any questions on how to avoid the local advertising we-wee syndrome and make your ad copy more effective, drop me a note on suze@suzanstmaur.com and I will answer as well as I can.

Or, share your thoughts and questions right here in the comments…