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The Complete Guide to Successful Advertising

Advertising is a miracle worker of our times. It has been a big factor in building businesses. It has had a major role in the development of this nation, promoting our high standard of living by making possible mass production and, consequently, lower prices. It has stabilized employment by creating all-year-round demand for products, such as canned soup, for example, which once was highly seasonal. But advertising the small business and the large industry are very different things. And it is important to bear in mind what advertising can do, how it may be used effectively and the limits of what should be expected of it.

Everyone who sells a commodity or service advertises in one way or another even those with very small businesses who never buy space in the newspapers, time on television, radio, or circulars which go through the mail or are placed on the doorstep. The "non-advertiser" gets his advertising through the talk of satisfied customers and friends, through his favorable contacts with others, the appearance of his place of business, his excellent service to his customers and in other things he does to cause people to like him and like to deal with him.

There are several basic factors a businessman, particularly a "small" business owner, should bear in mind about advertising: - Advertising is much more than simply laying out an effective ad or writing a clever sales presentation. - The kind of advertising which is best for some types of business may not be right for others. - Money can be wasted in advertising by failing to have adequate information about potential customers, by lack of experience or judgment, by spending too high a proportion of gross income and in other ways.

- And finally, it should always be kept in mind that the only purpose of advertising is to sell. Advertising which doesn't do this, directly or indirectly, should be avoided.

The retailer, because he must wait for customers to come to his store, needs advertising more than does the wholesaler or manufacturer who sometimes can depend more readily on his distribution network. He should not be fooled by the old saying, "If a man makes the best mousetrap, the world will beat a path to his door." It won't. The world will go to the door it hears about or the one most conveniently located and buy the second-best mousetrap.


The retailer's advertising, like all his relations with his customers, should be designed not only to get, but to keep customers. False or "sucker-bate" advertising should be avoided. It is expensive.

A customer who discovers that he has been "taken in" becomes an enemy. Better get one customer who will come back than ten who come once and advise others to stay away. The Los Angeles Farmers Market became a major business by telling the brutal truth, even to the extent of announcing that a shipment of fruit was bruised and overripe, or that today's cabbages are not much good but cheap. People aren't impressed by slick and extravagant advertising that doesn't live up to the truth.


The first step in advertising, as in anything else, is to do the groundwork. A business owner can begin by asking himself these questions:

1. Who are my potential customers?
2. How many are there?
3. Where do they live?
4. Can they get to me conveniently?
5. Should I plan to deliver to them?
6. Are they the kind of people who want charge accounts and delivery service?
7. Where do they now buy the things or service I want to sell them?
8. Can I offer them anything they are not now getting? How? What?
9. How can I convince them they should do business with me?

There are other questions which will emerge in the process of finding the answers. Some can be determined by studying maps, and by walking around a neighborhood and talking with people who know. One owner of a new convenience store made a survey quite by accident because the opening of his store was delayed a week. He had some small flyers printed and decided to spend the week putting them under doors himself to save the cost of hiring someone to do it.

A lady was standing in the doorway of the first house he came to. He greeted her with his best smile and told her of the opening of his business the following week and asked if she would try his store. The reaction to his friendly, courteous attitude was cordial. He had won a customer. Elated by his success, he rang every doorbell, putting his flyer under the door only where no one answered. He jotted down every address and, when he could, the names. When he opened his store he had a quite a number of visits from his new-found customer-friends.

He had learned, by the accidental meeting with the lady in the first house, that a friendly attitude makes friends and that no other advertising equals a friendly face-to-face contact. It was a valuable lesson.


There are many other ways to meet people under favorable circumstances. Joining the neighborhood improvement association, participating in civic activities, and so on, are acts of cooperation; but they make friends and they usually return to the business-owner more than he puts into them in time, effort and money. And it's always good business to support community development programs designed to make your town a better place in which to live and work and an attractive area for shopping.


A business-owner should never cease to "survey" or study his customers. Neighborhoods change. Customers' habits change. If he finds that a customer has drifted away, he should try at once to learn why.

Perhaps there has been a misunderstanding he can rectify. Or if he or an employee has offended a customer, there is a fault to correct before other customers are lost. If he finds he is beginning to get customers from an adjoining neighborhood beyond what he considers his logical area, he should find out why, then use that reason in advertising to others in the same area. What attracts one customer may sell that customers's neighbors.

The name for this practice of studying customers is "customer control;" and customers can definitely be controlled. The management of a highly successful department store in a city of 100,000 honestly believed that it never lost customers, but was finally persuaded to have a computer survey determine the names of all those who had made no purchases for six months. To those went a form letter simply asking why, and expressing the hope that nothing was wrong. Next day a Mrs. J. telephoned. "Since you have finally missed me," she said, "I'll be glad to tell you why if the manager will call at my home." The manager looked up her record. Until she stopped coming to the store 18 months before, she had made substantial purchases every month and had always paid her bills on time - the perfect customer. He drove to her home and learned what had offended her. She knew she had been an exceptionally good customer. But in the seven years she had been a customer of the store, no one, had ever called her by name. Finally, after she had seen the store manager greet many other women, ask about their children, etc., she decided she'd make them notice her. If I stop shopping there," she though, "they'll notice it right away and ask why." But they didn't notice, so she got more and more angry.

From that time on, the customers of that store were constantly studied. Winning back that one customer, the manager knew, was worth all the trouble and expense of the first study. And that experience changed the store's policy. Store managers and clerks now are trained to connect names with faces in the store. People like to be recognized. They like to be called by name.


The above incident illustrates one efficient and effective use of mail advertising. It should be noted, however, that the preparatory work in choosing the list was the most important factor. Mail advertising is rifle, not shotgun shooting. Thus, in any of the various ways it can be used effectively, there should be a specific message which is of interest to a specific group of people. Among the many other ways to use mail advertising are enclosures that go with monthly billing (don't send bills alone; make the stamp do its full job), telling regular customers of sales ahead of time (they appreciate the chance to make their choices before everyone hears of the sale), announcing a new service or product (sometimes the manufacturer or distributor will help pay for this), sending circulars or self-mailing folders cheaply at bulk mailing rates.

Advocates of mail advertising like to call it "direct mail advertising" and to point out that, as the name implies, it takes a message direct to the prospect. True enough, it does if the list is carefully studied and chosen. An automobile repair-shop, for instance, would limit its list to known automobile owners, perhaps in a limited area. It might limit the list further to owners of certain makes, as for example expensive foreign cars. Suppose, for example, there are no dealers in town for certain cars and hence, presumably, inadequate service. A car-repair shop which makes an offer to owners of these cars has a strong appeal in showing itself especially prepared to do a good job on their cars.

When almost anyone in a given area might respond to an offer, however, a "mass" medium is the one to use. The newspaper, radio, television, and billboards are mass media.


To use a newspaper, a store should be so located as to be convenient for people in almost the entire area covered by the newspaper's circulation and have a product or service that will appeal to them. Thus, while a department store can profitably use newspaper advertising, the small store which draws customers only from a few blocks around it cannot do so without paying too much for the benefit it is receiving. A department store, on the other hand, will find that newspaper ads are the cheapest and most effective medium. Sometimes small neighborhood weeklies have brought good results for neighborhood stores.

For many retail stores, especially supermarkets, Thursday and Friday evenings are considered the best days because Friday and Saturday are the big shopping days. Real estate brokers make wide use of Sunday papers, Sunday being the day people have time to look at houses in daylight. A little observation and inquiry easily determines the best days for any business to advertise.


One effective way of reaching the customers and potential customers in your market area - neighborhood or section of the city - without paying for more circulation than can benefit you is to use advertising in the public transportation system. Frequently the retailer can buy a display in the line or lines serving his own neighborhood - or his own market area, if it extends beyond a single neighborhood. The transportation lines are, of course, laid out to serve the people in various sections of the town or city, and by buying only those lines serving his area it is possible for the retailer to confine his advertising almost exclusively to his own customers and potential customers.

This medium features broad coverage at low unit cost, deep penetration, frequent repetition, and allows the use of attractive color in local advertising. It is a continuous form of advertising, appearing night and day, every day of the month. The message may be changed once a month at only the cost of new displays; if changes are made more often than once a month there is usually an additional space cost.


Handbills, business cards, circulars or other "throwaways" have been effective, especially for announcements of openings or sales. Like any form of advertising, they should be used smartly and the pitfalls should be avoided. Responsible distributors should be used who will avoid placing them where they will litter premises and irritate possible customers. It is unlawful to put circulars in home mail boxes. Some communities have ordinances forbidding the distribution of handbills.


Radio, like newspaper, is a mass medium. It can be an effective way of reaching large numbers of listeners, especially driving commuters in larger cities Competition for these listeners is intense, and the radio advertiser's problem is to reach the audience he wants. To do this requires careful selection of type and content of program or announcements, placement in the best available time periods, and frequent and continued repetition. Sponsors may buy complete program periods or use spot announcements. Obviously, the program is the more expensive, but repeated at a regular weekly or daily time, can build a faithful audience. On the other hand, spot announcements, a less expensive form of radio advertising, attract attention by their insertion during programming. Catching and holding the attention of the audience requires careful program planning; it also requires placing the announcements at the most desirable time to reach the audience. Therefore, target the time as well as the material to the types of customers you want to serve.

Frequency and repetition are essential to successful radio advertising. A minimum of 13 weeks is recommended for any radio campaign, even spot announcements. Usually in that time an advertiser has only begun to attract attention. However, once attention has been caught, radio can do a highly effective job of selling at a minimum cost per listener.

Night Clubs will often use unusual program periods. Real estate or insurance firms use talk-shows. Others may use spot announcement exclusively.


Television ranks highest as an advertising medium. Television advertising is much like radio, only somewhat more expensive. Outside of the spoken message, an art director must be employed, and perhaps one or more actors. Spots are more costly than radio, and only spot announcements are available generally. After midnight, the cost per spot advertisement falls, the later it gets. While it is comparatively expensive, small advertisers who meet the challenge of television budgeting with ingenuity and imagination will be the first to profit as the audience is vast.


There is no hard and fast rule as to how much a small business should spend on advertising. A general rule of thumb is to earmark about 3 to 4 percent of gross, but actually the amount may vary from zero to 10 percent and even more, depending on many factors - type of business, markup, volume of business, etc. A business so small that its advertising would make no impression in competition with others should be wary about meeting those competitors on their own ground and should carefully examine advertising alternatives.

A safe policy for a new business is to set aside a conservative amount, perhaps 2 percent of expected gross, and then watch results, increasing expenditures for those kinds of advertising which pay and cutting down on those which do not.

Another factor to determine, either at the outset or gradually from experience, is whether activities such as those mentioned previously - memberships, civic activity, etc. are to be charged to the advertising budget. Men's clothing store operators, for example, have won many customers by being active in clubs and have considered such memberships in the "public relations category. A large department store provides meeting rooms for women's groups and has made itself something of a civic center where people feel "at home." This activity obviously is a part of promotion overhead.

In any event, there should be a definite advertising budget and it should be spent. It is as poor a judgement to spend too little as too much; and it is easy to get busy with other things and forget to advertise, especially if things are going pretty well and no one in particular is in charge of advertising. The budget should show how much is to be spent each month or each season. Some seasons, in many businesses, call for more and some less.

The cost of advertising is part of the overhead the same as rent, utilities or wages. It is figured in the markup and is part of the selling price of merchandise or services.


The kind of advertising which fits one type of business will not necessarily get good results for others. The brutally frank, self-belittling copy used by the Los Angeles Farmers Market would lose its effectiveness quickly if everyone started to use it. There are certain things which every ad should accomplish.

These are:

1. Attract attention.

2. Secure interest.

3. Produce belief or conviction.

4. Get the prospect to act.

Another factor, leaving an impression on the memory or connecting with previous and subsequent ads, might be added to these fundamentals. To illustrate, a business will use the same style of type, border and signature cut in all its advertising.

Some businesses either have no one competent or no one with the time to prepare advertising and are not large enough to employ an individual solely responsible for advertising. These businesses may be well served by an experienced person otherwise employed who can handle it on a spare-time basis. An alternative is to use and advertising agencies which works primarily with small businesses.

Advertising should be brief, specific, direct and honest. Extravagant claims and fancy language should be avoided. A good test is for the advertiser to imagine himself saying personally to a customer what he says in the ad. If he can do so without feeling ridiculous or= embarrassed, it probably passes. A customer resents being fooled or having his intelligence underestimated.


Nearly everyone wants to know, "How much is it?" It is said people with large incomes want quality and service most of all, that middle income people are interested in quality, service and price, that low income people are after quantity and price. Nevertheless, it's a safe bet always to mention the price. Whether a customer wants less or more expensive merchandise, the price comes as close as anything to telling him whether it's what he wants.

Be specific. Don't say, "Men's handkerchiefs, $1.99 to $9.99." Say, "Irish Linen, full size men's handkerchiefs, $4.99." Center attention on one price. The customer will assume there are others, less and more expensive.

WHAT TO ADVERTISE [related books]

In selecting items or specific services to advertise, there are several things to keep in mind: timeliness, buying habits, variety or novelty, frequency of purchase.

One wouldn't, as an extreme examples, advertise lawn mowers in winter or snow shovels in summer. People must be offered what they want and when they want it. It is best to advertise the things they buy most often; but there also is strong appeal in offering something entirely new or novel such as a clever labor-saving kitchen gadget.


The window of a place of business is its "face." And the face of a business is its most constantly used advertising medium, just as a person's face usually is his first asset in impressing others.

It is said that half the sales of most businesses are made, at least in the first instance, by window displays. Merchants go to a lot of trouble and pay higher rent to locate on the busiest street and the busiest side of the street. Why? So many people can see their place. That is proof enough of the importance of making the window do its main job, which is, first, to bring the customer into the store and, second, to reflect the character of the store and the people who run it.

Any kind of business should put up a good "front, and the window is the first chance to say what a place sells, what it does and what kind of people are inside. Even such places as garages, filling stations and painting contractors, not usually associated with merchandising, have increased their business by the intelligent use of windows.

A painting contractor converted a former garage, primarily used for storage. He renovated the front, which had long been a neighborhood eyesore, so that it was attractive and artistic. What better way could he show his skill and good taste? The forward part of the building, into which passersby could look, was made into a retail paint store. He knew his retail business would not make a profit, but he had to have a clerk to answer the phone anyway and he hoped some sales that were made would develop into contracting jobs - which they did! In a few days, two women came in to buy a can of paint to freshen their front hallway. They were given just as careful advice as if it were a big purchase or job. The following week they were back. Their home, they said, was a big rooming house; and they wanted the courteous contractor to give them an estimate on redecorating all of it.

If a good "face" can sell for a painting contractor, it can sell even more frequently for the average retailer. As the most valuable selling space in the store, the window deserves study, planning, thought and work. It is not something which should be fixed up once and then left to gather dust and develop a faded appearance.

There are certain guides and principles to follow. They can be treated only briefly here. The name of the store should appear in or on the window, even though it is on a big sign above, so that a person looking into the window will see it. Glass and window display space should be kept spotlessly clean.

Displays should be changed frequently, even if only partly, for the same people pass every day. This provides interest and variety; it also prevents damage to stock from fading and dirt.

Tie-ins with seasons, holidays, local events, national advertising, etc., should be planned in advance so that the necessary materials may be obtained. A Easter, Mother's Day or Fourth of July window sells goods for two weeks in advance; the day after, it is dated and should be replaced promptly. A display of suntan lotions looks silly on a chilly, rainy September day.

A display should not be cluttered up or scattered. Goods should be related to each other; example: a hardware stores displays stepladders, sponges, window washing tools, wall cleaners, etc., at spring house cleaning time.

A window should present a simple, harmonious appearance, centering on one idea at a time - or at least one main idea.

The smart merchant keeps an advertising calendar which shows when he should be planning his window and other advertising to take full advantage of what's uppermost in people's minds. The calendar lists important holidays, seasons, beginning and end of the school year, etc. He also keeps a record of the kind of displays he uses, how long he keeps them in, the favorable or unfavorable comments, the known results in sales. Sometimes the display materials and placards may be used again if wrapped and put away carefully.


In arranging the inside of the store, there are many additional opportunities for display in and on show cases, counters, aisle tables, floor stands, ledges, niches, etc. A store should not be cluttered with displays, but no opportunity which is in good taste should be missed. There are few things which can do as much to win a reputation for being up to date as well lighted, well ventilated interior, with modern fixtures and an arrangement which makes shopping comfortable and convenient.

There are general rules which have been found successful. A principal objective or arrangement is to encourage the movement of customers through the whole store. Therefore, goods are no longer placed only on shelves along the walls behind wrapping counters. There are islands or groups of tables or show cases in the middle of the room, and they should be low so that the whole room may be seen. Counters for wrapping can be small; they should take no more room than is required. The merchandise which is bought most frequently should be best placed away from the mainlines of traffic flow so that shoppers going after them must pass impulse'' or "pickup" goods which they don't think of often and might be tempted, by seeing them, to buy. Related or complementary goods should be grouped together or placed near each other.

Except for a few things like jewelry, some foods and products that are easily damaged or soiled, merchandise should be displayed where customers can handle it and read price tags easily. There should be nothing to separate the customer from the merchandise. It is best not to arrange things so neatly that the shopper will feel they should not be touched.

Finally, the sales people are an equally important part of the general appearance of the store. They should follow a strict policy of being clean and neatly and inconspicuously dressed. The same rules as shown above apply both to large and small stores. While the small store has less space to consider, strategic display with the aim of best customer movement is just as important.

THE WAYS OF SUCCESS [related book]

The methods used by successful stores, big and little, are worth studying and copying. This is true as regarding windows, store layout, advertising, customer relations and everything that adds up to an effective operation. Alert businessmen save appealing ads they see in the papers or that come to them through the mail; perhaps there's an idea they can use some day. They make notes of effective methods they see or hear about or read in trade publications. Methods are constantly changing and improving. There is always some newer, better way of doing anything.


This advertising check list was developed to evaluate the effectiveness of retail advertising. Adverting copy which scores 70 points or better has proved to be satisfactory. Sample checking of your advertisements against this table occasionally is suggested.


1. Does the headline contain news value? 15

2. Is there a promise to the reader's self-interest? 15

3. Is there an appeal for direct action? 10

4. Is the advertisement of proper size for the importance of the

offer and for its most favorable presentation? 10

5. Is the advertiser's signature clearly displayed? 5

6. Is the merchandise or service mentioned in the head-line? 3

7. Does the headline include the name of the business? 2

8. Does the illustration show the merchandise or service in use? 5

9. Does the illustration invite the reader to project himself intoit pleasantly, profitably, or favorably? 3

10. Does the layout locate elements logically and eye-catching? 5

11. Is the layout exciting or attention compelling? 3

12. Does the copy tell what is new, different, or better about the

merchandise or service, especially from the style angle? 3

13. Does the copy inspire enthusiasm for the merchandise or service? 3

14. Does the copy have a definite ring of truth and sincer- ity? 5

15. Does the copy tell that the merchandise or service is priced to save money? 2

16. Does the copy tell that the product is guaranteed, lasting and gives good service? 3

17. Does the copy develop and appeal to price? 2

18. Does the copy or illustration imply the merchandise increases sex appeal? 3

19. Does the copy tell why the merchandise is so priced?..1

20. Does the copy tell of the seasonal appeal of the merchandise? 1

21. Does the copy describe the merchandise or service with reasonable completeness? 2

22. Does the copy indicate a personal loss for not buying or using the product? 1

23. Are all negative thoughts connected with the product eliminated from the copy? 2

24. Does the copy indicate enthusiasm of users, such as testimonials? 2

25. Does the copy bring out unique advantages of the merchandise or service over competitive products?

26. Is the urge to action repeated three times - in the heading, in first paragraph, and in closing? 5

27. Is the price displayed so it will command sufficient attention? 3

28. Is there a free deal, free offer, free trial, or something free included? 3

29. Have all details to facilitate action been included? (Phone number, fax number, store hours, mention of special facilities, parking, etc.)

Just Remember: When business is good - it pays to advertise; when business is bad you've got to advertise.

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