Print Advertising Tips for Local Businesses

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Marketing and Sales Blog Posts, Business Growth Tips Blog

print advertising tips

9 Reasons Why Your Print Ads Aren’t Generating More Leads and How to Fix It

If you want to attract more customers to your local business, having print advertising tips should be a foundational part of your marketing mix. Print Advertising serves to increase awareness, visibility, and mindshare; particularly, if you’re trying to attract more local customers to your business.

I started running print advertising in 1992 with my first business in the direct sales industry. Since then, I continued to run many different types of ads to promote three other local businesses that I started from ground zero, turn-keyed, and later sold. That means for over two decades, I have tested, measured and tested again to figure out the formula for what makes some print advertising get a higher response than others.

Whether it’s advertising in magazines, newspapers, direct mail, radio, or billboards, the first key lesson I learned quickly is this; you just can’t throw an ad together on a whim, let that same ad run for a year to then evaluate if advertising works for your business or not.

If you want advertising to work, you have to work at improving your ads. Share on X

So, unless you’ve hired an experienced, competent marketing manager who is trained in direct response copywriting, advertising, media buying and marketing for your specific industry, then as the owner of your business, it’s your job to keep testing and improving your ad copy, design, layout and offers.

Once you learn how to do this, you can test and improve your ads in less than 20 minutes a week. Keep in mind, however, that advertising works on repetition.

If your ad has only been published a few times in the same publication, that is way too early to determine if advertising is working or not working for you. But, in the meantime, make sure you avoid making these 9 classic print advertising mistakes

#1. The headline does not speak to what they care about.

Remember that no one opens the publication to sit and read ads. The headline in your ad needs to grab their attention and get them interested in skimming the rest of your ad. Some ads I find don’t even have a headline at all. Often, you’ll see ads that have the name of their business at the top where the headline should actually go.

While some people may still read your ad, I find you end up getting a lot more people to notice and remember your ad when you use a curiosity or benefit-driven headline.

#2. The ad copy ONLY tells them what you do.

Let’s say you’re a landscaping business and your ad copy simply says:


  Joe’s Landscaping

  • Hardscape; Landscape

  • Design and Installation

  • Property Maintenance

Address … Website … Phone Number


You have to keep in mind that your prospects will see numerous other ads from 47 other landscaping businesses that do exactly what you do. Often, some of your competitors will be print advertising in the same publication you’re in. Your ad should tell them what makes your business stand out from the rest in just a few words.

#3. The design layout focuses the eye on the wrong thing.

Take the 2-second test. What is the first thing you notice when you glance at your ad in 2 seconds? Show your ad to 10 people and ask them the same question if the first thing people notice isn’t the headline or an attention-grabbing photo your design layout is bringing attention to the wrong thing.

#4. The text in the ad is not easy to read.

Remove anything in your ad that makes your reader strain to read or look at your ad. Blue text over a dark grey photo is not easy to read. A lot of font styles are tough to read. Sometimes a graphic designer might try a shadow effect on the font, but it will hurt your ad if it makes the text too hard to read.

#5. There’s too much text.

Remember, an ad is not an article. People don’t read ads they skim. Trying to get them to read too much makes them read nothing at all. And of course, the smaller the ad size you buy, the less space you have for text.

#6. Your services are not specific enough.

When you buy a bigger ad size, you have more room to share more information about your business. This is a great opportunity to outline some of your popular services, but you need to be more descriptive.

Whether you’re a caterer, a relationship coach, or an elder law attorney, be more specific in what services you offer. You may think “catering for all occasions” is specific, but you’ll trigger more reasons to call your business if you specified things like:

  • 40th, 50th, 60th+ Birthday Parties
  • Baby Showers
  • Backyard BBQ’s, Picnics
  • Cocktail Parties, Holiday Parties
  • Graduations
  • Weddings

#7. Poor choice of images.

A great image can grab attention, boost your brand and support the core message you’re trying to convey in your ad. However, choosing the wrong image can really plummet an ad’s effectiveness.

Choose a photo of something your reader cares about, sells your work, and/or grabs their attention. I hate to break this to you if you’re in the trade business, but a picture of your company work van does not make the list of something your reader cares about.

#8. You’re selling the wrong thing.

Remember, in print advertising people are driven more by emotions than they are by product messages. If you sell pool tables, you’ll get a greater response if you change your headline from “we sell pool tables” to promoting an emotional driver like:

“making family game night a tradition” or
“every man needs a man-cave.”

#9. There’s no call to action in your ad.

Simply saying call now with your phone number is not really an effective call to action. The best call to actions (CTA’s) are geared to generate leads of potentially interested prospects rather than a CTA to buy now or hire you now.

Brainstorm different calls to action you can promote each month in your print advertising. Can you host a workshop, a social, an open house, a special event at your place of business? Offering a free lead magnet is also a great call to action to include in your ad.

Ok, so there you have it. I just shared the 9 most common mistakes I see small business owners making in your print advertising. I want to help you take action on what you just learned, so I created a free template you can use to help you avoid these print advertising mistakes and start generating more leads from your local business..

If you need help coming up with your wow factor message that’s laid out by professional graphic designers, book a complimentary discovery call to see how we can help you. 



QUESTION: What question can I answer for you about advertising your business? Please share your comments or questions below:


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  1. Erica Gilbert

    Yoon, those are some excellent suggestions! Print marketing is incredibly effective at capturing the attention of consumers. However, I feel it is critical to target the proper demographic and have a clear message using a suitable image for a successful campaign.

  2. Yoon Cannon

    I definitely agree with you Erica. It needs to score well in multiple factors to effectively grab attention, interest, desire and action in the brand awareness campaign.


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