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19 Secrets That Increase Response to Print Ads

Have you ever purchased a display ad in the newspaper and then not received a single call? Or placed an ad in a magazine, only to conclude that no one ever saw it? What went wrong? Here are seven common reasons prospects don’t respond to ads.

  1. Prospects don’t see your ad because no graphic image captures their attention.
  2. Prospects don’t read your ad because the headline does not promise them anything they want.
  3. Prospects don’t respond because your words are weak and uninteresting.
  4. Prospects don’t believe what you say.
  5. Prospects don’t respond because you don’t present a clear offer.
  6. Prospects don’t respond because they don’t know what you want them to do.
  7. Prospects intend to respond but they aren’t motivated to act now. They set your ad aside, something else comes up, and you’re history.

To help you save money, time and aggravation—and to help you keep from losing business to other lawyers—follow these 19 secrets.

Secret #1: Make sure your ad contains one large, dark element
It may be a heavy black headline, a photograph or an illustration—anything that is big and dark. Try this: Open a newspaper and notice which ad you see first. You’ll discover that the ad that gets your attention right away is the ad that contains the largest and darkest single element. A small ad can draw more attention than a big ad if the small ad contains the largest and darkest element on the page.

Secret #2: Make sure your headline is large and bold
Narrow typefaces aren’t wide enough to attract attention. So, make sure the font you choose for your headline is large, wide, bold and easy to read. This way, readers scanning the page cannot help but see your headline. And if your headline contains a powerful message, it will seize your prospects’ attention and stop them in their tracks.

Secret #3: Use a simple layout and avoid clutter
One large picture works better than several small pictures. You want to help your prospects’ eyes flow smoothly from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of your ad. If you obstruct that flow, make sure the obstruction is a vital part of your advertising message.

Secret #4: Never let your artwork overwhelm your words
What you say is always more important than how the ad looks. Don’t use so many photos or illustrations that your reader cannot follow your message. No matter what you are advertising, never let your artwork overwhelm your words. Make sure that your artist understands and abides by this basic commandment.

Secret #5: Do not print words across a photograph or illustration, even if the image appears only faintly on the page
When you print words across a photograph, you shoot yourself in the foot because, in most cases, the words are too hard to read. As a result, the reader turns the page and you lose a prospect. If you want to make your ad appear artistic or stylish, find another way—because when you print words on top of pictures, you greatly reduce your ad’s impact. (To see how overprinting can hurt you, look for examples in newspapers or the yellow pages. They are easy to spot because the ads are nearly impossible to read.)

Secret #6: Get the main point of your message into your headline
Four out of five readers do not read past the headline. So, if you depend on the body of your ad to tell your story, you are wasting 80% of your money. The headline is the only part of the ad most people read.

Secret #7: Make sure the headline tells your readers how they benefit from hiring your services
Every headline has one job: to stop your prospects and get them to read your ad. The quickest and easiest way to stop your prospects is by promising them something they want. So, in your headline, tell your prospects how they will benefit from hiring your services.

Secret #8: Your headline should point out how you are different from your competitors
If your prospects do not know how you differ from other lawyers, they have no reason to choose you over someone else. But when prospects value your positive differences, they have good reasons to hire your services. Your headline should instantly convey your competitive advantages, so prospects know immediately what makes you different from everyone else.

Secret #9: Don’t skimp on facts
If you want your prospects to hire you, you should answer every question they might ask. This means you’ll be lengthy, but don’t worry. Long copy sells. Not because it’s long, but because it’s complete. If you reach interested prospects, they will read all the copy you give him. But you cannot expect prospects to hire you if they don’t have enough information to decide.

Secret #10: If you make a claim, prove it
Support your claims with facts, figures, testimonials, case histories. Words like “experience”, “qualified” and “results” aren’t proof of anything. They are simply unsupported claims. Positive, specific statements build the credibility you need so your prospects believe what you say.

Secret #11:Get to the point—FAST!
Your prospect’s first question is always, “What’s in it for me?” Many lawyers take too long to get to the main benefit. Don’t save your most important benefit until last. Put it in the first paragraph. One basic principle of advertising is to fire your biggest gun first.

Secret #12: Write the way you talk
Always use down-to-earth, everyday language. Ask yourself, would most of my prospects understand what I’m saying? When you write in plain English, you increase your ad’s readership. And the better your readership, the better your response. Look for ways to warm up your copy—to make it friendlier and more personal.

Secret #13: Tell prospects what they will lose if they don’t hire your services
Remember this important principle: The fear of loss is greater than the desire for gain. This means your prospects fear losing something more than they want to gain or achieve something.
Many ads tell prospects what they will gain from hiring your services. But few ads point out what prospects will lose if they do not hire you. Point out to prospects that if they don’t hire you, their situation may persist and could even grow worse. Discuss the problems they could face if they don’t hire you.

Secret #14: Don’t waste words
Examine each word in your ad. Is it necessary? Does it help get your prospects to act now? If it doesn’t help, it hurts—because it distracts your readers from the important parts of your message. If you don’t need a word, get rid of it. Lean writing looks better, reads better, and it’s easier to understand. It moves your prospect to action. So, don’t waste words.

Secret #15: Tell your prospects exactly what you want them to do
Many lawyer ads do not ask prospects to do anything. They simply hope the readers can figure it out for themselves. If your prospects are interested enough to read your ad, they want to know how to respond. So, tell them what you want them to do: “Call today to schedule a free consultation.” “Register now for our free seminar.” “For full details, visit our website at” If you want your prospects to respond, don’t leave them guessing. Tell them exactly what you want them to do.

Secret #16: Invite telephone calls and emails
Many people are shy. They want to talk with you, but they know most lawyers are busy. They don’t want to interrupt what you are doing, so they hesitate to call. Eventually, their reluctance becomes permanent and you have lost another client. Make sure prospects know you welcome their calls and you’re happy to talk with them over the telephone.
For many lawyers, email inquiries are a better option because they don’t interrupt what you’re doing. Plus, you can respond when you get a moment.

Secret #17: Make sure your telephone number and your email address are easy to find and easy to read
If your prospects read your ad, don’t make it hard for them to respond. Feature your telephone number and email address in large, easy-to-read, bold type. No fancy scripts. No fine print. If your readers can’t find your contact information—or if they have trouble reading it—they won’t bother. They will simply call someone else.

Secret #18: Offer to give advice over the telephone
Meeting with you in person is often a burden for prospects. If your hours end at 5 p.m., your prospects may need to take time off work to meet with you. Then they will have to fight traffic and find a place to park. Plus, they may have to rush their meeting with you, so they can get back to work on time. When you offer to provide information over the telephone, you make getting advice convenient for your prospects. This helps you establish your credibility in a calm, unhurried telephone call. Then, when you suggest an in-person meeting, your prospects will be more open to your suggestion.

Secret #19: Include a toll-free number so prospects can reach you without paying for a long-distance phone call
How many times have you prepared to make a call—and then changed your mind when you learned the call was long distance? Today’s consumers want good service and part of good service is not asking prospects to pay money to call you. If you want to increase response to your ads, provide a toll-free number.

Trey Ryder

Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesMarketing

About the Author: Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions That Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to and ask for his free packet of marketing articles.

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