Amy KennelYou only have about five seconds (or less) to attract someone’s attention to your print ad. Using the following seven tips can help you create effective print ads and improve response rates.

1. Determine one objective.
Before you begin working on your print ad, determine the one thing you want your reader to do after he or she reads it. Perhaps it’s to call for a free retirement planning guide or to visit your Web site to calculate their life insurance needs. Avoid the urge to offer more than one thing or everything. If you focus on your one communications objective, your audience will, too.

2. Define your target audience.
Who do you want to read your message? Is it retirees? Pre-retirees? Business owners? Women? Defining your target audience will help you choose language and visuals that speak directly to them and their specific needs.

3. Choose attention-getting visuals.
Effective print ads are typically comprised of a visual, a headline, body copy, and a signature (in that order). If you have the space to include a visual, consider using a realistic photograph that mirrors your target audience. Research shows that about 70% of people notice visuals in print ads, so make your photo or illustration the most prominent and interesting part of your message (at least half of your ad space). (More: 5 design tips for direct mail pieces)

4. Create a strong, short headline.
The second most-noticed portion of a print ad is your headline. About 30% of people read print ad headlines. Effective headlines are relatable and evoke emotions. Make your readers curious. Tickle their funny bone. Get them thinking. And do it in 15 words or less.

5. Make it easy to read your body copy.
The purpose of body copy is to explain your headline and to make your argument for why your reader should respond. Here, your copy should be short, compelling, and focused on benefits. Use “you” frequently and avoid talking about yourself and your agency. Only about 5% of people will notice or read your body copy. To make your body copy easy to read, place it below your headline. Doing so can help transition your reader into your message. Also, consider using sub-headlines that call out your key points.

6. Restate your offer in your signature.
The signature is noticed by about 15% of readers. Your signature should be placed in the lower right-hand corner of your print ad and should include your agency’s name, address, and phone number. Just above your signature, restate your offer in a specific statement such as: Call today to order your complimentary guide “What Every Woman Needs to Know About Life Insurance.” Non-specific statements such as “Call for more information” should be avoided because they do not encourage people to respond.

7. Get feedback.
Once you’ve completed your print ad, ask friends, family members, or colleagues to give it the “five-second scan” test. Simply ask them to take a five-second look at your ad and then tell you the print ad’s main message. If they are unclear, consider revising your visual elements and headline.

More Sales and Marketing Tips from Amy Kennel.

Amy Kennel is a communications consultant who specializes in insurance, financial services, and retirement planning. She owns Insurance Marketing Concepts, LLC, based in Des Moines, Iowa. You can contact Amy Kennel by calling 515-289-6413 or by sending her an email at aakennel@gmail.com