Classified Ads

Classified Advertising may not be fashionable and trendy but they are lower cost than display advertising and can work well if your customers are looking in the classified ads.


  • Low cost specialised or local advertising where people are looking to buy – even on the Internet – + others – day & section
  • Headline, offer & call to action, contact details
  • Be careful of abbreviations and jargon
  • Write a selection of ads, pick the best & test
  • “Safe Contact” – recorded telephone message – website/video
  • Become a regular – repetition & one off readers

The purpose of search marketing is to be where your prospective customers are looking and that often means the classified advertisements in local newspapers and specialist magazines.

When I qualified as an accountant and felt it was time to switch jobs, (about the time dinosaurs roamed the world and there was no Internet) I used to look in the Financial Times on a Thursday and The Birmingham Post on a Friday. OK I wasn’t looking to buy but an advertisement from a career coach about how to get your ideal finance job could have caught my attention and persuaded me to respond.

Incidentally when I became self employed, one of the services I wanted to provide was that of a part time Finance Director and i still looked in the classified and wrote to companies who were advertising who I thought may be interested. While I wasn’t willing to work the hours they wanted, I had an argument based on the 80/20 principle and I offered to save them a lot of money.

Even now, if I wanted a part time cleaner for my house or a gardener, I’d probably get the local paper and take a look at the classified ads to see if anyone was offering their services before I considered writing my own ad. Take a look at your local newspapers – free and paid for – and see what is on offer. Like the Yellow Pages, regular advertising suggests that people are making it work over the long term.

Classified ads have moved onto the Internet with which probably has a local section near you. I’ve never used it to buy or sell but it’s worth checking out. There are other online classified listings for niche markets.

The format of a good classified ad is very simple and has three parts:

  • A headline which attracts attention – see the guidance on headlines in Outreach Marketing
  • A compelling offer which makes people want to respond
  • Contact details – telephone number or website

If you’ve ever looked in the personal ads you’ll see lots of abbreviations because people pay by the word. You may know what GSOH means (good sense of humour) but beware of using jargon and acronyms that your target customers don’t understand. it doesn’t take much to give someone a reason not to respond.

A good classified ad may be 30 or 40 words long so it doesn’t take long to write. See that as an opportunity to create ten or twenty alternatives. Then pick the best three and test so you get proof that one works consistently better. You can then use that as the control and test improvements.

Make it seem safe to respond to a classified ad. There is little space to create trust so people will be wary about walking into a trap and fear a hard sell which is difficult to escape from. You can ease these fears by telling people to go to a recorded message with more details or a website with a video.

That is an easy step and the potential buyer still feels in control.

Finally don’t see your classified advertising as a one-off or an occasional event.

Repeated messages build confidence so you get the same lovely compounding effect that TV ads have. Mild interest can become stronger over time.

Secondly, some of your buyers will only check the classified when they have an immediate need. Regular advertising catches these people whenever they look but occasional advertising is likely to miss them (Sod’s Law).

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