1. Always repeat the basics in your ads. These include your name, address, credit cards that your business accepts and the name of a person to ask for when calling your gallery. You never know when someone will read your ad for the first time and want more information. A month never went by in our shops without a customer saying something like, "You have nice merchandise; how long have you been here?" We'd smile and say, "Oh quite a while," while suppressing the desire to yell out, "More than 45 years; where have you been?"
2. Promise a benefit or provoke curiosity in the headline
The average person spends only four seconds before turning a newspaper page. In those four seconds, they first look at the news headlines. Then they look at the ads starting with the headline you've written for your gallery's ad. The average woman only reads four ads in an entire newspaper, so put news into your headline. Key words that will make the reader continue reading include: new, just-arrived, first-time and unique.
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On average, five times as many people read the headline of your ad versus the copy, says advertising guru David Ogilvy. If your headline doesn't sell your product, you've wasted 90 percent of your money. It starts with your headline. It must either promise a benefit or provoke curiosity. This was proven to us many times in headlines we wrote.
We once returned from a buying trip in Helsinki, Finland, where we purchased winter jackets for our stores. This was our first headline for these jackets: "We went to Hell-sinki and Back To Bring You These Jackets." We thought using the word "hell" was very clever. Sadly, the readers didn't think so. Few read the ad. Fewer bought jackets. The main reason--the ad was merely clever. We quickly changed the headline to read, "In Our Thirty Years In Business, We Never Sold So Many Jackets In So Short a Time." That promised a benefit and a reason for reading on. We then listed 10 specific qualities in these jackets not available anywhere else. We sold 50 jackets in a few days.
Question: Should you use the name of your gallery in the headline? Answer: Only if there's a special reason. Example: "Only at (name of your gallery) will you find (name of exclusive item)."
3. Using the word "you" in the headline increases readership
A survey taken of the most successful newspaper ads ever written revealed one word was used in these winners more than any other: "You."
4. Try different head. lines for the same product
Advertising guru John Caples says he tried different headlines for the exact same product and one would pull as much as 20 times more business than the others. But you'll never know which one works best until you try them. Doubleday Books ran this headline successfully for years: "Buy any of these four books for 99 cents." This worked well until a competitor came up with the same offer but a different and more effective headline: "Buy three books for 99 cents--get one FREE."
5. Offer that which is unique, different and yours alone
These might include a specific artist and/or services such as free gift wrapping, free delivery and a must-be-satisfied guarantee. Other galleries may offer something similar--but since you said it first, you own it. By doing so, you are establishing your own brand.
Elaine Estern of Coconut Coast Studios in St. John, Virgin Islands, has done just that. She explains, "My gallery only carries my art work. I paint the above and below water scenes in the same painting. I am the only artist in the Caribbean that paints these 'two world' scenes" (For more on Elaine Estern and Coconut Coast Studios, see "Galleries Aim for Many Happy Returns," on page 54.)
As for our own shops, we went to Europe every year to buy clothing to sell. When the European items arrived, we committed the majority of our advertising dollars to these items, even though they accounted for just 10 percent of open-to-buy inventory. Why? Because these were items that our competitors did not have. We soon became known as the only place you could buy "distinctive" clothing. The customer associated everything we carried with that which was different, unusual and (most of all) exclusive--even though it made up only a small percentage of our total inventory.
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6. Show a "proof" of ads you plan to use to friends without revealing that they're yours
Ask if they think they know the name of the local gallery that's planning to run the ads. If several mention your competition, tear up the ads and start all over again. Your advertising should "look" and "sound" like you. Readers should recognize your style and immediately associate your ad with your gallery.
Once we ran an ad in the local paper advertising a sale on men's jackets. But the paper forgot to include our store's name in the ad. That day we sold a substantial number of the jackets. I asked one customer how she knew it was our store that was having the sale. She said she saw our name in the ad. I brought the paper to her, pointed out the ad and said, "Look. The ad doesn't have our name in it?' She looked it over carefully and then said, "In my paper at home, it has your name." The point is, she knew what our advertising looked like. So she assumed it had our name in it. This was the best advertising compliment we ever had.
7. You can't sell more than one item (maybe two)in a 30-second TV or radio ad
If you promote your gallery's annual sale, you can't list a half-price sale on posters, one-third off on the following artists (you list five or six), special hours open for your sale and more information in this narrow time flame. The customer will not remember all you've said and will quickly forget the first items mentioned. Listing a variety of items works better in print because the potential customer is reading all of them and can refer back to the ones they find most interesting. The eye is more retentive than the ear.
8. Avoid superlatives and exaggerations
No one believes words like the greatest, unbelievable or fantastic offer.
9. Use testimonials
Through the years, I've seen hundreds of gallery ads. I'm still waiting for one that has favorable comments and/or recommendations from a gallery's current customers. (Just use their initials and their towns to insure their privacy). When you write how good you are at your selection of art, framing and customer approval--that's you talking, and it's not nearly as powerful as a customer saying the same things.
10. Be specific and factual
The amount of time anyone spends on reading your ad depends on how interesting it is to read. So provide facts and solid information. The more specific the information you provide, the greater the response. Put yourself in the reader's position and consider what would make you keep on reading an ad? If you follow these ideas, you'll be surprised at how your sales will increase. You might find yourself in the envious position of Rollie La Marche from Picture This Gallery in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, who says, "Not only do we advertise our attention to customer service, but we actually take extra time to know our clients. They bond with us because we take care of them." One customer was so appreciative of Rollie's individual attention that she spent $3,000 just on framing. And, she sent him flowers for his exceptional care as a "thank you."