When you don’t have the time or resources to have print advertisements professionally made, getting started can be daunting. But it is possible for small businesses to create attention-grabbing ads, even when they’re on a tight budget. If you’ve ever dabbled in print advertising or thought about it, check out these tips, tactics and examples, and start creating ads that resonate with your target customers.

What to include in every advertisement

  1. Your logo or business name. If your business’s logo or name doesn’t contain what you do, make sure to clarify that in the ad. For example, saying “Klimisch’s Inc. Collision Repair” instead of just “Klimisch’s Inc.”
  2. A CTA (call to action) with supporting contact information. Say exactly why people should contact your business and what you can do for them. For example, “Call us at (415) 000-0000 to save money on home insurance today.”
  3. Information about your business. Explain what your business does and how you intend to help your potential customers. Don’t go overboard with the copy because you want to make sure they can read it quickly and easily.
  4. Supporting visual elements like a photo or graphics. This can be your logo, a picture of your business or a graphic related to your business.

Design guidelines

Don’t know anything about graphic design? That’s ok — you can make sure your ads are as visually compelling as possible by following these simple guidelines.

  1. Create a hierarchy of information. Choose the information from the above list that’s most important and make it the main element of the ad. Every piece of information in your ad should be weighted according to its importance. It’s hard to read an ad in which everything is the same size.
  2. Remember, less is more. Don’t overwhelm people with information. Keep it as simple as possible while getting useful information across to the viewer.
  3. Use your space wisely. Don’t use every inch of white space because you can. Leave some “breathing room” so people can digest your message.
  4. Use contrasting colors. Strike the right balance between fonts and backgrounds to make sure that your copy is readable. The best combo is dark type on a light background because it’s easier to read.
  5. Think hard about typographyUse mostly sans-serif fonts, use different font sizes to highlight the importance of the copy. However, don’t use too many font types or too many font colors (think one or two max). The biggest font offenders that tend to thoroughly annoy people include comic sans, curlz and papyrus.
  6. Review and edit. Have at least one other person who isn’t working on your ad read it over to make sure there aren’t spelling errors, incorrect information or missing information.

Putting it all together

Here are some examples from a local newspaper featuring small business ads to illustrate how all of the above components come together.

Drake’s Brewing Company — Bold, contrasting colors as well as high-quality photography make this ad stand out. The copy is minimal but still manages to describe what they have to offer (“beer garden, 40 taps, wood-fired pizza”).

AK Badminton & Tennis — A little color and a lot of white space go a long way. This ad is easy to read and the copy and imagery illustrate exactly what customers can expect from the company. You’ll also notice that the business logo is front and center, helping AK Badminton & Tennis build brand awareness.

Stay Gold Delicatessen — Along with its simple, contrasting color scheme, this one has all the information you need (address, hours of operation, website address, phone number and special pricing). There is a clear call to action (“Check out our happy hours at both locations”) and the fonts are varied to emphasize important details.

Pedal Express — The stylized map in this one not only makes the ad more visually appealing, but it also shows the areas where this courier service operates. The ad also includes a quick one-liner to give prospective customers a little background information about the company: “worker-owned and operated since 1994.”

These are all print ads but the same elements apply to online ads. The most important part of advertising is to show who you are as a company, so have a little fun with it! And remember to ask for the “specs” or specifications for each ad. This will tell you what ad size is needed, the resolution, bleed or no bleed, acceptable formats (i.e., jpg, tiff, pdf), unacceptable formats (i.e., Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher) and whether it’s full color or black and white.

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Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in August 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2019, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.