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Less is more - tips on print advertising for small businesses.

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

Magazine advert designs.

Chances are we've all tried designing a print advert at some point in our lives. Maybe it was for a school event, maybe it was for a community fundraiser, maybe it's for your new business. It seems like one of those things that's easy to do (and it can be) but it's best sit back and think about it first rather splash right in and hurl everything onto the page. After all the effort you've put into setting up your business or event, you don't want it to be let down by a poor advert. Let's look at some of the common pitfalls small businesses and other promoters fall into when creating their print adverts, be they posters, flyers or adverts in the local paper.

Too much information

You've got a great product or event. There's loads of selling points. So you may well be tempted to try cram all this information onto one sheet. Unfortunately, that in itself can undermine your product. Think about it for a second - do you pay attention to posters or billboards that throw tons of text at you? Can you remember any off hand (and the detail contained within)? I'm willing to bet that the print ads you remember most had a relatively low amount of text, but what was there was memorable and catchy. Combined with a striking image, it no doubt evoked a sense of what the product was without getting into the nitty gritty. That's an effective advert.

One idea would be to focus on perhaps three selling points, with a 'find out more' tag inviting the view to look you up on your website and/or on social media. That way they can discover the full product spec in detail at their own time later on. Naturally, a strong, prominent, call to action (CTA) should be prominent, whether it be part of the main hook or following it.

Don't overwhelm your advert with imagery

In a similar vein to text, don't overdo it with images. Overloading a poster or flyer with images can overwhelm the viewer - there's so much to focus that there's actually nothing to focus on. Either use images that give an overall sense of the product or event, or focus on more specialised adverts if you're promoting specific products.

This advice applies to the colours used throughout the advert too. I'd recommend sticking to a small palette rather have an array of hues jumping at the viewer left, right, and centre.

Stay focused with your fonts

When it comes to font choice, less is more. Try to keep them consistent. You might get away with using perhaps a distinct font for headings, but make sure it's complimentary to the rest of the text. Otherwise it'll come across as jarring and confusing, and may give a sense that you don't what you're doing (which is a pity as it'll undermine what could be a great product). And as with imagery, keep to a small range of colours so as not to overwhelm the viewer.

Advertising should go easy on the exclamation marks

Seriously. You might be excited about your product. If it's truly exciting though the product shouldn't need multiple exclamation marks. Overuse of exclamation marks comes across as though you're telling the viewer to be excited, rather than let the advert itself generate excitement. Yes, there is a difference. That's not to say you should never use them at all, but use them sparingly. Again, have a look at adverts created by big name brands. Count how many exclamation marks you see per ad. You might go with the perception that there'll be many but you may come back surprised...

Don't use Word as a design tool...

Microsoft Word is great, don't get me wrong. It's got all the functionality you need from a word processing tool. As a poster design tool... not so much. Sadly, in the 2020s an advert designed on Word stands out for all the wrong reasons. Now I know not everyone can afford a high-spec design suite (nor be proficient at using it)—but you don't have to. These days there's a plethora of free design tools such as Canva which are economical and easy to use. If you learn Word you can learn Canva - it's actually easier to design an advert and has a lot more functionality. It'll even let you format your ad to suit standard ad sizes, so your social media version can be formatted differently than your ad in the local paper, etc.

In summary...

So, in summary, keep your print adverts simple and to the point. A few evocative lines, a strong call to action and the appropriate website and/or contact details will be far more effective towards marketing your small business than a page that's chock full of text to the point that nothing stands out. You've put a lot of work into your business or event. Don't let an overcomplicated advert trip you up. Less truly is more.

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