How to Write a Successful Classified Ad

by Nancy Wagner; Updated September 26, 2017
Career Ad

Creating effective online or traditional classified ads is a multi-step process that helps you attract readers and convince them to take the next step. A successful ad requires gearing your message to generate leads rather than actual sales if you want to find buyers for your product or service. If you use classified ads to attract employees, the same principle applies – whet their appetite with minimal wording and direct them to where they can find more information.

Research Publications

Identify the best publications or websites to reach your audience. Ask for a media kit from national or local newspapers and magazines to determine if they appeal to your sales target market. Online sites such as Craiglist or may work when you need to find suitable candidates for job openings. Most classified ads are charged by the word or line, so calculate your budget first to determine the maximum size of the ad you can afford.

Review Competing Ads

Closely examine ads your competitors post to determine what language and offers they feature, since your own ad will appear right alongside them and needs to stand out. Study the wording of the ads that appeal to you as a way of determining how to write your own. Look at the category under which your competition places its ads, and decide if that section works best for your own ad or if another may work better.

Create An Attraction-Grabbing Headline

Use your headline to grab a reader’s attention. Think of the benefits your company offers to future employees or customers. A question that asks readers to think about a common problem they have is another productive way to draw attention to your ad. Keep your headline to a minimum number of words, and use a large font to make it more noticeable.

Develop Your Message

The copy after the headline needs to briefly and immediately explain what makes your offer unique. Focus on the benefits rather than the features. For instance, if you’re searching for a new employee, mention what makes your company great to work for, such as top dollar salaries and vacation time during the first year of employment. For sales leads, explain the problems your product resolves and the top benefits it offers.

Call to Action

Use a strong call to action to compel readesr to take the next step, such as asking them to call for more information. If you use a website to generate leads, point prospects to the site for more information. Offer a freebie in exchange for an email address. For instance, if you sell spotting scopes, your classified ad could mention a free tip sheet titled “10 Tips to Viewing More Wildlife With A Scope,” available from your website. When a prospect requests the tip sheet by providing his email address, you know he's a scope user and your ad has successfully generated a lead.

About the Author

Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.

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