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The Online Guide to Business Marketing in the Information Age

7 Ways to Create Business Publication Advertising That Gets Results
by Robert W. Bly

How do you create an industrial or trade ad that gets attention, wins high readership scores, and generates a steady flow of valuable inquiries that convert easily to sales?

Here are some ideas, based on study (conducted to gather material for my book, Ads That Sell) of some advertisements that have proven successful in the marketplace:

1. Put a benefit in the headline.

The most successful ad I ever wrote (which was the number one inquiry producer in four consecutive insertions) had the headlines:



... at half the energy cost on conventional

venturi scrubbers.

The headline combines a powerful benefit ("half the energy cost") with the promise of useful information ("how to") addressed directly at the reader’s specific problem ("solve your emissions problems").

2. Ask a provocative question.

My friend Bob Pallace wrote an ad that generated an immediate $1 million increase in billings for his ad agency in Silver Spring, Maryland. The headline was:


The ad ran only one time in each of three magazines (High-Tech Marketing, Business Marketing, Inc.) and immediately brought in five new clients.

Robert Bly is a freelance copywriter specializing in business-to business and direct response advertising. He writes ads, brochures, direct mail packages, and sales letters for more than 75 clients nationwide including Prentice-Hall, Grumman Corporation, Sony, Online Software, Digital Linguistix, and Philadelphia National Bank. He is also the author of 17 books including The Copywriter’s Handbook (Dodd, Mead). Bly can be reached at 174 Holland Ave., New Milford, NJ 07646-201/599-2277.

3. Be direct.

An ad agency asked me to write an ad to generate sales leads for a client that repairs and restores old surgical tables. When they sent me their literature, I used the headline on their brochure as the headline for the ad.

It read:


Free Loaners Available

The ad was successful, and demonstrates that when you are the only one advertising a particular product or service, or when the nature of your offer is hard to grasp, direct headlines can be extremely effective. Another direct headline I like appeared in an ad running in Network World:


ONLY $2,395

Donald Reddy, president of the firm, said the ad was extremely effective in generating a small but steady flow of highly qualified sales leads.

4. Give the reader useful information.

One way to increase readership is to promise the reader useful information in your headline, then deliver it in your ad copy.

For an ad offering business people a book on how to collect overdue bills, Milt Pierce wrote this headline:


New from Dow Jones-Irwin...

A Successful and Proven Way to Get Your Bills Paid Faster.

The information-type ad is highly effective in business-to-business advertising. Why? Because the reason business people read trade journals is for information, not entertainment, and such ads to that valuable store of data.

5. Offer a free booklet, brochure, or information kit.

Offering something tangible - a brochure, booklet, information kit, videotape, audiocassette, research report, checklist, or other material the reader can send for - has never failed to increase response for me in nearly a decade of ad writing.

At the end of your ad, put in a subhead offering the material (for example: "Get the facts - FREE!"). Then describe your brochure or booklet, show a picture of it, and explain what the reader must do to get it.

If you can add something to a sales brochure to make it of lasting value, so much the better. More people will request your piece and more people will keep it.

6. Use a coupon.

Coupons visually identify your ad as "direct response," causing more people to stop and read it (because they know that coupon ads usually offer free things of value). If the ad is one-third page or less, put a dashed border around the entire ad to create the feel and appearance of a coupon. Copy them instructs the reader. "For more information, clip this ad and mail with your business card to {company name, address}."

7. Use a headline with multiple parts:

A headline does not have to contain just one sentence or phrase set in one uniform type size. Often, you can create a more eye catching and effective headline using what I essentially a three-part headline.

The first part, or kicker, is an "eyebrow or short line that goes in the upper left corner of the ad, either straight or at a slant. On good use of the kicker is to select a specific type of reader for the ad (e.g., "Attention COBOL Programmers"). Another effective technique is to let the reader know you are offering something free ("Special Free Offer - See Coupon Below").

Next, set in larger type, comes your mail headline, which states your central benefit

makes a powerful promise. Then, in the subhead, you expand on the benefit or reveal the specific nature of the promise. Examples:


Here’s the breakthrough offer that opens up a whole new world for writers or those who hope to become writers:

FOR HIGH SPEED HIGH PERFORMANCE DATA INTEGRATION, LOOK INTO MAGIMIRROR. Now you can move data instantly from one program to another right from your PC screen.

If your headline is designed to arouse curiosity or grab attention and does so at the expense of clarity, then be sure to make nature of your proposition immediately clear in a subhead or within the first sentence. Otherwise you will lose the interest of the reader whose attention you worked so hard to gain.

Copyright 1998, Robert W. Bly. Reprinted by the kind permission of Bob Bly, Copywriter/Consultant/Seminar Leader, 22 East Quackenbush Avenue, 3rd floor Dumont, NJ 07628 Phone (201) 385-1220 Fax (201) 385-1138 email:

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