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Classified Ads: How to Test Classified Ads and Direct Mail

How to Make Money with Classified Ads

You’ve probably read tons of articles about what to say in an ad to make it successful. Heck, I’ve probably written most of them. This article is different. This article tells you how to make money – by starting out with a small investment and gradually increasing it, until you’ve actually become rich. C’mon. What are you waiting for… take this magazine into the bathroom where you can get some quiet time and do some serious reading.

Finding Products

Yep, first, you need a product. Lots of people call me up and ask where they can find products. That’s incredible! Where can you find products? Look around! Products are everywhere! Unless you live in rural Alaska, you’re looking at products galore right now. It’s easy to find marketable products. There are only 6 criteria for good product selection:

1. YOU must like it – because you’re going to be talking about it for the next couple of years, and be immersed in the industry.

2. You must be able to buy it at one quarter to one third of its retail price. If you can’t meet these figures, you aren’t going to be able to sell it profitably and cover reasonable costs of running a business and marketing. Trust me on this one! Don’t let your feelings get in the way of reasonable mark-up.

3. Your target market must be willing to purchase it. If it’s a fishing product, fishermen must like it, too; enough to buy it. If it’s a pruning saw, gardeners must like it.

4. You must be able to identify, isolate and reach your target prospects from everyone else. If you can’t, you won’t be able to reach them effectively, and too much money will be wasted in your marketing campaign on people who just won’t buy.

5. Your product must be unique. If you’re selling lipstick, women can get this at any drugstore – why should they purchase it from you? By the way, I don’t know about where you live, but CVS and Eckerts drugstores are multiplying around here faster than rabbits. Right around the corner from me they actually opened-up a Eckerts inside of a CVS.

6. You need to have other similar products you can sell to purchasers. You’ve gone to all the work to attract customers and sell them your product. If you don’t have other products you can put in the same pipeline, you’re stuck: dead end. Why be stuck when you can make additional money easily – just by having other products available that are of interest to your current purchasers. Your marketing costs to sell these new products goes from the highest – where you are: acquiring brand new customers, to the lowest -0-, putting your offer in with your original product. So your profit is much much greater on any ancillary sale. Just include new product offers when you ship.

Find Products in Magazines

So, where do you find these products? Magazines. There are over 10,000 magazines – find them listed by market (i.e. all photography magazines are grouped together, all motorcycles magazines are found in the same listing) in any of the magazine directories (see sidebar). Most of these directories are available at your local library. Take lots of dimes and photocopy the pages of your markets. Call magazines and ask for a sample copy. Or to get free copies, follow the procedure I outline in my book, How To Market A Product For Under $500!. There are dozens of magazines for every industry. You can find any industry in 5 minutes with these great directories. Easy and fast – just the way I like my… breakfast.

Find products at Tradeshows.

The 1700 page book, Trade Show Data Week, available at major libraries, lists 5,000 tradeshows held every year around the United States. Just look them up. For local trade shows, call the convention center where you live, ask for a schedule. Then… go to trade shows. Talk to people.

Don’t stop at the biggest booths in the front – forget them. Sony isn’t interested in having you as a distributor for their TVs. (And forget phone cards, and quit-smoking schemes – if anyone could make money on these, it’s already been made.) Go to the small manufacturers in the back. These guys are hungry! They want sellers and distributors. They’ll talk to you. They need you – they are at the trade show for one thing: to sell products. You’re just fishing while at the trade show – walking around having a good time. But these guys paid to be there. They need you.

Get free samples, don’t pay for anything unless you absolutely have to. Ask about big numbers, and prices for a quantity of products. Don’t say “Hey, how much does one o’ these here dodads cost?” They’ll know you’re not a player, and you’ll get the tourist price: List + 10%. If you have jeans on, ask for the price of 1,000 units. If you have your nice pants on, ask for the price of 10,000. Then ask if you can get a sample – no charge, of course – for evaluation purposes only, naturally.

Two tradeshow websites are great:, lists over 2,000 tradeshows. Wow, what a great informational tool this web stuff has turned out to be! Another site: Trade Show Central, Shows over 5,000 websites. You owe me big for this inside information.

Find products in catalogs

If you like something, you probably get the catalog that specializes in it. I’ve never known a fisherman who didn’t receive enough catalogs to keep his home fully heated in the winter when he used them for fuel in his wood burning stove. Find catalogs in directories shown in the sidebar. Find products you like in the catalogs. Need to find catalogs on-line? Thousands and thousands of catalogs and their web addresses.

So, you’ve found your product, finally. Now where do you find the manufacturer, if he isn’t listed on the box it came in? The Thomas Register of Manufacturers. This huge set is found in most libraries, and now on-line at Need to have a bezel made? There are thousands of bezel makers waiting for your call. Just look them up in this great 26 volume directory.

What do I personally recommend for your consideration to sell? Informational products. Booklets, reports, books, tape programs – all have good margins, are easy to find and you can direct each to its perfect target market. In addition, they’re all different and unique. So unlike most other products – like a hairbrush for example, if a person has 10 informational products, they still can use one more. But one or two hairbrushes and customers aren’t looking for more..

Finally: Here’s How To Make Money Through Classifieds: Writing Ads

Where were we… oh yea, classified ads. Is this a cheap way to sell a product or what? Cheap to test. There are thousands of classified sections in newspapers around the country. There are also classifieds in thousands of magazines – in every industry, and for every faction of lifestyle. Look in the back of Better Homes and Gardens – it’s filled with small classifieds and small display ads. Lots of people make a great living with a single ad just by running it month after month.

So, write a catchy headline offering a free brochure or booklet about your product, like “FREE BOOKLET SHOWS YOU HOW TO CATCH MORE FISH! CALL 800-987-6543.” Or, “MAKE MONEY FROM HOME, $1,000 PER WEEK – Free booklet describes this BRAND NEW method. Write to Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066.”

Armed and dangerous with your ad, place it in three or four local papers to test it. Cost per insertion: $20 each. When you’re ready to place an ad, look for publications with lots of other similar ads. This seems unusual, in that there is more competition, but it actually means people are shopping these classified sections with pen in hand, and the classifieds are active in this publication. This works in your behalf. This is also true for small display ads in magazines, ie: check out Better Homes and Gardens – very active in the back.

Classified are tough to write, but here’s a great secret: It’s OK to be just like everyone else! It’s the 1 place copycat ads are OK!! How do you know if other ads are working? Are they repeating? Yes? Well, that wasn’t hard to figure out! Follow the ads in the section you are marketing to, and make yours similar. The ones that appear every month: you can bet they’re working well. So will yours.

Classifieds level the playing field…

In the classified section, no one can blow you out with a full page 4-color spread. No one has a better “reputation” or is more well known than… you. Your chances of success are exactly the same as everyone else’s – each new day with each ad. While others may have had a big head start, maybe they’ve been in the business for 25 years, every day is a brand new opportunity for everyone to jump in right at the same level.

The first words grab attention. These are in bold, and caps. Use an electric opening. To create an electrifying opening, use Jeff Dobkin’s 100 to 1 rule for creating headlines: write 100, go back and pick out your best 1. You should have your most power benefit, or most powerful teaser line at the top. The body of the ad is in regular type. Create interest, desire, offer a guarantee, and motivate the customers to pick up the phone and get info or order the product – all in a 12 to 25 word sonnet. Classified advertising does have its challenges.

Wherever your classified ad appears, kindly notice: do the rest of the ads have addresses? If so, put an address in yours. If they all have 800 numbers, have an 800 number. If they all have phone numbers only and no addresses, make yours they same. If they all have… well, you get the idea.

Make sure the ad answers an immediate need and stresses a benefit in the headline: Make Money From Your Computer. Avoid High Car Repair Bills. Learn the Internet in 5 Days. Stress immediacy, and have a strong call to action.

Key Code Every Ad. Don’t forget to code every ad, and track each ad’s results. A good code is a department number or letter, such as “Dept. PS29” buried in the address line. This particular code would be your key code for an ad in Popular Science Magazine, Feb. 99 issue. Simple, isn’t it? Code everything, and keep track of every response and where it came from. This is the only way to know which ad worked and to what extent, and which didn’t.

Start thinking about – and lining up – follow-up products. Once someone buys something from you, unless they need your same product again and again, you’ve taken them off your target list, and wiped them out of your market – what a waste. You spent all that money and effort to sell them something, they like your product and are happy with your service, and you have nothing else to offer them. Hey, they’re ready to buy something else – make sure you offer it to them.

Figure out if your ad is going to be a one-step selling procedure, or a two-step sell.

A one-step ad is a direct-selling ad. People buy the product right from the ad. When the phone rings, it’s an order. When an envelop comes in, it’s money. To be successful here, the product must be cheap, and answer an apparent and ready need. And it’s got to be easy to order. Price points max out at about $12 – $15 at the uppermost range. If the cost of the product is over that, people won’t buy from the difficult selling proposition of a short classified ad. They need to be sold with a longer selling package.

2-Step Ads: For all products over $15, you don’t sell the product from the ad. The objective of the ad is simply this: make the phone ring, or generate a letter inquiry. Ask people to call or to send for your free information. Capture the attention of your best prospects by using hot button words/phrases : FREE, DETAILS, NEW, NOW, GIFT, CATALOG, MAIL OFFER, DISCOUNT, SAVE. INCREDIBLE, AMAZING, SECRET, GUARANTEED, RESULTS. Ask them to call for more info. Then send them a longer, harder hitting direct mail package.

Unless you are offering an MLM (multi-level marketing) program and just need to generate leads, I don’t recommend 800# unless most other ads are using them. It’s a small qualification I like to put on respondents. There’s a world of people who do nothing but call 800 numbers, and I don’t want them all calling me. So mostly, I just use regular telephone numbers – unless of course every other ad has a toll free number, in which case to get any results at all you must follow suit.

Like I mentioned, classifieds are particularly effective for informational products. Information can be targeted specifically to the audience, it’s usually cheap to purchase or produce yourself, ships easily, and if written well can remain fresh and accurate for years. Did I mention that the price of informational products does not have anything to do with the cost of manufacturing it. Some monthly, four page newsletters sell for $600 per year. And the value in some reports and books is worth 1000 times the price: Like my book, Uncommon Marketing Techniques. just $17.95 – and worth $17,950,00. Buy it – at the first price – and you’ll see. OK, so I plugged my book, heck it’s a great book.

When placing classified ads, keep in mind they usually DO NOT work well in daily papers. The life of a daily paper is too short. If you must – are compelled to place an ad in a daily paper, make sure it’s in Monday, Tuesday, or Wed. Papers at the end of the week are brushed aside – too close to the weekend.

Also important: Note that when you run a test to see if your ad works, run it 1 time only!!! Your results usually won’t get any better; further testing will simply cost you more money. This is true for ALL ADVERTISING, even display advertising. If anyone tells you anything different, tell them to see me. It’s probably an ad space salesperson. I’ll kick their butt. Hrumph. Tell my readers and friends some BS like that just to sell them additional ad space. What crap.

Finally, the figures…

Here’s the way the figures work for classified ads. Suppose you run an ad for $25 in a local paper (circulation, 20,000) and sell a product for $34.95 ($29.95 + $5 shipping; but we’ll round this up and call it $35). The product costs you $10 and it’s $3 to ship, for a total fulfillment cost of $13, so you make a net profit of $22. Do the math. One sale = income of $35, expense of $25 (ad), + $13 (product and fulfillment) for a total expense of $38. Ooops, you lost money. Hey, it’s bound to happen sometimes. But with 2 orders, everything changes: Income of $70, expense of $25 (ad), + $26 (product and fulfillment) for a total expense of $51. You made $19. Hey! $19 bucks! Let’s celebrate.

I know, I know – you aren’t exactly rushing to the Chevy agency to buy that new Corvette you were looking at, but it’s a start. That’s the way everyone starts. Test small. Why waste money with ads that don’t work. Test small.

So, now you run your successful ad in 5 papers, circulation of 100,000, at a cost of $125. One ad pulls 4 orders, one pulls 3 orders, one pulls 2 more, and two ads don’t do squat. Total orders: 8, total income = $280. Cost of fulfillment, $104, total costs are now $229, and profit is $51. OK, log that response. Since we tracked our ads by key coding each one, we know exactly which ads in what papers made money and which ones didn’t. So now we run those same ads again, but leave out the 2 papers that didn’t draw. This is the value of tracking your results. Ad costs: $75, Income, $280, fulfillment $104, profit is $101. Looking better!

But the real way to make money is…

Now we buy 20 papers (circulation 400,000). Since we bought a lot of papers, we got a discount. 20 papers @ $20 each = $400. Sales were 60 units, an average of 3 sales per newspaper. Total sales = $2100. Fulfillment costs: $780. Profit: ($2,100 – [$400 + $780] = $920.) Not bad for an initial outlay of $400. Let’s git on down to that Chevy dealer – just to look, mind you…

But the real way to make money…

Now you buy the exact same classified ad in papers state wide, you buy 5 states, circulation of 4 million. You run the same ad and get the same response rate. Your income is $21,000, and your profit is $9,200. Not a bad week. Yes, it really works like this.

Track response carefully. Sell products you manufacture, you find, from drop ship merchants, or informational products. The Secret of Success: Once you get a winning ad, there are ways to place ads in all the state papers with one single phone call. We’ll talk more about this in next months article, Placing Classifieds.

But the real way to make money…

HERE’S WHERE YOU MAKE BIG MONEY from one tiny little ad. When you have a successful ad that keeps testing well, you finally rollout your ad all across the United States. You make big, big bucks. Everyone who’s done it has started this way. It all starts with one little tiny ad. Study the classified section of any magazine or newspaper, write an ad that’s similar. Test small, increase your circulation with successful ads. What could be simpler?

Once your ad tests successfully, you’re pretty much home free. Creating that one, single classified ad that “tests successfully and makes a profit” is the key behind getting rich in classified ads. Because once you make a profit on an ad – even if it’s just a small profit – you can keep purchasing ever-increasing amounts of circulation at huge discounts in newspapers and magazines by using the buying methods found in my course, The Intelligent Testing System. Or see next month’s column on Testing Classified Advertising, by Jeff Dobkin.

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Jeffrey Dobkin is the originator of The Intelligent Testing System, a work at home, money-making program that shows you how to sell anything through tiny, low-cost classified ads and direct mail. Order online: The Intelligent Testing System.

For a 75-page informational booklet, Inside Secrets of The Intelligent Testing System, explaining exactly how this program works in great detail, send $14.95 + $3 shipping, or download it for free right here!

Dobkin has also written four books on marketing that can be ordered at The Danielle Adams Publishing Company or any bookstore or library: How To Market A Product For Under $500! Uncommon Marketing Techniques, Successful Low Cost Marketing Methods, and Direct Marketing Strategies. To place an order directly or speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610-642-1000. Or visit our bookstore and order online.