Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Your Adverts

Today’s post is by Tim Freed, editor of Toddle About magazine.

Running a magazine is a great way to see the best and the worst in advertising practice, and believe me we’ve seen both!

Here are our Top 5 Mistakes and how you can learn from them to design great adverts and generate plenty more sales.

1)      Too Much Information

The most common mistake we see, especially with first time advertisers, is trying to fit too much information into an advert – and it’s an easy mistake to make. But it’s fatal.
In a bid to make their advert as effective as possible, the business owner tries to provide all the information that a reader might possibly need to make a decision to buy.  But all they succeed in doing is putting her off with a busy advert, crammed full of writing, which looks unappealing and is hard to read.

This mistake comes from an understandable misunderstanding – that the point of an advert is to make someone buy from you. Which it isn’t. Of course this is what we hope will happen – and occasionally it actually does  – but in reality, your advert is there to make sure that your potential customers know you exist, understand what you can offer them, and entice them to find out more. It is only once they find out more (typically from your website) and compare you to other providers that the majority of customers will make the decision to buy.

So don’t try to get people to buy from your advert – instead, build their desire to find out more. Focus on your main selling point(s) and use the white space that you have reclaimed in your advert to draw attention to what you have to say. Do this one thing and you will have much greater success.

2)      Poor Headline or No Headline At All

Your advert needs to grab the reader’s attention. This is achieved through the appropriate use of imagery and a headline (or title), and whilst most people understand the importance of images, the headline on adverts is often poorly considered or non-existent.

In a print ad, 75% of the buying decisions are made at the headline alone.” John Caples, Tested Advertising Methods.

Reading your advert is going to take up some valuable time, so your headline must promise some kind of benefit or reward for the reader in return for their time. It should be clear, brief and eye-catching, and it should make an immediate connection with your target audience. Advertising agencies and copywriters spend a loooooong time deciding on the right headline for an advertising campaign. How long do you take?
Here is a great article that we found that gives a succinct list of the different types of headline you can use in your advert. Read it – it will get your creative juices flowing!

3)      All Features, No Benefits

Selling features rather than benefits is a classic error in all walks of sales. The features of your product or service are its attributes – the things that make it what it is. The benefits are what it actually does for your customers. In other words, the features are what you offer and the benefits are the reason why people buy from you. For an example, I would like to quote Perry Marshall:

“Nobody who bought a drill wanted a drill.
They wanted a hole.”

Get it? Focus on how your product or service benefits your customers – it is this that will entice them find out more and eventually lead to a sale. By all means mention the features – but know that this should only be there as a logical justification for your claimed benefits.

4)      Advert Looks Unprofessional

This doesn’t take too much explanation! It can be tempting to save yourself a bit of money when advertising and do the design work yourself. I totally get this, believe me. But a word of warning – if your attempt looks anything less than professional, that is exactly the impression you will be making on the reader about your business. Less than professional. Is that what you want?

On the flipside, a professionally designed advert will do more than make you look professional – your brand and products/service will be subconsciously given level pegging with those brands with a similar quality advert. It’s a great way to give your brand a huge boost and well worth the money invested.

5)      Website Scares Sales Away

So you’ve done it – you’ve crafted an amazing advert, and it’s working! Toddle About readers are VERY interested in what you have to offer – they’re almost certainly going to buy from you because your advert looks great, you’ve sold them all the benefits of your service or product and they want it. Where do the vast majority of potential customers go to next to find out more or order? Your website.

If your website isn’t up to scratch, it doesn’t matter how good your advert is – you’re going to lose a whole load of sales.

Creating a great website is far more complex than I have space for here, but here are some questions you need to be able to answer ‘Yes’ to:

  • Does your website look professional?
  • Is it easy and quick to navigate around?
  • Does it sell the benefits of your product or service effectively like your advert does?
  • Is it extremely clear how a customer can order or make a booking? Is it easy for them to do so?

If you can answer ‘Yes’ to all these questions, then ask someone else (preferably a prospective customer) the same questions. If the answer is ever ‘No’, address this now. If it’s ‘Yes’ all the way, then you’re good to go!

Toddle About is a free magazine and online resource packed full of fun and useful local information for families with children aged bump to 5. Helping parents find groups and classes to attend, family events and discount vouchers – and it’s a jolly good read too! Toddle About is entirely FREE – subscribe at

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