May 312017

3 weeks so far in the land of the walking dead where the sun never shines nor tides never reach and it’s becoming more obvious, despite the financial advantages, I am not going to be able to stand staying here until Sept.  I’m bored out of my skull, I miss the warm tropical breezes, and would much prefer to be sitting on an island right now.  So, to help pass the time, I’ve been perusing the ads even more so than usual searching for a possible solution, be it a room for rent, apartment, tiny house, yurt, tree house, sailboat, or rv.  The good news is, I can afford to be picky and not rush into a bad decision.  If I find something, great.  If not, well, I will keep on being bored.  The bad news?  I am reminded yet again of the inability of people to write an effective ad to sell something online.

An ad is a simple thing.  It’s little more than a few well thought out written sentences describing a product or service, providing enough details to tell the person perusing said ad to make a decision whether or not to purchase said product or service.  Yet, this simple thing seems to be beyond the edumacation of most people these days.  Poor schooling, laziness, over thinking, whatever the reason, it’s incredibly flusterating for somebody who is seriously looking for something to have to sort through a maze of ads which seem more like a treasure hunt or a game show, rather than giving actual useful information about what is being advertised.  One does not have to be a world famous author to pen a successful ad, nor does it take advanced computatator skills to add a few things like photos, but from what I have been seeing lately, said skills are sorely lacking.

So, here are a few tips to help those of you who might be considering writing an ad to sell something.  If you are wondering what credentials I might have which might add validity to said tips, perhaps 40 years of retail and marketing, owning my own business, writing this here someday-to-be-an-award-winning blog, plus said ebooks, and a general innate ability to fling bovine fecal matter might qualify me.  If not, you are more than welcome to add your own tips in the comments.  Anything to get some more better ads out there.  Now, for some tips.

What do you want your ad to do?  Are you trying to sell a product or service?  Notify people of something like an event?  Looking to purchase a product or service?  Whatever the reason, keep said reason in mind throughout the process of putting the ad together.  If you want to sell something, sell it.  Don’t waste space with personal opinions, hateful messages because you got burned in the past, or useless flowery language.  Keep to the reason why you are posting the ad in the first place.  Go and look at other ads which may be similar to what you are selling.  Which ads stand out?  Which ones do not?  Which ones would cause you to want to find more info and perhaps buy what they are selling?  There are plenty of examples, good and not so good out there.  Take some time and research before you start your ad.

Title.  Use the title of the ad to provide as precise and brief description as possible of what the ad is for.  This is the first thing most people see when searching ads so your title needs to be something which will draw them in to look at your ad in more detail.  A general title like, “Room for Rent”, doesn’t do much to excite someone and won’t bring many shoppers around.  You don’t need to put a full description in the title but at least add something which is pertinent to the product or service you are selling.  A general location perhaps, or the brand of said product.

Price.  When I see an ad for something without a price, or one of those insipid, “call for price” car ads, or, “make an offer”, I assume the object of the ad is going to be too expensive or the person writing the ad either is afraid to price it, does not know it’s true worth, or is looking to scam you in some way.  Never post an ad selling a product or service without putting a price on it.  You are the seller.  You know what you want to get for whatever the product or service is.  Put the price in and the market will determine if you are too high or low.  If you think your price is too high, your customers will also.  If you are unsure of the exact value, go look at other ads for similar products or services and see what they are selling for.  It doesn’t take a lot of looking to quickly figger out what the market will bear.  Keep in mind what the demand might be.  Some products and services may be seasonal and fetch a higher price at certain times of the year than others.  Set your price, be prepared to haggle (add in some haggle room), and see what happens.  If your price is too high, you’ll find out right quick.  You can always lower the price if necessary.  But never post a product or service without a price.

Description.  The description is very important.  Here is where you can draw in buyers or lose them quickly.  The description should provide as much detail as possible to give an accurate representation of the product or service.  You don’t need to write an entire novel but spend a few minutes at least giving some useful information.  Is the product or service new or used?  What are the features and benefits?  Are there parts missing?  Are there extra parts included?  If you are selling or renting real estate, what are the details like number of rooms, storage space, amenities.  Does the rent include utilities and if so, which ones?  The more information you provide, the more better chance you are going to have of finding a suitable customer for your wares.  Be honest on the condition of the product or service.  If it needs something specific, say so.  Don’t be afraid to list the bad stuff.  What you may think is a deal killer, may be a project or hobby to somebody else.  There is nothing worse than falsely advertising something to be in more better shape than it actually is, and losing a sale when the customer comes calling with money in hand, and walks away because you failed to mention any flaws.  Remember, as we used to say in the motorcycle business, there is an ass for every seat.  Be descriptive in your description.

Photos.  This is 2017.  There are billions of digital cameras out there.  If you don’t own one, chances are you know someone who does.  So do not ever sit there and make the excuse you cannot post photos of your product or service because you don’t have a camera, access to one, or don’t know how.  A few good photos of said product or service can go a lot further in describing the condition than words can.  Yes, there are some ads which may not allow photos but for our purposes we will stick with the ones which do.  And BTW, you an always post your photos on a separate site, like Facebook or Instagram or whatever, then provide a link in the ad description.  Even a Youtube video would help.  Anything to show an accurate description of what the ad is selling will help.  It don’t require any kind of major technical knowledge, anyone can do it.  Clean, well lit, and accurate photos of the actual object will make a difference.  And please, stay away from cutesy photos of anything which has nothing to do with what is being sold.  Nothing worse than looking at an ad for a room or apartment and seeing nothing but pictures of flowers or beaches.  Stick to the subject.  No photoshopping, no showing what the product looked like new, just current, up to date photos.

Location.  If I am looking for a room to rent in Key West, I don’t want to go to some ad and find out it’s in Miami, or someplace other than where I am looking.  Location is very important to an ad.  You don’t need to put in a specific address if you are worried about scammers or other less than honest people coming around to do bad things, but at least put in something reasonable.  A zip code, an area for example in Key West is it…Old Town, New Town, Stock Island?  You can alway get more specific later when talking to a customer but at least put in as accurate a location as you feel comfortable with.

Legalities.  Some products and services may require certain legal things.  Vehicles have titles, rentals have leases, some may require other legal transactions to complete the sale.  Don’t fuck around with this.  I won’t even look at a boat or vehicle if the status of the title is in question.  If there are title issues, say so.  If it’s a rental, be specific on what kind of a lease you want.  Do some research before hand to see what may be needed from a legal standpoint before you post an ad.

Character.  This can be tricky, particularly when it comes to real estate rentals.  You may not want certain people to rent to.  It could be anything from vegans only to religious beliefs to sexual identification to race.  Tread lightly here.  You can be in for a world of feces if a prospective tenant perceives they were turned down because you are racist, bigoted, sexist, or president of the United States.  Things like, ‘no drunks, drugs, smokers’ are ok, but go beyond and you could be asking for trouble.

Payments.  Everyone loves cash.  It don’t bounce, it can’t be called back, and it’s convenient for most transactions.  But for some products and services, especially those involving larger sums of money, consider accepting other means of payment.  PayPal remains one of the best.  It’s easy to use and provides some protections.  If you have an account with someplace like SquareUp you can take credit and debit cards very easily.  Try to be flexible with payment means.  Be careful as always with scammers but if cash becomes an issue, consider alternatives.

Contact.  You could write an ad which might win a major award, but it’s useless if your customers cannot get in contact with you.  Phone, email, text, the more options, the more better.  If you are worried about scammers, some ad providers will scramble your contact info.  But don’t make it too difficult to contact you.  Scammers aside, if somebody tries to contact you regarding your ad, it means they are interested enough to seek out more information on what you are selling.  Anyone, other than the more obvious scammers deserves some sort of answer.  If they contact you regarding your ad, answer them.  If the product is no longer available, tell them, but don’t leave people hanging without an answer.  You never know when a sale might fall through and you’ll be looking for another buyer.  Answer their questions honestly and don’t be rude nor treat them like with disdain.  They saw your ad.  Chances are they want what your ad is selling.  Chances are even more better they have money in their pocket to give to you.  Talk to them and make the sale.

Scammers.  They are out there and there is little you can do to stop them.  But for the most part, scammers are easy to spot.  ‘Is this still for sale?” is a big tip off if you get a message like this.  Anyone who wants to do something suspicious like ask you to hold a check or offer to wire the funds and have you ship to a shady address are big tip offs.  Anyone who contacts you and asks non specific or vague questions is a big no.  If the buyer is real and serious you can recognize them pretty easy.  Just be careful, particularly with higher priced objects.  If there is any doubt in your mind, walk away and find another buyer.  Don’t be afraid to turn down an offer which may seem too good to be true.

Desperation.  If possible, try to avoid posting an ad to sell something when you are in a big hurry, have a specific timeline, or in desperate financial times.  Buyers can smell desperation a mile away and will pounce on it in a moment. If you need to sell something in a hurry because you are moving or need to pay off something, don’t say so in the ad.  Reposting said ad over and over again with the price being lowered will only cause people to wait to see how low you will go.  It’s not always possible to avoid some emergencies, but when possible, allow yourself sufficient time to sell your stuff, otherwise you will lose money or not sell your stuff at all.

So, anything here I missed?  The purpose of the ad, title, price, description, photos, legalities, character, payments, contact, scammers, desperation?  Again, if you Fritter Fans have anything to add, by all means do so in the comments.  Love to hear more tips on writing successful ads.  From a customer point of view, it’s incredibly flusterating to have to sift through dozens of ads which tell me nothing useful about what they are about.  It just means whomever is posting the ad, won’t make a sale.

If you are going to post an ad for a product or service, don’t make it a treasure hunt without a treasure, or a gameshow where one has to keep guessing to find all the details.  The more complete the ad, the more better chance you will have of achieving whatever it is you wanted the ad to achieve.  It’s not rocket surgery, it just takes a little research and work to make it happen.  Hope this post helped a little.

Capt. Fritter

  2 Responses to “A Treasure Hunt, Without The Treasure…”

  1. Good tips. My addition is: go easy on the punctuation. Adding lots of exclamation points will not make your buyer more excited.