What's Wrong with this Classified Ad?

How much effort would you put into a classified ad? They’re usually short, easily scanned , and if not done correctly, forgettable.

Consider the ad below, posted on BlindBargains.com. Having posted ads there before, I can tell you advertisers pay $5 for a large text block.

So, given that, how compelling would you judge the following ad to be?

Looking for computers running Windows 7? or even XP? Computers starting for $160

Are you in a need of an affordable computer? I can provide computers for as little as $160. I specialize in building custom computers. As well as fixing and upgrading old systems. So don’t hesitate and contact me today regarding your computer needs. You will be pleasantly surprised in what I can provide you with. I have over a decade long experience working with computers and making them perform at their peak.

Contact: retroxpsystems (at) gmail (dot) com

I’ve preserved the ad in its entirety. It has its faults, but if someone is interested in learning more, I’ll do my part to help plug the service. Free advertising never hurt anyone, right?

Let’s take it from the top:

The headline is disconcerting, because XP is no longer a secure operating system. When we later learn the provider has more than a decade of computer experience, you have to wonder why their expertise would allow them to include XP as part of their offer.

But the bigger disappointment is the lack of a hook! Okay, let’s say we are looking for a computer running Windows 7. We might be curious about only paying $160 for such a machine, but with so many other offers floating about the Internet, what is it about this line of computers that should motivate me to pick them over anything else out there? Are the machines sturdy? Are they portable? Are they preloaded with unique software?

Price alone will not seal the deal. Price is a product feature. Sell me on the benefit attached to that sticker price.

Okay, moving on, the first sentence of the ad itself asks if we’re in need of an affordable computer. Yes, but then, who isn’t? Again, do not lean on affordability to carry the day. Consumers have a funny way of turning their noses up at the price if it seems too low. Our basic instinct is that if it costs too little, it must not be good. Instead, the provider ought to attach a compelling benefit that amplifies the price but does not make the price the driving force for potential customers to get in touch.

Next, the provider says they have experience building custom systems and fixing and upgrading old ones. That’s a good characteristic to point out, but more detail is required to make the point persuasive.
What kind of systems has the provider built? Why is building a custom system beneficial to the potential customer?

Then we get to the decade long of experience working with computers and making them work at their peak. Ten years lets us know the provider knows what they’re talking about, but if there are certifications or other educational background to validate the claim, now’s the time to say so. If there is no formal training, that’s fine.
Great companies were built by college dropouts working out of a garage, but here again we’re going to need more detail for us to feel comfortable working with the service. Has the provider specialized in a specific industry like education, assistive technology, information technology, etc.? In the headline we read about Windows, but nowhere else is Windows mentioned, leading us to wonder if the provider can also tweak Linux and such. Can they tackle both laptops and desktops?
Are we talking both hardware and software?

Finally, the provider commits the advertising sin of all advertising sins. They use a Gmail address. That probably means they do not have a website, and if they do not own a website, we come back around to questioning where the ten years of experience was accumulated, because one naturally assumes that if a person has computer knowhow, then they should probably know how to build even a basic site, right?

The trouble is, this ad is only one example of general marketing that falls short of its full potential. Is it the service provider’s fault?
Not at all. Why should the provider become good at writing strong copy when their passion is clearly computers? Yes, the provider could have hired a company like AlphaComm Strategies to do their ad correctly, but most businesses do not consider the long-term benefit of a short-term investment in persuasive language.

Let’s get on the same page. A classified ad is generally not going to provide the best venue for creative copy. The location and space allotment isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean you skimp on the opportunity to optimize what you have to work with. The small ad may be a potential customer’s first encounter with your business, and you need every first impression to be an excellent one.

So, over to you. Any suggestions on how the ad could be improved? Do you believe it is down-to-earth enough to be fine the way it reads?

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