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Print advertising has always been an important mainstay for small businesses. Print is ideal for both local and national advertising, for improving sales and building brand awareness, but it can be difficult to create effective print ads. If your small business doesn’t have the budget to hire a professional, here are some quick and simple tips for making effective print ads.

Four things that every print ad should include.

Multinational corporations with massive brand recognition don’t need to follow the rules when it comes to advertising, but for small local businesses there are certain elements that should be a part of every print ad they publish.

The name of your business

This one seems obvious, and mostly it is. However, it’s not always enough to just include your logo or the name of your business. This is the case when your business name doesn’t clearly state what your business actually does. If your business is called The Battersby Company, for example, there’s not enough information there for your audience to immediately see what you’re offering. In this case you’re better off with “Battersby Company Professional Window Washing” or something similar.

A call to action

This is where you tell people why they should contact you, and how they can get in touch. A single sentence is best, where you clearly and plainly state how a potential customer will benefit from doing business with you. For example, “Call us today at [your phone number] for a 20% discount on your next window washing.”

Supplemental information

You’ll also need to add some extra information about what products or services your business provides, or what problems you can help them solve. Just a few words here is sufficient. You don’t want to bombard your audience with too much information because you only have a limited amount of time to catch their attention. Short and sweet is best.

Add graphics

Some simple graphics can add visual interest without causing information overload. Your business logo is a good option to add here. Other options include a photo of you or your business premises, or a simple graphic or photo that relates to your business offerings in some way. Choose one simple clear image that directly relates to what your business does for best results.

Simple design decisions that take your print advertising to the next level.

With those four essential elements in place, you’re well on the way to creating a print advertisement that ticks all the right boxes. However, with a few more simple elements you can create an ad that covers more than just the basics.

Create an information hierarchy

Once you’ve decided on all the information your print ad will include, choose one or two pieces that you consider the most important, and make them the focal point of your ad design. The information you designate as the most important should be printed in the largest font, and perhaps made more prominent by using a different font altogether. This is a simple visual cue for your audience that lets them know what the most important message of the ad is. A mixture of font types, weights, and sizes also breaks up the information and makes it easier to read.

Avoid using too many different design elements

As noted above, using a couple of different fonts is a good way to develop an information hierarchy, but be wary of going overboard. Stick to just a couple of different fonts, and choose plain sans-serif fonts to make the ad easier to read. At all costs, avoid fonts such as papyrus and comic sans, which most people agree are more annoying than eye-catching.

Keep it simple and use your space effectively

Graphics, fonts, and other design elements make your ad more visually interesting, and it’s important that you add enough information to allow your audience to have a good idea of what your business is offering. However, just as you want to avoid using too many different design elements, you should also avoid adding too much text information.

To this end, it’s also important to make good use of white space in your advertisement. White space is not empty space—it’s the space that you intentionally leave blank in order to make your text and images easier to absorb. Using up every inch of space just because it’s there is bad practice because it creates an ad that feels cluttered and messy, and that only serves to obscure your message. Providing that you have the essentials covered, less is always more with print.