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Where To Place Your Classified Ads: One of the least kept secrets in the Mailorder industry

J.F. (Jim) Straw
by J.F. (Jim) Straw

If I have been asked once, I've been asked a thousand times; in different ways…”Where Should I Place My Classified Ads?”

Well…the renowned philosopher/sage/pundit; Anony Mouse, put it this way, “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for today. Teach a man how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” – So, instead of telling you “where” to place your Classified Ads, I'm gonna tell you “how” to figure-out for yerself “where.”

Besides…I can't find enough fish to feed everybody.

What I am about to tell you is probably one of the least kept secrets in the Mailorder industry…but…I've done it so long and so often, I even forget to tell my best friends about it.

Let's pretend for a moment that you want to sell “Fishhooks” (keeping with our ‘fish' story). – You are ‘new' to the industry but you have a very-fine fishhook that will catch fishes by the ton.

You have created a dynamite sales piece; selling your fantabulous, revolutionary fish-catching fishhooks… everybody who reads your sales piece buys…and, you have written a slam-bam Classified Ad – but – you don't know “where” to place your Classified Ad to get the best bang for yer buck.

What do you do?

Well … in the ‘fishhook' industry, old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company is one of the oldest and biggest in the world. They've sold more fishhooks than all the other companies combined. – You know that old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for advertising, SO…you start looking through the ‘Classified Ad' sections of publications to see if ‘XYZ' has an ad.

Right now, you're probably thinking, “Aha. That's it. I just place my Classified Ads where old ‘XYZ' places theirs.”

You're half-right – and – half-wrong!

Since old ‘XYZ' has built an empire selling fishhooks, you can bet yer bippy they aren't completely stupid about placing their Classified Ads – but – like the rest of us, they don't know if a publication is worth advertising in until they test it…test it again…and, then, test it some more. So, the Classified Ad they have in this month's “Fishhook Times” might just be one of their tests.

How can you tell?

Simple. – Check the Classified Ad section in back issues of the publication…the further back, the better. As a matter of fact, go back 2 or 3 years (or even further), if you can. – If old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company has been running a Classified Ad in that publication month after month, year after year, you can bet your eye teeth that that publication is “profitable” for them. If it wasn't profitable, they wouldn't be doing it…and they wouldn't be the biggest fishhook company, either.

What? You say you don't know where to find back issues of a publication. – Well…try your local public library. If the publication is a mass-circulation publication, your library may have back issues in its archives. Or, if your local library doesn't have the back issues you need, have your librarian check with their ‘regional' library (if the regional library has the back issues, they will lend them to your library for you to peruse).

Of course, you probably won't find back issues of lesser-known and small-circulation niche publications in your local public library – but – all is not lost. In most cases, you can “buy” back issues; or, in some cases, the publisher will send you 2 or 3 back issues over the past couple years if you ask their advertising department, politely.

Then again…whether it's a mass-circulation publication or a small, niche publication; either one…you can usually get the info you need by simply calling their advertising department. – Just tell'em, “I'm considering placing an ad in your publication and noticed that old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company has a classified ad in this month's issue. Does XYZ run their ads with you very often?”

If old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company runs their ad in that publication every month, the advertising agent you are talking with will glow like a firefly-in-heat as they tell you all about it…how often XYZ runs…how many years XYZ has been in their publication, etc. – But, if old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company doesn't advertise in that publication regularly, the ad agent will befog you with obfuscation (give you the old double-talk run-around).

When you find a publication that old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company runs its ads in…every month…that's where you place your ads, too. – Remember, old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company didn't get to be the biggest without testing, testing again, and testing some more. They've done the testing or they wouldn't be advertising in that publication every month. So, let them do the ‘testing' for you, too. Then, go ye and do likewise!

But … be careful!

Here's a Little Trap That Might Catch You!

Some few years ago, I was planning an Ad campaign for a new product one of my clients had just developed.

Note: The same method I use to figure out ‘where' to place my Classified Ads also works for all the other forms of advertising and media. – I just go where the ‘big boys' are…they've already done the testing!

During my planning, I had determined what companies were the leaders in the industry and discovered ‘where' they were advertising. – One of the biggest had advertised in one particular publication, every month, for over 2 years…so, I did likewise; placing my client's ad for 6-months in advance to get the best rates.

A couple months after my client's ad began running, I noticed that the big company's ad was no longer running in that publication. – I also noticed that my client's ad in that publication wasn't producing the results we had hoped for. – So, I called the ad manager at the big company and simply asked him “why” he wasn't running his ads in that publication anymore. – Just as I had suspected, the ad manager told me that the ad had quit pulling, so they had canceled it.

Returning to our ‘fish' story…

Even if old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company has run its Classified Ad in every issue of a publication for 5-years, don't take it for granted and just place your ad and leave it in that publication. – Check the ads each month to be sure old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company is still there. – If old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company quits advertising there, so should you – UNLESS – your ad is making money for you.

Just like they say in the investment industry … “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Then again, “Past results are no guarantee of future performance, either.” – Which simply means…don't just advertise where old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company advertises. Test, test again, and then test some more in the publications that old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company isn't advertising in. You might find a new media that outpulls all the others – but – you'll only find it if you test, test again, and test some more.

By the way, if you employ this method to find out ‘where' to place your Classified Ads, you may also learn, as I did…

What To Advertise

That slam-bam Classified Ad you wrote for your fishhooks might focus on the “hooking power” of your fishhooks – but – old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company's ad focuses on the fact that their fishhooks are “snag proof.”

In a case like that, you might want to “test” your ad about your fishhooks' hooking power…to see if the ad will pull – and – run a second ad in the same publication focusing on your fishhooks' snag-proof design. – If that approach works best for old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company, it may well work best for you, too. Then again, maybe your ‘hooking power' approach will outpull their ‘snag-proof' approach – but – you won't know until you test it.

As a matter of fact, if you will look through the back issues of the publications where old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company runs their ads, you will probably find some months where they have run more than one ad (each with a different ‘key' in their address). The second ad will be different from the ad they had been running in the preceding months.

When you see this happen, move ahead about three months and check the ads again to see which ad survived.

If they're running the same old ad they had been running, you will know that the ‘new' ad didn't pull as well as the old ad. – If, on the other hand, the ‘new' ad is running and the old ad is gone, you will know that they found a better ad. – If both ads are still running, you'll know both are profitable (or old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company wouldn't be running both of them).

Of course, while you are looking through the Classified Ad sections in old back issues of the publications, don't just check the ads run by the old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company. Check out the ads that used to run in the publication… every month…some years ago. – You might be able to…

Recycle Some “Old” Classified Ads

Consider this…

Before the old XYZ Fishin'Hook Company became the ‘biggest' in the fishhook industry, The Fishin'Hook Company of Podunk was the biggest – but – that company went out of business when the owner died or retired.

Checking through the Classified Ads in back issues of the industry publications, you might come across some dynamite ads that The Fishin'Hook Company of Podunk used to run… every month (which means the ads were probably profitable or they wouldn't have continued running them).

Since The Fishin'Hook Company of Podunk is no longer in existence, those “old” Classified Ads might be super-winners for your new fishhook company. – Don't “steal” the ad… just “adapt it” to fit your product.


Mailorder … including Classified Advertising … is an “art” – but – it becomes more scientific when you use only tried, tested, proven and repeatable methods.

I should know …

Over the past 30 years, I have sold over $250 Million worth of products and services by mail. Everything from Beauty Supplies to Heavy Equipment…Burglar Alarms to Sleeping Bags…Fishing Lures to Women's Wigs…Automobiles to Wheelchairs…Investment Opportunities to Seafood… Consulting Services to “How To” Courses…all by mailorder.

Author Bio

Having spent over 50 years in business, doing business successfully, J.F. (Jim) Straw now shares “Practical Instruction in the Arts & Sciences of Making Money” at the Business Lyceum. —

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