Take back your employment, real estate and auto display ads: 3 Steps to follow

July 6, 2016

By Janet DeGeorge | Classified executive training


The new classified advertising: 3 Steps for VIP papers to get back their employment, real estate and auto display and possibly an extra $20,000 per month.


Step One: Your Market Profile, for small newspaper markets with limited resources and sales staff.

What’s the scenario in your market? Let’s look at our case study of the Sturgis (MI) Journal, a six-day small community paper in a town where the unemployment rate hit 17.5 percent at the height of the recession, and where 49 percent of employees work in the challenged manufacturing industry. A place where real estate foreclosures were savage and car sales hit rock bottom.

Headline 2016: Recession over! Unemployment rate in Sturgis, MI, today is the lowest it has been in decades at 3.4 percent, home sales are climbing as are home prices, and car dealers are smiling again. If this sounds like your market, go to Step 2.


Step Two: Strategic Redesign to sell eight full pages of classifieds each weekend with a target of $20,000 in new monthly revenue.

Take a look at the before and after Journal classified pages, shown on this page. Throw out last century’s classified design and modernize it using full color display advertising.

There is nothing random about this redesign. Space is limited, and once each category is sold out, an advertiser will have to wait for the next weekend. Our eight-page layout includes three pages of full-color employment display and classified line ads, two pages of real estate display, two pages of auto display and a page of service directory ads. The entire focus is to drive results and keep advertisers coming back each week.


Jobs—Key feature: Full- color Custom Display ads

The ads are designed to match the advertisers’ brands found on their websites. They are also designed as templates to be used over and over again, which will greatly speed up the design process. These energetic, full-color designs drive job seekers to apply. That’s pretty important when the unemployment rate is at 3 percent. We keep it simple with just four sizes, one-eighth, one-quarter, half- and full-page ads. We are starting small in Sturgis, but many who use this format sell more than 30 display ads each week.


Real Restate—Key Feature: Weekly free real estate agent Profile.

Individual real estate agents are the target market.

The profile heads off this program and has proven successful in dozens of markets. How does it work? The newspaper only chooses the first real estate agent for a profile and then lets it go. That agent gets to choose the next agent, who gets a free half-page promotion, and so on. The only rule: The real estate agent cannot chose an agent from his or her own company. This really gets the attention from the local real estate community, who will check in each week to see who got chosen.

Agent Directory: There are only two pages to fill in this model, and with the real estate agent profile on top of the first page, we use an agent directory format on the bottom to the first 15 agents who sign up. No one else gets on until someone drops off, and so, no one ever drops off. Sold at $25 to $45 a week, it generates steady revenue.

Block Ad Page: The second real estate page in our eight-page classified section is made up of 18 block ads all designed the same: 3 SAU columns wide by 3-inches deep, large photo of the home, real estate agent photo, logo, price, address and copy. If No. 19 comes in, sorry—he or she will have to wait for the next week, on a first-come, first-serve basis. The goal is to fill the page and move on to sell something else. You can change the theme of the page week by week from an Open House to a Just Listed to a Commercial Property to Luxury Homes, or you can keep it generic and call it Home Gallery or Property Preview each week. Advertisers get results in this format, and they keep coming back.


AUTO—Matching Stories with Dealers, not Dealers with stories

Using sources like Greenshoot Media that has more than 140 new car stories ready to download, auto dealers are promised the story above their half-page ad will be about their cars and no one else’s. Dealers love it when the story entices car buyers to come to their lot. It is easy to sell.

Consider a side bar “Meet the Dealer” feature, which helps to localize the story even more with a few Q & A’s about the general manager of the dealership.

Second is the SEXY SIXTH page ads. This targets smaller dealers with a full-color, one-sixth page display ad, priced from $150 to $250. The low cost will keep this page sold out each week. For a good look at this format, sign on to the BrainerdDispatch.com e-edition on Thursdays. Also check out the reader feature we started more than five years ago, CAR LOVES SPOTTED. Readers love it.


Service Directory—Go Big

or Go Home

Some papers have a full page of directory ads with great business car sizes, while others still give three lines at the same price. All a service directory needs to thrive is some tender loving care in design, giving these loyal, everyday advertisers more space to advertise their business. Give more bang for the buck, and you will make it up in volume. And to drive results, always square it off with the crosswords or Sudoku under the banner. The daily users of these puzzles are the target market of your service directory advertisers. It works like a charm, and everyone renews month after month.




As the master of promotion, P.T. Barnum said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens …. Nothing.”

There is no excuse not to promote your classifieds, especially when kicking off a new design. There are so many free ways and some low-cost ways to promote your classifieds to readers and non-readers. Here is a short list:

• Free and easy e-mail Blasts to every e-mail you have.

• Rack Cards/Toppers

• Classified Twitter pages

• Reader contest sponsored by local appliance stores

• Direct-mail postcards to former advertisers

• Small Facebook budgets to target younger demographics.

• Page A1 Bulletin on how many ads in your Classifieds: 50 Jobs, 100 Autos, 27 new Homes, etc.

• Any trade out possible.

Promotion works to bring results to your advertisers so they keep coming back. That is a fact.

For samples of any of the above, write to me at janetdegeorge@aol.com. © Janet DeGeorge 2016


Janet DeGeorge has been president of Classified Executive Training LLC for the last 16 years and has more than 20 years experience as a successful classified manager. She welcomes your e-mails.

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