Personal trainers are experts in developing workouts that work, but creating ads is a whole different skill set that most trainers learn by trial and error and at a high cost of time and dollars. Are you frustrated by ads that do not get any response? If you have shelled out an endless stream of post-tax dollars on ads that only wound up in someone's trash bin, this article is about to change how you go about developing an ad that works for you.

Just like you tell prospective weight loss clients to hire a personal trainer, I am going to tell you to hire an ad agency. You are not a marketing expert any more than the unfit are fitness experts. Don't be that business owner who thinks they can save a few dollars by having their friends' daughter (who just graduated from college with a degree in graphic design) create a lead- generating ad. Successful ad development is a well thought out process involving a team effort of a copywriter and art director.

Ad Essentials
An advertisement typically has a flow of how the reader comprehends the ad. The first two elements a reader is drawn to are the headline and image. Then a subhead, which is somewhat a payoff, compliments the headline. Next, the reader will follow to the body of the advertisement. This body copy is where more details of what you are selling should be spelled out. Don't be afraid to elaborate on some details — interested readers will need to know enough information to want to go to your website or call for more information. Do not let your ad get overcrowded or filled with copy. It's okay to have blank space. The last thing readers should see includes the company logo, contact information and call to action. It's how you want the reader to connect with you, such as via a website or toll-free number.
A fantastic way to track your leads and sales is to designate a specific call to action. For example, purchase a phone number that is printed only on advertisements, purchase a separate web address and link it to your existing website, create a different offer in each advertisement, or test two different creative ads to see which drives more leads and sales. Of course, you can always do it the old-fashioned way and ask the lead where they learned about your business or product. Tracking is just as important as placing the ad. Since ad space is a significant expense, why not create trackable leads so you know where your advertising dollars are paying off? This will help you narrow down the successful areas to advertise.
Make sure your ad is placed in appropriate mediums. There are many venues to place ads: local newspapers, county newspapers, magazines, trade journals, business forums, etc. If you are a small business and have a small budget, place ads locally in small-town papers, school boosters or boards where local businesses can post or advertise. If you have a bigger budget, consider full-color ads in specific trade publications or larger coverage area publications, such as Living or Parenting magazines. There may be special magazines or issues geared towards your business, such as sports or health magazines.
It's imperative to build relationships with the sales representatives that sell the ad space. They can affect your ad placement in a magazine, negotiate fees if possible and alert you to special releases or an issue that may tie into your product or company. Always ask for the editorial calendar so you can see where you can best plug in your ad.
When it comes to ad size, the bigger the better, initially. Don't waste your money paying for a tiny ad. With that little space, you cannot get much of a message across. The bigger, more creative and colorful ads get the attention!
Ad printing is typically run in either spot printing or process printing (full color). The quick lesson with printing is spot color is an individually matched single color, and process printing is actually four ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) printed in tiny dots to create the effect of full color. Full color ads are more expensive to print versus a spot color ad; however, spot color ads can be just as effective as full color, with the right headline and graphic. Don't sell your business or product short; if you are selling something that visually can be seen better in a full color picture or if you have a colorful logo, then you should spend the extra dollars for full color — at least initially, until people get to know your name, logo and recognize your ad. We would all recognize the Nike "swoosh" in any color, including grayscale!
Approximately five to 10% of annual sales should be spent on marketing and advertising your business. Unfortunately, most companies don't think to do this until business is slow and there is no budget to spend on marketing and advertising. It's critical to brand your company or product, create a marketing plan, be consistent with your advertising and try different methods of advertising. There are many ways to advertise: print, electronic, radio and television are just a few.
Here are nine basic elements of creating a strategic advertisement:

· Consistency — Consistency! Consistency! Consistency! That cannot be stressed more. Branding your company and product is essential in any advertising medium. Use of your logo, typeface, colors, layout and/or theme are all part of recognition and branding. Do not get overly creative and change your ad look, feel and message too often. You want people to recognize your company and look for your offerings.
· Concept — This is where it really pays to hire an agency — the concept is what makes a creative ad so that people remember your product. Your headline is just as important as your visual/graphic. It can be captivating or clever and motivating or moving! Always tie in the graphic to your headline.
· Know Your Audience — Most ads gear towards a specific audience: male or female, age-specific, income level or particular interest. Create an ad that appeals to your target audience. The headline and the image will usually determine who is attracted to the ad.
· What Are You Selling? — Define the program, product or service. Give the viewer pertinent information; define features or benefits of what you are selling, what makes your product better than the competitor, why should they purchase your item, etc. If you are limited on space, it's always better to sell emotional benefits rather than features.
· Call to Action — This is the "offer" or contact information for the reader to follow up. It may include a phone number, address, website, email address or business reply card. Some advertisers are able to "push the sell" by offering discounts with a deadline or giveaway.
· A Great Headline — Potential customers are likely to skip right over your ad, no matter how well thought out it is, if it does not have a compelling headline. You want to tell and show them how you can solve their problem or how they can benefit — which is pretty easy to do in the fitness business.
· Established Credibility — Since the competition among personal trainers and facilities is mounting, you want to be able to establish yourself as an expert. You can use the number of years as a trainer, testimonials from clients, awards received or associations you belong to.
· An Offer — Make an offer that peaks their interest and makes them want to bite. At the very least you want to capture their contact information, so offering a free report, early-bird special or some intriguing benefit will at least get them to respond. Be sure to tell them exactly what to do, where to go, how to sign up, who to call, etc.
· Incentives — Offer a money-back guarantee or a chance to win a desirable prize to move prospective customers closer to buying.

As you can see, a lot goes into creating a winning ad that will produce ten-fold what it cost you. Begin to notice the ads in other industries that capture your attention, and look for ways to creatively incorporate that message into your ads. Now you should be on your way to understanding the makeup of a successful advertisement. When all else fails, call in a pro!
Carene Kratzel is the owner of CRK Advertising, Inc., an advertising and marketing agency that represents health and fitness, product promotion, financial, medical, business to business, retail and niche markets. For more information, or call 973.663.6766.