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By Alan Joch


Hot Tips


The Great Scott, a magician, is used to stunning children and adults by making things appear and disappear. But not even smoke and mirrors can conjure up new clients. For that important task, The Great Scott, a.k.a. Scott Galbraith, has turned to a classified ad he placed in The Boston Globe, New England's largest daily newspaper.

Like most independent professionals, Galbraith needs to keep his client base fresh and growing. Classified advertising, which has a broad if unfocused reach, augments the standard 'shotgun advertising' method--a mixed bag of tricks that includes Yellow Page listings, brochures and direct-mail pieces, and old-fashioned pavement pounding. Galbraith included classifieds in the mix partly because they're cheap: nothing, including direct mail and the Yellow Pages, costs less than a short listing in a newspaper or magazine. Also, it's easy to place a classified ad, especially nowadays, when you can do it online.

The Globe currently offers classified ad specials, including a four-line, seven-day listing for $60, the choice of The Great Scott. Like many other metropolitan dailies, the Globe also gives potential advertisers an incentive to take the classified plunge by offering free parallel exposure in its online edition for two weeks. In California, The Sacramento Bee newspaper offers a similar online incentive. It runs Web ads while the weekday classified appears, or for the full week after a Sunday classified runs.

Galbraith's main customers are pizza restaurants like Pizzeria Uno and other kinds of kid-oriented eateries. "The best place to work is in restaurants, going table to table," says Galbraith, who first starting doing magic when he was six years old. "I love seeing the looks on kids' faces."

Unlike working with children, finding clients isn't always a warm and fuzzy experience: cold calls have been Galbraith's main marketing tool in the year since he turned pro. A commercial he recently saw on late night television, however, convinced him that a newspaper classified ad would increase his business by putting his name directly before restaurant owners and parents planning private parties for their children.

"You ever heard of a guy named Don Lapree?" asks The Great Scott. "I saw one of his infomercials one night. He sells something called The Make Money Package. He said he gets almost all of his business from classified ads in papers all over the country. So I thought if he could do it, so could I."

Don Lapree's ad worked -- sort of. The Great Scott didn't order The Make Money Package, but he did buy a three-line ad, plus headline, that runs in the daily editions of the Globe. Galbraith's ad reads "The Great Scott, Magician! Balloon Artistry, Twisting, Comedy, 781-331-3645," and puts his name and phone number in the homes of 1.4 million newspaper readers, potential clients all.

Things didn't exactly work out as planned for The Great Scott, though. Despite the potential exposure from the ad, results after the first week were grim: he received no new calls. Discouraged and $60 the poorer, Galbraith pulled the ad after seven days. "It was going to be too much money to keep it," he said.

The loss of the ad doesn't leave the resourceful magician without hope for his career, however. No matter how many responses the ad might, in time, have drawn, Galbraith never expected to rely exclusively on the classified listing. "I get most of my business by word of mouth," he says, adding that in the same week that he ran the ad, he arranged by phone to perform at Browser's Seafood in Abington, Mass. For now, Galbraith will continue to cold call restaurant managers, trying to interest them in table-hopping entertainment, either for grand openings or to spice up existing operations.

The Great Scott's attempt to advertise by classified ad didn't work for him in part because it didn't run long enough. But no matter how long an ad sits in the paper, designing it carefully will help.

Make the ads as readable as possible. The main job of a classified ad is to get a potential client to contact you, not to advertise every detail of your business. Let your personal sales abilities, expertise, rates, and other competitive advantages seal the deal. Your ad will be part of a sea of gray type, so use the tools at hand to keep it from getting lost. Spring for boldface, headline type, like Galbraith, who also ran his Great Scott stage name (with an exclamation point) to attract readers. Other readability tips include avoiding abbreviations and using adequate space between words and punctuation.

Hugh Mulligan, a Merrimack, NH, computer consultant who actually makes house calls, has had better luck than The Great Scott with classifieds. Longevity has something to do with it --Mulligan has run ads in both the Nasuha Telegraph classifieds and in the Yellow Pages for over a year. Which ad has served him better? "I don't keep a log or anything," he says, "but my sense is that it looks about 50-50." This means that about 20 of the 40 or so calls Mulligan's business, Computer Home Repair, receives each month come from the three-line classified.

Mulligan's clients face technical challenges ranging from software crashes to hardware upgrades to email systems that inexplicably won't run. Most of them aren't minor tasks, either -- Mulligan says almost all jobs require a major fix, like reformatting a hard drive or reloading Windows. "By the time I get a call, the customer has been talking to some tech-support person for six hours," Mulligan says. "I can get to the site within a couple hours."

Like many independent professionals, Mulligan's residence is his office; but his willingness to make house calls separates him from most competing computer-repairmen, who are often tied to a shop. Mulligan's succinct classified ad --

Software, hardware installed.
Problems fixed. 595-9298

-- promotes his mobility and targets customers who live close enough for him to make home visits. It also puts him in some strange environments. "I once repaired a computer while a 2 1/2-foot iguana was running around the room, climbing up and down the venetian blinds."


In addition to the Telegraph ad, Mulligan listed his services in weekly and smaller circulation newspapers, which charged still lower fees. But Mulligan says the response to the ads in the smaller papers was too low to justify even the low cost, and this points out a truism of classified advertising: If the ad doesn't compel readers to become clients, the listing is a waste of money.

Hugh Mulligan's comittment to a well-placed classified ad keeps his phone ringing; The Great Scott's valiant but short-lived ad -- in a big city paper with broad circulation -- did not. Classified ads aren't magic; they won't automatically or immediately bring new business. But they do get your name out -- and that's the most basic of marketing tricks.

Article edited by Eric Ger shon
Illustration by Lawrence San

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