To be effective, advertising must be interruptive, that is, it must make you stop thumbing through the newspaper or thinking about your day long enough to read or hear the ad. Advertising must also be credible, unique, and memorable in order to work. And finally, enough money must be spent to provide a media schedule for ad frequency, the most important element to make your ad memorable.

Advertising Checklist:

 Communicate a simple, single message. People have trouble remembering someone's name, let alone a complicated ad message. For print ads, the simpler the headline, the better. And every ad element should support the headline message, whether that message is "price," "selection," "quality," or any other concept.

Stick with a likeable style. Ads have personality and style. Find a likeable style and personality and stay with it for at least a year, to avoid confusing buyers.

Be credible. If you say your quality or value is the "best" and it clearly is not, advertising will speed up your demise, not increase your business. Identifying and denigrating the competition should also be avoided. It is potentially confusing and distracting and may backfire on you by making buyers more loyal to competitors.

Ask for the sale. Provide easily visible information in the ad for potential customers to buy: location, telephone number, store hours, charge cards accepted etc.

Make sure the ad looks professional. If you have the time and talent, computer graphics and desktop publishing software can provide professional looking templates to create good-looking print ads. Most newspapers have professionals who have experienced staff, with expensive and creative computer software in house. Electronic ads (e.g., TV, radio, Internet) and outdoor ads are best left to professionals to produce unless you have a lot of knowledge in this field.

Be truthful. Whatever advertising medium you select, make sure your message is ethical and truthful. There are stringent laws regarding deceptive practices and false advertising.

There's an old adage that holds true that at least 50 percent of all advertising is a waste of money. It's probably true and if you can figure out which half of your ad budget is useless, you'll save a bundle. But until you achieve this wisdom (which has so far eluded most marketers), you'd be wise to continue advertising full tilt and not take a chance on eliminating something that just might work.

Low-and No-Cost Advertising:

Print attractive and informative business cards that include your logo and hand them out everywhere, consistently! Get your staff and faculty to hand them out too! Offer a free class on them as an incentive. If you use letterhead stationery in your business, have it match your business card. Keep your identity as consistent as possible.

Print up some gift certificates. These let your customers introduce you to new customers. Since you get paid up front for the product or service, they are good for your cash flow.

Brochures let you provide a lot of detail about your product or service. We have created a DVD brochure; check out our archives to see how we put it together. This brochure has produced terrific results.

Flyers can be created very inexpensively on your computer, or by a local print shop. You can use as much color as you like, with a color printer or old-fashioned colored paper stock. They can be used as bag stuffers or inserts to include with billings. Put them all over town in places that you have previously identified where your probable purchasers go.

Door hangers are very effective and widely used by fast food and home delivery and service businesses. If you choose this medium, use heavy stock so it won't blow off doorknobs and litter the neighborhood. It is quite labor intensive if you do it yourself but you will stand out in your community because most dance studios dont and wont do this.

Inserted ads including mailbox inserts and free-standing inserts. The science behind the mass distribution of inserts is beyond the scope of our discussion here. If you think that inserts could successfully reach your market, call one of the big distributors and learn how much it would cost you to try this kind of program. The industry leader is Val-Pak, a company that is so big that you can find it under "V" in most local phone books. Saturation mailings are a bit more pricey but can effectively reach everyone in your community.

So there you have it. Some low cost advertising and how to make it work for you.