During Coverings 2001, I hosted a workshop on showroom management. This was a two-part series featuring a second session of roundtable workshops on various subjects, one of which was advertising. I, like the show's organizers, was perplexed by attendees' obvious avoidance of this subject, even as they flocked to the groups that discussed publicity, open houses and educational topics.

Capitalize on the power of an ad. Creating an ad means following certain rules and breaking others. Below are four key ingredients necessary to designing an ad that gets noticed.

1. Headlines. While the name denotes the top of the page, some very effective advertising pieces place the headline off-center or near the bottom of the ad.

2. Image. If you have the space and photography, don't limit yourself to one image. Studies show that multiple images are more effective than just one. You want to make sure that you're showing readers a couple of design options so they don't see one style and say, "That's not for me!"

3. Logo. This is meant to be a sign-off and shouldn't be the focal point of an ad. You don't want the reader to be startled by a big logo. It's the difference in me saying, "I'm here to talk about managing showroom. I'm Janet," and "JANET HERE, with a message about showroom management."

Effective logos express the personality or mission of the firm. You can also use effective catch phrases like Nike did with, "Just Do It!" To create a logo that reflects the identity of your firm, I would suggest hiring a professional. This service typically runs between $500 and $1,000.

4. Call to Action. After you've signed off on your logo, make it easy for consumers to get in touch with you by listing your address, phone, fax, e-mail and website in clear, simple type. Resist the temptation to use an unusual type style or design element.

Writing good copy. You may know your business, but it takes real talent to write copy that sells your product to readers. You have about three seconds to get the attention of most readers. If they aren't hooked by then, it's off to the next page. To create great copy, consider the following items:

Stopping power. Say something bold and catchy! Think about what you want readers to take away from your ad and boil it down to its essence. That should be expressed in the headline.

Keep it short. Limit the headline to eight words or less, and keep supporting copy to six sentences. Bullets are a succinct way to list major selling points. Readers are drawn to white space and are repelled by small print.

A picture is worth… Consumers are looking for ideas, so they will be drawn to images. Use your best shots and back them with snappy headlines and concise text.

Talk to the customer. Don't make the mistake of talking to your competitors. Broad statements about your firm's vision aren't as appealing as a statement about what you'll do for the customer.

Don't sound too good to be true. Consumers are too savvy to buy into hyped copy. Simple copy will be appealing enough to someone who's looking for solutions to his or her problems.

Help isn't out of the question. Sometimes, for a small hourly fee, a freelance writer will look over your copy and make suggestions. To find one, check your local Yellow Pages.

Are your ads bringing in business? Is your advertising budget being spent on an ineffective medium? You'll never know unless you track consumer response. While those customers who take three years to act can complicate your tracking efforts, there are some ways to determine if you're making progress.

Review your ads on an ongoing basis. If the ads are still bringing in business after several years, there's probably little need to change them. But don't be afraid of exploring other venues as well.

Most methods of tracking your advertising are not scientific. Typically, they rely on some type of consumer contact. Your evaluation can be based on a survey, a response from a direct-mail piece or a head count of consumers as they visit your showroom. Usually, you have to speak with the customer. Unlike a mass merchandiser, most specialty flooring showrooms don't have huge volumes of people coming in and direct contact can be established easily. Let's examine some of the options in greater detail.

Surveys. Surveys yield exact information about where customers heard about your business and what made them come into your showroom. Some showrooms conduct a quick, informal survey with each visitor. Salespeople receive a dollar or two for each completed survey form they turn in.

Direct-mail response. By offering something for the customer to respond to, you will find out if your direct-mail pieces are succeeding with your target audience. Don't be alarmed by a low response. A 2% response rate is perfectly acceptable, and 5% would be considered a great campaign.

Consumer count. This is the simplest and most direct way to track traffic. Be aware that there are external influences on the market - like the season or interest rates - that have nothing to do with your ads. If you don't ask people how they found you, it's difficult to directly link customer traffic to any advertising efforts.

Coupon promotion. Run a print ad with a coupon that offers an extra product or service. If you offer something for bringing in a coded coupon, you will generate more traffic and be able to determine just where the customer saw the ad. The key is getting the customers to actually bring the coupon in with them.

Comparison of sales. Contrasting your sales before and after an ad campaign can help you decide whether it's wise to repeat a particular ad or medium. Remember to compare the profit with the sale - that's net profit, not the gross! As long as the customers are covering the cost of the advertising, it's worthwhile. If not, pull the ad and put your dollars elsewhere.

Should you be online? The Internet is an enormous advertising and marketing tool. Many think it represents the way of the future. You can get started with an Internet Yellow Pages listing on www.yscreen.com very inexpensively. An online listing can feature basic information about your firm, as well as color pictures of your showroom.

Full-fledged websites can cost $2,000 or more. Using products like Microsoft's Front Page, a talented designer can design a website for only the cost of the domain name and host server.

Leads from websites are steadily growing. Some sites report 100,000 hits in a six-month period. Don't look at the site as being an advertising mainstay. Look at it as a nice element in your overall advertising package. If you feel your audience surfs the web, go for it!

That's it for this month. I hope you'll join me for the next installment of Showroom Management. I'll discuss how you can spice up your business with specialty floor designs. See you then!