Amateur vs. Professional

Amateur vs. Professional

By: John Foust
Raleigh, NC

What sets advertising amateurs apart from professionals? Let’s examine some key skill areas

1.Amateurs do most of the talking in sales appointments. Professionals do most of the listening. When they meet with prospective advertisers, they work to learn marketing goals. They concentrate on discovering “pain points.” And they learn about the results of previous campaigns. That’s accomplished with questions – along with attentive listening.

2.Amateurs use puffery in ad copy. Professionals use relevant information. They stay away from empty claims and exaggerations like “unbelievable,” “fantastic” and “incredible.” Instead, they focus on specific features and benefits that mean something to readers.

3.Amateurs sell one ad at a time. Professionals sell campaigns. The best ads are not stand-alone sales, they are elements of bigger marketing campaigns. By taking the time to develop an overall strategy, professionals have a guideline to follow. There’s no mystery about what to do next. They simply follow the plan.

4.Amateurs create spec ads before learning the prospect’s needs and developing a marketing strategy. Professionals believe it’s important to diagnose the patient before writing a prescription. I cringe when I hear stories of ad ideas that have been created without doing any homework first. Most of those ads are laughably off target.

5.Amateurs don’t know the difference between image ads and response ads. Professionals know that distinction can make or break advertisers’ expectations. Image ads are designed to create and strengthen brand identities, while response ads are designed to motivate consumers to “buy now.”

6.Amateurs see print and digital as separate entities. Professionals know that print and digital work together to project a cohesive brand image for their clients. In today’s multi-media environment, the companies with strong marketplace identities understand that everything must work together. Logos, type fonts, benefit statements, theme colors – they all play important roles.

7.Amateurs run anything their advertisers request, because they don’t want to risk offending paying customers. Professionals know they’re obligated to stand up for solid advertising principles (with diplomacy, of course). I’ve never seen a sales person’s business card that listed “Order Taker” as a job title.

8.Amateurs wing their way through appointments. Professionals provide prospects with a printed agenda and follow it carefully. They know how to keep things on track. They stay away from running down rabbit trails that can derail a presentation. It’s a matter of respecting the other person’s time and making a professional impression.

9.Amateurs don’t care about typography. Professionals understand that type has been called “the voice of print” for a good reason. They know that all upper-case type should be used sparingly in headlines – and almost never in body copy. They understand the nuances of serif and sans serif fonts. And they know how to use line-breaks to create readable headlines.

10.Amateurs think they know everything. Professionals are not complacent. They strive to learn more about their prospects, their market, their competitors, and advertising in general. There’s truth in the old saying, “The biggest room in the house is room for improvement.”


(c) Copyright 2017 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: