How to Use Simple Classified Ads

(Offline and Online)

To Bring in an Endless River of Super-Hot

Leads Who are Desperate to Buy from You


(This is one of the most powerful of all lead generation tools)


By Ben Hart


This is another installment in my list building series.


There is no piece of marketing knowledge more important than knowing how to build your list of leads -- of people who are interested in exactly what you are selling.


Your list of super-hot, ready-to-buy-from-you leads is your most valuable asset.


Even if you never use classified ads, the principles outlined here apply to all marketing.  So you should keep reading regardless of whether you ever try classified ads.


I have made millions of dollars by following exactly the strategy I’m describing to you here.


This is one of the very best strategies there is for building your list of super-qualified leads.




Do you remember that infomercial in the 1990s featuring a young enthusiastic kid named Don Lapre?


I loved that infomercial.  It was brilliant.


Lapre’s pitch (or the ad writer’s pitch) was that Lapre would teach you how to get rich by running what he called “tiny little ads.”


This infomercial was enormously successful.  It made Lapre millions of dollars.  I know because the owner of the in-bound telemarketing service that took his orders is a very good friend of mine.


Most people thought Don Lapre was a scammer.  And I think he did get in some trouble with the authorities (which is probably why we don’t hear from him much anymore).


But guess what. 


Lapre’s big point was dead-on accurate with his claim that you can make a ton of money if you know how to use classified ads.


I first got started in direct marketing by spending $150 on some classified ads (long before Don Lapre launched his fantastic infomericial).


I used classified ads to build my lists of qualified leads – that is, my mailing lists.


Since that time, a little over 20 years ago, my direct marketing letters, ads and programs have generated nearly $1 BILLION in sales . . . largely because I understood how to build a big list of qualified leads – a big chunk of it by using classified ads.


And I still use good old fashioned classified ads as a major weapon in my marketing arsenal.


What I usually do in my classified ad is offer a free book.  Here is one example:


FREE BOOK - “How to Write Great Sales Letters”

One of America’s top mail-order copywriters reveals all his

secrets in this 236-page book. To get your free copy, call:


Or go to


And that’s it.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?


I run this ad in the “Business Opportunities” section of Entrepreneur magazine and other similar publications.  I also run a Internet variation of this ad on Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and other pay-per-click programs on the Internet.


The reason these leads are so productive and profitable for me is I know that  anyone who answers this ad is an entrepreneur who is highly motivated to be successful in business.  I know this  because:


1.      They read Entrepreneur magazine

2.      They are looking in the “Business Opportunities” section

3.      They answered my ad and clearly want to learn


I also know that those who answer this ad will respond to direct marketing offers . . . because they just answered my ad


This is extremely important to know.  Many people (about half the population) will never answer an ad or a direct mail marketing letter.


Half the population are not “direct marketing responsive” (to use industry jargon).


They go to stores to buy their stuff.  Of they only buy if they are actively searching for a specific product or service.


So you need to know whether your prospects are “direct marketing responsive.”


I also know that these names and addresses are current (which is not the case for many lists you rent).


So I know a lot of key information about anyone who answers a little classified ad like this.


I have built lists of hundreds of thousands of super-qualified leads by using this exact approach over and over again for two decades. 


A big portion of these leads became buyers – have, in fact, bought tens of millions of dollars in books and other products from me over the last two decades.


I also built a big portion of the Christian Coalition membership list this way during the 1990s.


I started by running a classified ad offering a free copy of my bestselling book Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty.  The ad said this:



Faith & Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty

Documents the strong Christian faith of America’s Founding Fathers.

To Get Your FREE Copy Call:



I did not use a toll-free number for this ad because I could not afford to at the time. But this tiny little ad worked great.  I ran this ad is Christian publications and built an enormous mailing list.


I was also able to distribute hundreds of thousands of copies of my book.


And classified ads are super cheap. 


I used this list to build a large portion of the Christian Coalition’s membership base of 2,000,000 members and supporters – a list that generated $27 MILLION per year in donations for the organization.


I also used this list (built by way of my ongoing classified ad campaign) to market all kinds of information products of interest to Christians.


I am still using and building this list today.


And I continue to use classified ads as a major lead-generation tool.  In fact, I find that good old-fashioned classified ads are working even better today than ever before.


There continues to be a unique fascination with classified ads.


People love reading them. 


People read them even if they are not looking for anything specific.  People will read a classified ad before they will read a big display ad run by a department store, produced by a big ad agency.


I think people like reading classified ads because these ads are written mostly by real people – average folks – not ad agencies (and also by some direct marketers like me who understand how to use classified ads).


It’s sort of like the “Letters-to-the-Editor” section of the newspaper.


Many people will read the “Letters-to-the-Editor” before they will read the articles. 


The “Letters-to-the-Editor” section is one of the most popular sections of any newspaper – because people like to read letters written by average folks (real people) who are not professional writers. 


Same with so-called “reality” shows on TV.


People prefer to watch real people rather than actors and slickly-produced, highly-scripted shows.


I think that’s what’s going on with classified ads. 


Most classified ads are written by amateurs. So people like to read them.  And the classifieds are broken down by category.  So readers can go directly to the category that interests them.


There’s really no easier way to build a huge list of super-qualified leads than by using classified ads exactly as I have described here.  


And there’s no easier way to make money. 


The Yellow Pages operate basically the same way.  So you can often adapt a successful classified ad campaign for the Yellow Pages.


By the way, EBAY is really just a jazzed up classified ads service.


That’s all it is.


All those programs you see advertised about how to make money on EBAY are almost exactly the same as how to make money with classified ads.


In fact, that’s what the entire Internet is. 


It’s just a big classified ads listing service. 


People type in keywords and keyword phrases into search engine browsers that best describe what they are looking for.  Those are your categories. 


It’s no different in principle than the old fashioned classified ads or Yellow pages – just a whole lot more efficient, targeted and detailed.


So start thinking of your Internet marketing that way – like a gigantic classified ads service – classified ads on super-steroids.


Classified ads are huge on the Internet. is one of the biggest and most famous.  Classified ads on Craigslist are free. and  Yahoo have huge classified ad sections. There are countless others, most free on the Internet.


But don’t forget about good old fashioned print for your classified ad lead-generation and marketing campaign.


Remember, advertising  that’s printed on paper still has far more impact than digital advertising – I think because print is still just more real to people.


Key Steps

To Success For Using Classified Ads



Start studying the classified ad sections in magazines and publications (online and offline) that reach your target audience – the more targeted the publication, website or ezine, the better.



Study the categories to see if any category fits your product niche.  Or (even better) study the categories to figure out what product you should consider selling.  That’s what I prefer to do. I prefer to figure out first if there’s a market for my product before I go to the trouble and expense of developing it.



Look for categories that have lots of ads.  When you see lots of ads selling the same kinds of products, that means the ads are working and these kinds of products sell well.



Select a category in a niche that you love doing anyway.  If you love golf, consider selling golf stuff.  You won’t have much fun or success if you are not selling something dealing with a subject that you don’t love, or at least like a lot. Sell something that you are passionate about and that you believe in – not something just because you think you can make money selling it.



Go to your public library and ask for the Standard Rates and Data Sservices Directory of Trade Publications.  If it’s a decent sized library, they will have it.  Here you will find all the business and industry publications in existence broken down by category.  Focus on the trade and industry publications that most suit your market niche. 



Make sure you are able to deliver your promised product the instant people call . . . or who fill out your form on your site’s “landing page.”  Those who request your free product will be skeptical of your ad’s claims.  You want to exceed expectations by a huge margin.  If you do that, you’ll have no trouble making subsequent sales with your follow-up communications.



Be sure to track the performance of your ads. You’ll find that ads will perform much better in some publications and websites than others.  And the headline on your ad can make a 1,000% difference in your response.  Each ad should have it’s own phone number and landing page so you can track an ad’s performance. 



But don’t worry so much about the tracking mechanics when you first start out.  Just start running your ads.  When you find one that works, then start testing different ads and tracking results precisely.  But just get started.  As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.”



Don’t be discouraged by ads that fail.  You probably will fail at first.  It takes some trial and error to get the hang of it.  But classified ads are super cheap, so failure is no big deal.  All you need is for one ad to work and you’re off to the races.  If 10 ads fail and one works, you’re far better off than if you win the lottery.


STEP #10

Once you find an ad that’s working, keep running it until it stops working . . . which might be never. That is, a successful classified ad can often run profitably forever.


STEP #11

Once you achieve success with a classified ad campaign, experiment with direct response display ads that follow the same theme – just more detail.  So the display ad version offering the free book would include a picture of the book and more bullet items on the big benefits of getting this free book.


STEP #12

Test the same offer using different media – direct mail, radio, even TV (if you hit a home run).  Very often a successful classified ad campaign transfers over to other advertising media. 


Experimenting with classified ads is a great way to launch your education in direct marketing for very low risk – and can even be the start of a big new career for you in direct marketing.


In a big publication with hundreds of thousands of readers, your 25-word ad might cost $35.  A 25-word classified ad in the Washington Post will cost you about $65, with its million-reader circulation.  It gets cheaper if you run the ad for a week or a month . . . or perpetually until you decide to stop it.


So you don’t need many responses for your ad to pay off.


Your classified ads will usually work best in specialty publications that specifically target your niche market.


Will classified ads work for any product or service?


Nope.  No advertising medium will work for everything.


A saw is a great tool, but not if you want to hammer a nail into a piece of wood.


But classified ads are a great tool for the right product.


Classified ads can be a great tool.


And understand this.


Not all classified ad sections are alike.  The classified ad section in the Washington Post will be very different from the classified ads section in Popular Mechanics.


You will find entirely different categories of products being sold in different publications targeting different audiences.


That’s why it’s so important for you to study the SRDS Directory of Trade Publications.


That’s where you will find all the publications that target your specific market. That’s where you will find the best classified ad sections for you.


You can also just type "classified ads" into Google -- or better, "classified ads" plus the category of product or service you are selling.


So,  for example, if you are selling golf equipment, just type "classified ads golf."  You'll come up with a big list of places to test your ads.


Then offer something of value free designed to appeal to golf fanatics -- perhaps a free book titled "Three Steps to Long Straight Drives" or "America's 50 Golf Destinations for Those on a Budget" or maybe a FREE sleeve to Titleist golf balls. 


Whatever it is, you need to offer something of value free to build your big list of hard-core golf fanatics so that you can keep coming back at them later with golf offers.


Remember, you don't primarily use classified ads to sell.  You don't have enough space for that.  You use classified ads to build your list of leads by offering something of value free that will appeal to your target market.


I’m not sure success in business can get any easier or simpler than this.


Try it.  You’ll love it. 


Happy Improved Marketing,


Ben Hart

Your 21st Century Marketing Coach

because everyone (even Tiger Woods) needs a coach


P.S. Now, if you are really serious about growing your business exponentially through improved marketing, you'll love this:


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