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Fri 26 Sep 2003

Abracadabra

Category : Commentary

Words are like magic. When we were children, we read stories about how sorcerers could cast a spell or make something supernatural happen just by chanting the magic word.

Words do hold real power. The key is to find the right combination that will unlock the power. Am I talking nonsense?

I'm putting out ads in the local newspaper to find tenants for some office space that we manage. But the market is bad. Last month, I managed to find a suitable tenant for an apartment that we own. But it took two months of searching when, only the previous year, we found a tenant within 45 minutes of taking the calls.

Advertisements cost money. The effectiveness of the advertisement is measured by the number of calls that you get. And the effectiveness of your handling the calls is measured by the number of viewings that you get. Like Dennis Wee, our real estate guru says, "Only when buyers come, can the home sell." The more calls you get, the more your chances of getting a viewing, out of which, hopefully, one will result in the sale.

You can see how words can affect the number of calls you get. Put aside a budget, write a series of ads in diifferent styles. And watch how many calls each one pulls. In today's market, an ad put out without any idea of how to push the right buttons in the mind of the busy, fussy, squeezy, tenant-to-be will most likely result in zero calls. That's $40 to $50 bucks down the drain. Better not to have put it out, unless it has thought you something.

Now, back to the Mac as the Ultimate Business Machine. How do we use our favourite toy in this situation?

Ads are charged by the number of lines that you use, which is not exactly determined by the number of words that you use. To see what I mean, use something like InDesign. Create a column that is about the size of the column in the newspaper classified page. Then use a font like Times that corresponds as closely as possible to the font the newspapers use. Then set the appropriate font size and kerning (the space between the letters).

Take an ad that you've submitted previously, and type it into the column. Then adjust the font size and column size until the words break just like way the ad looked on the newspaper. You can test it by simulating other ads on the same page.

If you can get similar line breaks and the same number of lines as they appear on the newspaper, you've got a really valuable tool. Because, when you next write an ad, you can use this column to get a feel for how many lines it's going to take and, therefore, how much it's going to cost you to place the ad.

You can see how making just one change in the wording (for example, by finding a shorter word - the Bartleby site is a great on-line resource for finding synonymns) can save you a whole line. Or where you've got space to use a longer and more appropriate word without adding to the line count.

The benefits don't end here. When you submit your ad (the smart kids use e-mail rather than the phone because you can get an idea how much you've spent on adverts to date just by counting the ads you've sent), you can have the InDesign column ready when the operator calls back to confirm that you did get the number of lines that you've planned for. More times than not, you would have got it right. If you don't, you can look at your own copy to suggest dropping or changing words, and you should be able to do it fast enough before the operator gets impatient.

It's magic. It's now possible to really concentrate on finding the most impact you can make with your words, at the lowest possible cost.

Note : See how fast we can switch from talking about technology, and sendmail and SASL, to English, and design and artwork, and commerce and business? If the Mac is not a machine for those who want to live life to the full, I don't know what else is.

Posted at 4:31PM SGT | permalink


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