By 2:30 p.m. the company had logged 16 calls. But for Dan, who answered the phone for the New Jersey sunroom company, 16 might as well have been a million. The most they'd ever received in a single day was about 10 calls; never more than 25 calls from a single ad in an entire month. This ad generated 73 calls by the end of the first week.

SECOND OFFER What happened? The company added a second offer to the ad it had been running. Instead of just including an incentive offer that rotated between 20% off, a free heating/cooling unit, a $2,500 discount, etc., it added an information offer: a free “Sunroom Idea Guide.” Readers could call or go online to request the guide, which shows available sunroom styles, company-built sunrooms, and a pricing matrix.

The response is actually easy to explain. Incentive offers in home improvement advertising only appeal to now buyers. For someone already in the mood to buy a sunroom, the 20% discount might get them to call. But 95% of people who see your ads are not ready to buy now. They might be thinking about it or planning on it for some time later on, but they're not ready to engage with a salesperson yet.

Adding an information offer is easy. First, create a guide that appeals to anyone who'd be interested in what you sell. It could contain before-and-after photos, testimonials, material or brand comparisons, or information about how to choose the best product. Second, give the guide a good name: “Homeowner's Guide to Replacement Windows,” etc. Third, make the offer conspicuous in your advertising and liberally use the word “FREE.” Fourth, make sure everyone at your company knows that information seekers will be calling. There's nothing worse than hammering someone for an appointment who just wanted the guide.

FOLLOW-UP IS KEY No need to throw your incentive offers out; now-buyers will still appreciate your discounts and other offers. But information offers are the easiest way to get more bang from you advertising buck. —Rich Harshaw, author of Monopolize Your Marketplace, is a marketing expert;