Mason F. Lord Jr. figures even a company that relies almost entirely on referrals ought to advertise. His $1.4 million-a-year firm, Hudson Valley Preservation, is based in Sherman, Conn., and targets a second-home market for New Yorkers. To ensure that potential clients recognize the company name when they hear it, Lord paid an agency $3,230 to develop a 12-times ad for the Litchfield County Times' color magazine. The ad evolved from a sketch he provided, and he's fine-tuning it with feedback from former clients.

During the process, he also briefly consulted an ad review service at the Remodelers' Show provided by the NAHB's National Sales and Marketing Council. Here are some tips the NSMC offers:

* Lead with a headline, not a company name. Catch the reader's eye. Show the benefits of using you over the competition.

* Avoid busy logos. Make it easy for your customer to read your name.

* Avoid using too many fonts. Otherwise, the ad will look disjointed. Use no more than two per ad.

* Make sure your company name tells what you do. Clients need to know whether you're a rust-proofer, a restaurateur, or a remodeler.

* Don't overuse words like "quality," "value," and "customer service." These terms appear everywhere and, sadly, have become meaningless.

* Remember that people read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Keep important information at the end; that's what they'll remember.

Ad reviews are $20 for NAHB members and $50 for non-members. The service is free to NSMC members. For more information, call (800) 365-5242, ext. 8192.