Advertising in the press and in directories can be an affordable and effective marketing tool for small businesses. Advertising offers a targeted way of spreading the word about your business to large numbers of people.
There are thousands of different publications. These include national newspapers, regional dailies and weekly papers, free and paid-for local papers, general interest magazines, special interest magazines, trade, technical and professional magazines and in-house magazines. Most people have local directories and also use online directories such as Yell to source local services. Many areas also have local lifestyle publications that are delivered free to targeted postcodes.
Rumours of the death of the printed word have been exaggerated. People still read newspapers and magazines. They buy them on news-stands, they subscribe to them and they welcome their arrival on the doormat.
Magazine ads allow you to reach a targeted audience. Special interest and trade titles have specialist readerships. Ads in your local newspapers offer the chance to reach large numbers of people in your area.
Producing and placing an advert can be done relatively quickly. Printed advertisements can attract attention and convey a lot of information. Readers spend time reading their favourite publications and often keep copies for reference.
Even if your advertising budget is tight, it can go a long way. Advertising costs can be relatively inexpensive. And with a fast production turnaround, there's scope to try different approaches and find out what works.
Media planning is a science, not an art. You need to look beyond the top-line circulation figures and study the data in depth. The BRAD directory is an excellent source of data on publications. Get the media packs of all the publications you are considering. Check out the quality and relevance of the editorial content in those titles. See where your competitors are advertising. Ask your customers which publications they read regularly.
Now look at the data. Newspaper and magazine circulation figures are not the same as readership figures. Free papers, for instance, are widely distributed, but are frequently discarded unread. Meanwhile, copies of well-respected paid-for publications can be read by more than one person.
Strong negotiation with advertising sales people on newspapers and magazines will make your press advertising budget stretch further. Printed advertising rates are not set in stone. Expect to pay below the rate card. If you're a new advertiser, make sure you get a reasonable discount to test response. You can expect sizeable discounts for booking a series of ads. Hold your nerve and book close to the final print deadline to get the best deal. However, do not select a publication based purely on rates.
The position of the ad is critical to its success. The best possible place for an advert is on a right-hand page, near the top. Ads next to editorial get more exposure. Other prime positions are any early right-hand page, especially next to news pages, as well as back and inside covers of magazines. These positions cost more but deliver a higher response.
You need to gather your own intelligence about response rates. Make each of your advertisements unique, with special telephone hotlines, tailor-made email addresses, response coupons or reference numbers. Use these devices to track which advert is producing the most response. Assess the quality of the responses. How many enquiries lead to sales?
Advertising in directories still works for small businesses because some people turn to directories when they need to find a company — using paper copies and online services. As a reference source, telephone directories like Yellow Pages, Thomson Local and the BT Phone Book provide the contact details for businesses in a clear, well-organised way. Line listings are free and your firm can stand out from the crowd by paying for an advertisement.
Online directories enable you to promote your business to customers who prefer to search for information on the internet. Yellow Pages has www.yell.com, Thomson has www.thomsonlocal.com and BT offers www.thephonebook.bt.com. Ordinary listings are usually free, but paid-for entries get more prominence. If someone searches for a florist in Nottingham, for instance, the advertiser listings will appear before the free entries.
Web directories allow you to link your directory entry to your website. Your online directory entry or advert can also feature a local map and provide directions.
If you do business in a special trade or sector, it is essential to make sure you're listed in the relevant trade or business directories. Business directories have a long shelf life and the people who consult them are predisposed to buy goods and services in your sector. Your potential customers use these directories as industry bibles, and they are often the first place they will look for new suppliers.
Like any directory, you will be listed alongside your competitors, so it pays to advertise to ensure you communicate what is special about your business.
Some trade directories may offer companies who are already paying for advertising the opportunity to contribute an 'advertorial' piece about their business. This is free advertising, and gives you the opportunity to say in detail what makes your business competitive. It is worth asking about advertorial space when you place an ad, and can often be a good bargaining tool when negotiating your ad fees.