Topic overview

Media advertising

Woman reading newspaper and seeing adverts from local businesses

Media advertising, sponsorship, outdoor advertising, direct mail and leafleting are all tried and tested techniques that have the power to boost your sales.

While there’s no doubt that most of us spend more time than ever on our phones, social media and online advertising are not the only ways to get the attention of your target audience. People still read local papers and magazines; they notice business names and logos on billboards and vans in their area; and they check out the few items that now come through their letterbox.

Media advertising, outdoor advertising, direct mail and leafleting can also be very cost-effective. The trick is to make sure that your message is reaching your target audience and persuading them to act, otherwise you are wasting your marketing budget. Local businesses can target their immediate catchment area; business-to-business advertising can be targeted using industry websites, trade publications and specialist events.

The benefits of media advertising

There are thousands of publications in the UK, offering both online and print versions. These include: national and regional newspapers; freesheets and local papers; special interest magazines; trade, technical and professional magazines; and in-house magazines. If you are looking to advertise, media packs and BRAD Insight can tell you about readership and circulation figures.

Advertising in local directories can also be very effective. Online directories such as Yell allow you to link directly to your website. If you do business in a particular trade or sector, make sure you're listed in the relevant trade or business directories as well as on Google.

A successful advert must highlight your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and have a compelling Call To Action (CTA) to encourage prospects to take the next step.

Most ad rates are negotiable; if you are advertising in a new publication, ask for a discount and explain that you want to test the response. Response mechanisms such as landing pages, phone numbers and QR codes can help you track the success of your adverts.

Outdoor advertising

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is as popular as ever, and for good reason. Poster ads put your message in front of your potential customers as they're walking by, shopping or driving.

Outdoor advertising is not just about traditional billboards; you can advertise on bus stops, in train stations, in taxis and on the side of your own premises. It’s also well worth customising your company car or van with your logo, brand name and web address; not only does it convey professional pride but it can become a mobile advert for your business.

The best outdoor ads use bold colours, a simple design and have a clear message that is easy to read from a distance. You can book outdoor advertising via specialist agencies; the key metric to ask about is reach - the number of people that see the site per week or month.

The power of direct mail and leaflets

With less post on the door mat, small businesses have an opportunity to stand out from the crowd by sending direct mail and delivering leaflets. The difference between the two is that direct mail is posted to a specific mailing list while leafleting is about delivering flyers to every house in a specific area.

If you are going to pay for the cost of postage, it’s vital that your mailing list is both accurate and targeted to avoid waste. Even so, responses to direct mail can be as low as 1-3%, so factor that in when you allocate budget to mailings. If you sell to other businesses, direct mail can be an effective way to send persuasive letters with a clear call to action. For local businesses, leafleting is usually the most cost-effective mailing solution.

Sponsorship for small businesses

Sponsorship can be both effective and affordable for small firms. It can raise your profile and improve your reputation - especially if you support a good cause, a local sports team or a community event. Sponsoring an industry event can put your business front and centre at a trade show or conference. You can make a cost-effective sponsorship deal by providing free goods and services in exchange for the exposure that being a sponsor brings.

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