Topic overview

Press and directory advertising

Press and directory advertisingAdvertising in the press and in directories can be an affordable and effective marketing tool for small businesses. Advertising offers a way to spread the word about your business to large numbers of people in targeted groups.

There are thousands of different publications. These include:

  • national newspapers;
  • regional dailies and weekly papers;
  • freesheets;
  • local papers;
  • general interest magazines;
  • special interest magazines;
  • trade, technical and professional magazines;
  • in-house magazines.

Most people receive free local directories through the post, and also use online directories such as Yell, Thomson Local and the BT Phone Book to source local services. Many areas also have local lifestyle publications that are delivered free to targeted postcodes.

Why advertise in newspapers and magazines?

Magazine and newspaper ads allow you to reach an engaged audience. Readers spend time reading their favourite publications, free from the usual distractions when browsing online, and often keep copies for reference.

It is also easy to target the right audience segment for you. Special interest and trade titles have specialist readerships that may be ideally suited to your product or service. Local newspapers offer the chance to reach large numbers of people in your area - ideal for local businesses.

Producing and placing an advert in a publication can be done relatively quickly and cheaply. Printed advertisements can both attract attention and convey a lot of information.

Even if your advertising budget is tight, it can go a long way. And with a reasonably fast production turnaround, there's scope to try different approaches and find out what works.

Choosing where to advertise

Media planning is a science - you need to look beyond top-line circulation figures, and study the data in depth. BRAD Insight is an excellent source of data on media titles.

Get the media packs of all the publications you are considering advertising in. Check out the quality and relevance of the editorial content in those titles to your product or service.

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 are widely distributed, but are frequently discarded unread;
  • copies of well-respected paid-for publications can be read by more than one person.

How to get a discount on advertising space

Strong negotiation with advertising salespeople on newspapers and magazines will make your press advertising budget stretch further:

  • 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.

Where should I position my advert?

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, as the page is read for longer.

Other prime positions are any early right-hand page, especially next to news pages, as well as the back and inside covers of magazines. These positions cost more, but deliver a higher response.

Measuring response to your press adverts

You need to gather your own intelligence about response rates when you advertise in the press. Make each of your advertisements unique to the publication, with dedicated phone numbers or email addresses, response coupons, or reference numbers.

Use these to track which advert is producing the best return on investment. Assess the quality of the responses generated. How many enquiries lead to sales?

Advertising in local directories

Advertising in directories works for small businesses, because many people still trust directories over a Google search to give them the information they need.

Print directories such as the Yellow Pages, Thomson Local and the BT Phone Book provide the contact details for businesses in a clear, well-organised way. Line listings are usually free, and if you want to stand out from the crowd, you can pay for an advertisement.

Most print directories will also allow people to search for the information online. You may receive an enhanced online listing (in a more prominent position, or more eye-catchingly presented) when you buy print advertising.

Online directories allow you to link directly to your website and/or social media profiles. Your entry or advert can also feature or link to a local map, and provide directions.

Advertising in trade directories

If you do business in a particular trade or sector, it's 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 - by definition - looking to buy the goods or services you sell.

Your potential customers use these directories as industry bibles, and they are often the first place they will look for new suppliers.

As with 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 businesses who are already paying for advertising the opportunity to contribute an 'advertorial' piece. This is free advertising, and gives you the opportunity to discuss your business and industry in detail - showing your expertise and trustworthiness.

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.

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