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;
- in-house magazines.
Most people receive free local directories, 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 myriad distractions 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. Local newspapers offer the chance to reach large numbers of people in your area.
Producing and placing an advert in a publication can be done relatively quickly and inexpensively. 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 fast production turnaround, there's scope to try different approaches and find out what works.
Choosing which publications to advertise in
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 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 are widely distributed, but are frequently discarded unread;
- copies of well-respected paid-for publications can be read by more than one person.
Discounts on advertising space
Strong negotiation with advertising sales people 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.
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.
Measuring response to press adverts
You need to gather your own intelligence about response rates. Make each of your advertisements unique, with dedicated phone numbers or email addresses, response coupons or reference numbers.
Use these to track which advert is producing the best response rate. Assess the quality of the responses. 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.
As a reference source, print 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.
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.
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.
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 businesses who are already paying for advertising the opportunity to contribute an 'advertorial' piece. 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.