I always discourage small and medium sized (S-M) businesses from plunging into an advertising campaign as a means of publicity. The reasons are simple enough: the advertising space is too cluttered and almost all S-M businessess don’t have deep enough pockets to fight the big boys.
My advise, always work with PR first, then use smart advertising strategy to complement your PR efforts. I came across this article which I think all S-M business owners would benefit.
Streetwise Tips on Newspaper Advertising
1. The biggest waste
A huge percentage of newspaper advertising is a complete waste of money. Newspaper advertising can be profitable, but all too often, it isn’t. This is especially true for small businesses.
Many small businesses feel they have to advertise, and without much thought or research toss ads into the local paper. Typically the only reason they have chosen newspaper advertising as their communication vehicle is because the newspaper ad salesperson was the first person to call on them!
Why don’t newspaper ads always work for small businesses? The most common reason is that they get lost in the paper. Small businesses tend to run small ads with mediocre copy and no illustrative materials, such as photographs or art. And small business people often don’t take the time to measure ad results. Without measuring results, they have no sound basis for improving their creativity, their copy, their offers, or even their choice of media.
2. Product ad dilemma
It is extremely hard to make product ads work. For instance, we placed eighth- to quarter-page ads for different books that we publish in the national edition of the New York Times and regional editions of the Wall Street Journal in cooperation with various book store chains. These chains stock our books in hundreds of their stores, and we are able to track sales through their computer inventory systems and determine whether or not advertising can be linked to a sales increase on any given book. We found that an ad costing in the $2,000 to $10,000 range, not including production costs, typically generates less than ten additional book sales.
These product ads, in effect, caused a 95% to 99% net loss in profitability.
The only “winning” ad that we placed for one of our books, for instance, ran under an extremely clever headline and offered a terrific discount. Still, it covered costs but did not net a profit!
3. Product ad tips
Concentrate your product ad dollars in large ads rather than in frequent ones. Develop a punchy headline and include snappy illustrations or photos. Include sell copy for the serious potential buyer. And don’t forget to tell prospects where they can purchase your product.
4. Service ad tips
Run service ads where prospective customers will typically see them. The service directory of the local newspaper is usually an appropriate spot. Service ads need to clearly state the nature of the service offered. A great headline isn’t necessary because the prospect is generally already interested in obtaining the type of service you are offering. But you do need to convey a powerful competitive message through your ad. This advantage can take the form of a free trial, new customer offer, special bonus, or free estimate. If your competitors advertise on any particularly strong points that have great consumer appeal, match those points. And highlight a unique reason for clients to call on you first. Some service seekers call every service provider for quotes, some call two or three, and some call one. Make sure yours is the first call made.
And also remember, despite what an advertising salesperson may tell you, the most compelling, not necessarily the largest, ads tend to generate more “first calls.”
5. Generous offers
People expect to see “sale” and “specials” advertised in newspapers.
Whether you are advertising products or services, try to offer a special price or bonus to your customers. Make the offer generous. Ten percent off the regular price, especially in this age of national discount retailers and competitive pricing, just won’t cut it.
It costs a lot of money to run ads and response is often iffy, so offer deep discounts on a limited range of products or services. This is a tactic that lures the customers in and, ideally, while they are browsing, they will purchase other nondiscounted items that have a higher margin. In a best-case scenario, they will become regular customers.
6. Special rates
Large metropolitan newspapers and many small local or regional newspapers offer a lower ad rate called the “local” or “retail” rate to local or retail businesses. If you are selling a product through local retailers, you will save money if you get the retailer to place the ad even if you reimburse it for all costs involved. In some industries, however, the retailer typically shares some portion of the ad space with the manufacturer or supplier.
Newspapers also offer volume discounts if you guarantee to place a certain number of ads over the course of a year. Read the fine print regarding penalties for nonfulfillment on any contract you sign that involves a “frequency” rate. Generally, however, the penalty for failing to meet your placement obligations is payment of the “non frequency” rate for those ads you did place.
Still, it can be painful to reimburse the publication for the higher ad rate.
7. Negotiating rates
Generally, you can negotiate rates off the rate card with smaller papers or papers that don’t have the readership edge in their marketplace. And if your ads are particularly clever, you can sometimes negotiate a better rate deal with a larger newspaper.
Several years ago I wanted to run several full-page ads in a newspaper owned by a large U.S. media company. This company was notorious for adhering to their rate card. But I was determined to negotiate a discount. I called my advertising representative’s boss and politely explained to her that I needed to negotiate a lower rate or I wasn’t going to place an ad at all. This creative individual, wanting to keep my business but unable to go against a strict company policy on rates, established a new rate category just for me! I ran my ads for 30 percent less than any other advertiser in the publication!
Do you own a S-M business? What is your experience in advertising in the newspapers? Are they effective?
Feel free to leave a comment….