Traditional advertising may be on the decrease, but it is still one of the foremost ways to build your brand and market a business. Pick up your magazine of choice and you will see that many very significant brands still find big value in press advertising.
Yet getting the most out of advertising is not just a case of booking a spot and submitting an advert. There are a few important things to think about. Things that will greatly affect the price you pay, how you appear in the publication, and most importantly the response rates you get.
1. Is the publication any good?
The publication may distributes to the right market, but is it actually any good.
Advertising will only work if readers engage properly with the whole publication and trust the value of its content. People may just buy a publication for a few key pages at the back (the sport, or listings) and not even look at the rest. Likewise, many free publications may go straight through the letterbox and into the trash.
So before you do anything, get the publication to send you a few back copies or ask some target readers what they think.
2. Who reads it?
It sounds a simple question, but very few small advertisers ask it. Many publications do quite detailed research on their readership and may have detailed socio-economic data on typical readers. Otherwise, take an objective look through the publication itself – its advertising and content.
Is this really appealing to the people you want to attract as customers?.
3. How many copies are actually distributed?
The publication will give you a headline figure for distribution, but ask them to break it down further. How many are left on the shelves? How many are given to ‘distribution points’ (i.e delivered to hotels in a big pile to sit in the lobby)? How many are given away for free versus paid?
You may well find that the distribution is not quite what it’s cracked up to be.
4. Where are the copies distributed?
For advertising to be effective, as many copies as possible have to reach potential buyers. Unless you offer a very specialised product or service, there is a limit to how far people will travel.
One of the key mistakes advertisers make is not focusing their advertising enough geographically.
If the publication covers three large towns, and your mid-range restaurant is in one of them – you may have already lost 66% of your viable audience.
5. How long am I advertising for?
Many businesses advertise for a single month to ‘see how it goes’. For most publications, this is not long enough to draw any valuable conclusions. Awareness builds up over time and repeat viewings.
So sign-up for a run and use this commitment to get the best discounts available or to negotiate some extra coverage (a bigger advert or an editorial).
6. Where I am going to appear?
Make sure you know where in the magazine your advert will appear. Many advertisers will insist on certain spots (front half / right hand page etc.) which tends to push those who say nothing to the quieter pages.
Take a look at an existing copy of the publication, find a good spot, and let them know that is where you want to be. You may not get it, but you are less likely to be pushed to the back pages.
7. Where am I getting my advert from?
The space you book is worthless without a killer advert design. The publication will often ‘put something together’ for you for free – this is rarely good enough and will follow the same template as every other advert in the publication.
Think carefully about what you want to say, and then get a proper graphic designer to design an original and eye-catching advert for you. The small extra investment can make a huge difference to response rates.
8. What am I trying to get people to do?
What do you want people to do when they see your advert? Call you? Go to the website? Come and visit you? Book for Christmas? Tell their friends? Remember your name?
Make sure your advert design and text is based around the response you want to illicit. If you want your reader to take action, then make sure this message comes through loud and clear in the advert.
9. How am I measuring response rates?
To plan your future marketing, you need to measure the effectiveness of the advertising. Think about how you are going to measure responses.
Traditional methods include using a unique phone number or web url for the advert, including a redeemable discount, and asking new customers where they heard about you.
10. Are there any editorial opportunities?
Advertising is often not just limited to placing an advert. Depending on your product and service it may be better to appear in an editorial or advertorial context – especially if you are advertising in a magazine with authority. Ask the magazine about submitting an article with your own byline, or including a short editorial.
You will find that most publications are open to these ideas if you also book advertising space at the same time.