Print Marketing: Overlooked Gem or Expensive Gamble?

It wasn’t long ago that print media was king and there weren’t a lot of other options to advertise in outside of radio and TV. Now, in the always-on internet age, most of the shine has worn off of old-fashioned traditional media. While many insist that magazines and newspapers are dead, local print and traditional media are alive and well in many communities, offering small businesses a cost-effective way to get the word out. So, should you use traditional local media to advertise in? Take a look at the questions and answers below to determine whether advertising in a print publication is, in fact, the best deal for you!

Would your business benefit from traditional local advertising?

The most important question to ask is whether your small business would benefit from traditional local advertising at all. In order to answer that question, you need to consider where a majority of your business comes from. Is it in person, online through e-commerce, or around the country? Does your business provide local services in a single location? Where are a majority of your customers located? If you answered local or walk-in, traditional local advertising may prove effective. If, however, your business is based online, or mainly services customers outside your local geographic location, traditional local adverting may prove less effective for you and be a waste of your advertising resources.


Does the publication you want to advertise in reach your audience/customers?

One of the most important requirements in successful marketing is to go where your customers are. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to advertise in a publication if your target audience doesn’t consume it on a regular basis. It would be sort of silly for a classic car parts company to advertise in a gardening magazine, or an exercise bike company to advertise in a religious magazine. While there may be some audience crossover, it’s unlikely the readers of these publications would be drawn to those types of ads, making those ad dollars a waste. Thus, it’s important to research the demographics of your customers and compare them to those of the publication’s typical reader. Many publishers can provide you with breakdowns of their reader data such as Nielsen or Prizm reports. Consult these reports to ensure your chosen publication is the best fit for your business.


Does the publication you want to advertise in have concrete circulation numbers?

Just as important as the type of readers of a publication are the number of readers. After all, you want your ad to have the best chance at reaching a wide audience, right? This is only possible when a publication has good circulation numbers. So, when shopping around for publications to advertise in, be sure to ask for the latest circulation numbers. Pay attention to how the figures are formatted and ensure they are from within the last 12 months (ideally from the last quarter). An important thing to compare from publication to publication are the number of readers reached in relation to the advertising cost. In the industry, this is typically called the “CPM” or the “cost per thousand impressions”. If a publication has a circulation of 100,000 and charges $1,000 for an ad, the CPM would be $10. If a competing publication with the same circulation numbers were to charge $3,000 for the same type of ad, your CPM would be 3 times that of the first publication at $30. While many factors can play into advertising pricing, circulation numbers are almost always considered first.


Is the proposed pricing cost-effective?

Cost is the number one factor small business owners weigh when making marketing decisions. Thus, it’s very important to find out all the costs associated with advertising in a local publication before making any commitments. Firstly, you should find out what the base rates are for the types of ads you’re interested in, keeping in mind that larger, full-pages ads are typically the most expensive. Then, find out whether there are any additional fees for full-color, ad setup, or special placement. It’s a good idea to let your ad rep know all your requirements up front so you can get an accurate idea of pricing. This will help cut down on any surprise fees when the invoice rolls around. Most publications can provide you with a “media kit”, a brochure that lays out ad specifications, pricing, deadlines, file formats, and fees. Consult the media kit carefully and ask your representative to clarify any pricing questions before signing an agreement.


Has traditional local advertising helped other small businesses in your area?

A great way to gauge whether local advertising has helped other small businesses in your area is to ask them! After all, claims from publishers about return on investment are usually best-case scenarios and can be a bit misleading without proper context. To get true feedback about the effectiveness of local advertising, get in touch with a few of the businesses that advertise regularly in your chosen publication. Pay special attention to the businesses in similar industries to yours and those in close geographic proximity. Ask them for their honest feedback about the advertising process, whether they’ve seen an increase in business, and what their monthly advertising outlay typically is. This information will help you decide whether a particular publication lives up to the hype.


Does advertising in the publication require any costly long-term commitments?

An important thing to be on the lookout for as you shop around for publications to advertise in: long-term commitments and high upfront costs. Most traditional publishers require new advertisers to sign an advertising agreement upfront. These agreements are typically annual, meaning that you must commit to advertise in the publication for at least a year. However, some publishers offer quarterly, six-month, or even monthly options. Be sure to carefully compare pricing for each commitment level. In general, the lower the level of commitment, the higher the pricing per ad spot. For example, a full-page ad bought with a 12-month contract might cost $850, while the same ad could go for $1,000 to a customer without a contract. If you’re unsure whether a publication is the right fit for you, it might be a good idea to ask your ad rep whether the publication offers introductory pricing for new customers or whether it has any unsold ad spots it is looking to sell for a discount.


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