Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding Print Ad Potential

Old habits die hard.  For most of the past 270 years or so businesses have relied upon print advertising to serve their foremost marketing needs.  If you were a merchant or service provider in a city or large town, you could place an advertisement in one or more local newspapers and almost guarantee being noticed by anyone with money to spend.  As the nation grew, even some magazines could serve well as advertising channels.

The 20th Century, in wave upon wave, saw the end of this easy solution.  Media were fragmented with the advent of radio, television, and then the Internet.  Now there are hundreds if not thousands of "publications" for advertisement.  Even more if you count neighborhood shoppers, Yellow Pages, coupon mailers, and performing arts playbills among others.

Yet, many businesses continue to place print advertising.  Unfortunately, this channel hardly ever works any more.  Especially for small businesses.

Last week I spoke with a small business owner who placed an inexpensive ad in a print publication that, "on paper", had attractive reach and demographics for that business.  The ad hasn't generated any calls.  And that ad followed the rules:  colorful, with a good "hook" message, and even on a page that should have attracted eyeballs.

What happened?  I did a little market research and determined that none of the readers I contacted either knew of or read the publication.  That's a bad start.  I think there are so many fragmented channels that any ad is simply swallowed up in the noise.  There is no longer critical mass sufficient to generate meaningful response rates.

On top of that, the wider the circulation the more likely it is that the target customer becomes a smaller proportion of the population reached.  ROI is farther reduced.

So can print help, even a little?  It is certainly possible but the odds are low.  Can a publication reach enough of the right people today?  And can we afford to gamble on an experimental base with those that do given reader habits?

BOTTOM LINE:  If a print publication seems plausible, do some research.  Review ads already appearing in the publication.  Spot check a few with the business owner(s) and ask what they think about the success of their investment.  Consider partnering with an allied business in order to buy a larger ad that has a little more chance of being noticed.  And ask hard questions about how well your target customer is covered by that publication.

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