Print Advertising for Local Businesses

Should you advertise your business in the newspaper or a local magazine? Print advertising can still be effective — if you use these six tips.

In the not-so-distant past, running an ad (or a series of them) in the local newspaper was a staple of local business marketing. Now, with the decline of printed newspaper readership, this form of advertising has started to seem as archaic as carving on stone tablets. But print advertising can still work for your local business. Just pay attention to a few key concepts.

Relevancy matters

First, a quick word about what makes advertising work, especially print advertising: getting your ad in front of a targeted readership who has at least some interest in seeing what you are offering. For years I subscribed to a scrapbooking magazine, and I noticed it took me twice as long to browse through and read that magazine as it did the other general-interest magazines I received. Why? Because I was reading the articles and the ads in the scrapbooking magazine. I wanted to know what new supplies were available to use in my hobby. I was skipping over most of the ads in the general interest magazines because they were irrelevant to me.

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Relevancy can be about the content or the geography. A local newspaper or magazine that is distributed to a clearly defined group of people in a specific area makes it relevant.

Distribution is key

If your community still has a vibrant local newspaper that is distributed to either residents of a small town or a specific area inside a larger city, then it may work to advertise in it if your potential customers are typically residents of that area.

An example of what I mean by vibrant: In my neighborhood, there’s a local paper that is distributed free to houses in the geographic footprint. It’s thrown into the driveway. Most of the homeowners on the streets where I walk my dog leave it in the driveway for a couple of days and then finally throw it away. It happens every time.

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Several friends of mine live in a different neighborhood across town, and their version of the newspaper (published by the same parent company) is delivered into their mailboxes. It lands in their kitchens and living rooms. I’ve seen it opened on their countertops and heard them discussing articles they’ve read in it. It pays to know more than just how many people receive the publication, but how they receive it.

Content, Not Just Ads

Make sure you know whether the publication you’re considering advertising in has actual readers. One way to figure this out is whether or not there’s any content in it besides advertising. Mailings that are 100% coupons and/or ads have a low-perceived importance and often get thrown away before people even look at them. It’s the paper equivalent to fast-forwarding past the commercials on TV. If there’s no content, I don’t typically recommend this form of print advertising.

Additional Activity with Readers

There is a publication company (N2 Publications) that publishes neighborhood-focused magazines in many cities and towns in the U.S. that has a good mix of relevant content that is distributed to people’s homes. The articles are about the neighborhood, and many articles are written by the neighbors who live in the neighborhood.

These magazines’ publishers also offer activities for the neighborhood. Each month the magazine hosts special events for people in the community and invites advertisers to join in. Sometimes it’s a movie night under the stars or Halloween trick-or-treating at a local business or a dinner for the neighbors at a local restaurant. These events give advertisers another layer to their advertising and make the print ad more likely to work.

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Call to Action

Many times, local businesses place a brand-awareness-type ad in a newspaper or magazine. The problem with that is that there’s no way to find out if it worked. It’s best to have a specific call to action. Announce an event on a specific day with an RSVP required or offer a unique discount with an expiration date. That way you will know exactly what response you got with your advertising investment.

An example of this could be a golf club trying to boost winter dining in its restaurant. It could start placing ads in the early fall for a Harvest Festival Dinner or a Holiday Brunch. Make it clear in the ad that reservations are required and that the chef will only be making a certain number of meals. Make it possible to reserve a table by calling or going online. Give a specific reservation deadline.

Repetition counts

It’s not just a sales tactic on the part of the publication; it’s true that repeated ads get better results. Place a series of ads over time for the best results in your print advertising. Make them look similar but change them up slightly every few ads. This will help people to remember you are advertising, but still take a look because it’s just a little different.

Track your response

Once you place an ad, keep a close tab on what results you get so that you can decide what publications work for you and which don’t. Don’t give up too soon; give it time to work. If it isn’t working at all or not well enough, tweak your ad first, and then, if nothing changes, you can stop.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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