I had an interesting situation this week. My new job and old job collided. One of my newest writing clients asked for my advice on whether they should advertise in a local newspaper. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that question, and it won’t be the last.
For those that don’t know me, although I make my living as a content writer and copywriter, for the majority of my career I’ve worked in the publishing and advertising industry. Most recently I was part of the management team within the advertising department of a local publishing company.
It’s an industry I’m all too familiar with, and I’ll be honest, my advice when asked ‘should I advertise in a local newspaper?’ is usually ‘no’. But it’s always ‘no’ for a reason.
Here’re the circumstances I’d consider taking out a local newspaper advert
I know that local newspaper advertising can work. How do I know? Well, part of my job in my ‘employed’ days was to compile and use the testimonials that our advertisers shared with us. And I’ve spoken to advertisers who have enjoyed hugely successful advertising campaigns.
But it only works in very specific circumstances. Most buyers of local media view their advertising as a straight-up punt. A gamble. A toss of a coin. It might work. It might not. For them, it’s just part of the game – a cost of doing business.
No advertising sales rep will ever guarantee you results. Because they can’t. But some media buyers use that as an excuse to put no thought whatsoever into their advertising. That’s a massive mistake.
Ultimately you have to make up your own mind about whether you advertise in a local newspaper.
If either the set of circumstances are right for your business, OR you are in the mood of a PUNT, please, please – do the following. End the cycle of taking a succession of uncalculated gambles. Put in place a unique mechanism to make your adverts truly accountable. No excuses.
The beauty of Facebook, Google Adwords, your email newsletter and your site is that they are accountable. You can get real-time feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. You have the ultimate flexibility to stop something or change it. You can pause a campaign when you want and start it again when it suits.
Now don’t get me wrong – online and social media advertising isn’t perfect. It’s certainly not without its flaws. It’s also fair to say that there are a huge number of people wasting just as much money on digital advertising as they do on traditional media.
But you can make a local newspaper advert accountable. Here’s how you do it. You share a single offer or a single product in the advert. An exclusive offer. A unique price. It has to be something that you don’t share elsewhere.
This might seem counterintuitive. After all conventional, accepted wisdom is that you need to have a mix of media and a blend of channels. But if you want to stop your advertising being a punt and start looking at it as a genuine investment you need a means to measure what works. A way to isolate and focus on one single media that you’d like to test.
But I think you can have a broader campaign and still measure the effectiveness of a single channel. What you could do, and if your margins allow – you could offer an additional discount that you don’t share elsewhere. You can take a coupon approach or use a specific voucher code.
You need to factor this into your financial model. In other words, you need to make sure that you’ve built enough margin in to be profitable.
It’s simple and obvious advice, and the small margin that you give away in the short term could save you a fortune in wasted, unproductive advertising in the future.
If nobody redeems your exclusive local newspaper offer, then you’ll have your answer. Don’t be fooled into trying again. Don’t convince yourself that ‘maybe the copy was wrong’ or ‘maybe it was in on the wrong day’. Satisfy yourself that it didn’t work for you. Move on. Don’t repeat the error by trying again.
And what if it does work? If it works – do it again. Consider increasing the frequency or even the size of the advert.
Ultimately the message I want you to take away from this blog post is this – local newspaper advertising should be viewed as an investment and not a gamble.
You’ve got to take responsibility, though – so here are my Top Tips for those considering launching a local newspaper advertising campaign.
I don’t offer local newspaper advertising related services personally, but if you have a question, or would like some free, impartial advice. Drop me an email and I’ll try to help.
The decision my colleague made was, on this occasion, not to advertise in the local newspaper. That decision was made on financial logic. The sums just didn’t add up and that brought the campaign into the realms of a gamble, rather than investment.
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