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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Why you should probably NOT spend money on print advertising!

IF YOUR business is a start-up, or just a small business, you face the challenge of managing your limited resources whilst trying to generate a return.

In difficult economic circumstances, winning new business – even generating leads can be hard. Then there’s the question of building awareness more broadly, to ensure that when prospects make a “buying decision”, your business is front of mind.

It’s usually when you’re toying with these imponderables that the phone rings and some slick-talking smoothie says that the publication he works for has an available page, they’re due to go to print imminently and out of the goodness of his heart, he thought he’d offer it to you at a very reasonable discount. Yes, that old chestnut!

Well, I’m not suggesting that you say NO to every one of these media-sales types…just 99.9 per cent of them. Brass is better in your pocket than theirs!

In short, here’s my advice regarding how to respond when approached to buy advertising space:-

- Ask if their circulation is audited by ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation). If it’s a radio ad, the equivalent organisation that audits radio listener figures is called RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research)

- If they say they don’t have these metrics, but offer a “Publisher Statement”, there may be little basis to whatever they claim as their circulation. Ask them to qualify the figure by giving you their print run.

- Ensure that they offer you a detailed demographic statement regarding listeners/readers. Ask yourself if this demographic is really who you need to be selling to.

- Ask them if they have successfully advertised a business offering services like yours previously. Can they qualify this? Ask them what return on your investment you might expect. If this is answered in a woolly fashion, ask them if they have case studies from businesses comparable to your own. Or better still, ask if you can have the contact details of an advertiser who has gained a measurable return on their investment from advertising with them.

- If at any point when you ask these sorts of things, you are given prevarication or evasiveness, it suggests they can’t give you the assurances you need before you part with your money.

I was with a client recently when a salesperson from a lifestyle publication turned up. She flannelled through most of the stuff I’ve outlined, so I asked her to do a “taster” deal - and that if it worked my client would commit to a series of adverts. The taster I suggested was a free one page ad for my client and he’d pay them half of the profit he generated from any leads the ad generated. Suffice to say, she declined. More to the point, since then neither I nor my client have been approached by the publication. This speaks volumes about their confidence in their product to do anything beyond vanity advertising.

In fairness, you might want to advertise for reasons other than straightforward lead generation, such as long-term awareness building. In which case, at the very least this approach should get you access to better than rate-card prices.

Finally, as a test of a publication’s commitment to giving you a deal that actually works, why not ask them to publish a press release for you? If you get a response to your story, it’s reasonable to assume that if you advertise with them you might see a response too!

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