Marketing Basics: Advertising, what to look for and what NOT to do

To be honest, you shouldn’t be advertising at all and especially NOT if you are on a small budget.  There are so many other things you could be spending your marketing budget on, rather than advertising, and many of these strategies have higher returns than a traditional advert.

But, BEFORE I go into what you could be spending your money on in later posts, let’s look at what to look for and what to avoid if you do decide to advertise.

Advertising – what you SHOULD do:

  • DO your research. Before you spend a penny, or even make a commitment to any publication/media source, you need to know that you are considering the right outlet for your advert.  You can do this by matching up your target audience or your ideal customer profile with the publication’s reader demographics.  All good publications/media sources will have this information in their media packs or if they don’t, they will be able to provide this information to you.  If the information doesn’t match – then don’t use this publication – it just won’t work.
  • DO get the most bang for your buck! This is more media pack research I’m afraid.  Actually this is quite easy.  Find out, from the media pack, what the per column centimetre cost for a display advert is.  So, for example, a display advert (that’s one that is graphically designed and not just text – or a lineage advert) could cost you £15/col cm.  That means, for every centimetre high that your advert is and for one column in width you will pay £15.E.g. a two column-wide ad that is 10cms high will cost you: £300.  (£15 x 2 x 10 = £300.)  Now you know how much your ad will cost, you need to divide this by the circulation figure of the publication.  This will give you the per person or per item cost of your ad, which will enable you to compare two or more suitable publications in terms of their cost effectiveness.
  • DO negotiate or bargain! Don’t ever ever ever pay the rate card price for your advert.  EVER!  The rate card price in the media pack is what the publication would like to get for that space and sometimes they do – but not from you.  There are ways to negotiate discounts and get a bargain!  Trust me on this – I have been on both sides of the coin – having run a publication and been a media buyer for previous employers and now current clients.  I KNOW how to get a discount!

Option 1: Check the rate for a black  white (B) ad and then ask for it to be in colour for the same price.  Of course this only works if there is a B price and spot colour or full colour price options – something that is less common these days as most publications are full colour throughout and only offer full colour as an option.

Option 2: Agree to book a series – two or more ads – for a discount on the insertion rate (the insertion rate is the cost for each time the advert appears in the publication).

Option 3: If the publication you are negotiating with has more than one publication or edition in its series – get them to put the ad in more than edition for the original price.

Option 4: Find out when the publication’s deadline is and get in touch just before deadline to see if they have any last minute deals going.  You might sacrifice choice over position but you will get a real deal.

  • DO always ask for a good position (i.e. early right hand page – pages 3,5,7,9,11) and/or some free editorial space.  This is obviously not a direct monetary benefit but it is added value.


What you SHOULD NOT do:

  • DO NOT (at the risk of repeating myself) pay the rate card price. There is usually no need to pay the rate card price.  The exception might be if this is the only publication suitable for your business and/or it is oversubscribed and can charge a premium.
  • DO NOT make your advert too small. No point in having a tiny advert it will just get overlooked – self-explanatory I hope!
  • DO NOT try to squeeze too much into your advert. This is such a common mistake.  I know what people are thinking when they do this – I am paying for this space so I have to get as much out of it as possible.  BIG MISTAKE.  If you overcrowd your advert you might as well have left the space blank.  Too much information will make people not want to read it.  If they do – by some miracle – read your advert, you will be throwing so many messages and information at the reader they will just give up or come away confused.  You need to keep it simple and use the space wisely.
  • DO NOT over commit yourself to any publication. If you are negotiating for a discount by block-booking then give yourself the option to cancel this agreement if you find the ad isn’t working for you.  One way to do this is to book three insertions (one a month) for a discount with just a verbal promise of similar block bookings if all goes well.

As I said, I don’t believe that advertising is a good way to go, especially if you are on a small budget and if you want to see results relatively quickly.

Although advertising means that you can say what you want to your target audience in the way you want to say it, compared to other types of marketing, including PR, it has little credibility – readers know you will only say the very best about yourself and your business.

It is also an expensive was to spend your marketing budget and the returns aren’t great.  As a former publication owner I know that advertising has very low conversion rate and ideally you need to have a consistent campaign to see results.  This means a longer term view for your advertising, whereas most people think chucking one ad into their local paper will have people banging their doors down.  No way!  And to get the consistency needed to make advertising work – you need a much bigger budget than the one I bet your are considering right now!

I truly believe that advertising has its place in a properly planned and holistic marketing strategy – something that is critical and highly beneficial to even the smallest business.  If you have a properly planned marketing plan of action then within that overall framework then advertising has its place, however, one advert is not going to change your business world.

Some of the lower cost and higher return marketing methods will be covered in coming issues as part of this marketing basics series, including PR, networking, blogging, email newsletters etc.

If you need help with your marketing strategy then give me a call  01932 219069 or drop me a line: alex@justtoobusy.co.uk.

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