“Shall I put an advert in that magazine or not?” Your mind goes backwards and forwards, dithering, wondering, working out the finances. You’re just not sure what to do. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in this dilemma before, it’s a very common one. You may have taken the gamble before (and sometimes it really can feel like a gamble), and it paid off – or you may not. But regardless, whether or not to take an advert in a print magazine or newspaper is always a challenge. Here’s 3 points you need to consider before making your decision.
1. Understand the real point of advertising.
I used to publish a yearly directory called Green Pages, for Oxfordshire. It was a 110 page booklet listing all things green, alternative, complementary and anything else that wasn’t mainstream. People could list themselves for free, but if they wanted to stand out in any way, they had to pay. Many of our customers would book ads each year without quibble, and in fact were glad to hear from me when I rang to tell them it was time to advertise again. However, we also regularly had others who would say “well, I didn’t get any enquiries last year, so I don’t think I’ll bother”. Sometimes I would just say “OK thanks anyway”. I knew it wasn’t a problem with the publication as other people were happy with being in it, and I myself would often have responses to my own adverts. However, I was not, and never have been, in the busines of hard selling. Or even firm selling! So why was it a good idea for them to continue advertising?
What I noticed over the ten years we published this successful little booklet before selling it on, was that those who were regular advertisers each year were nearly always the successful practitioners and businesses. They knew that the point of advertising is to keep your name out there in the public eye,so that when someone realises they need help, they think of you. If your name is not out there, then they certainly are not going to be thinking of you! So when deciding whether or not to advertise in a particular publication, especially in this internet age, you need to make this decision based on your total advertising strategy (hopefully you have one :)).
2. Be prepared to set your systems up so that you can record your results.
I am constantly amazed at the numbers of self-employed people and small business owners who don’t do this – or at least don’t do it efficiently. When you are using adverts, whether online or offline, you need to know what happens as a result. It may be that you never get a direct result from any of them, but over time, you will be able to see if it is worthwhile putting your resources into that particular form of advertising. By form, I mean a particular magazine or centre, not the kind of advert you take. This may sound the direct opposite to the point above, but even with the attitude that advertising is about getting and keeping your name out there, there are so many different places you can do this, you still need to know which places work best for you. How will you know this if you don’t know what happens as a result of your adverts? For instance, lately when I received a flurry of counseling enquiries, I knew that each one of them had come from a different source. Frustrating, if what you are wanting to know is that everyone comes from just one or two sources. But maybe over time that will prove to be the case, which is what has happened with my coaching practice. Nearly all the enquiries for this side of my business come through my mailing list.
Using Green Pages as another example, at the time it was the only place to advertise locally where you were guaranteed a readership who would be interested in all things alternative (this was before the internet). We did also publish a monthly broadsheet, Green Events (which, by the way went on to become the very successful London-based Green Events magazine), but otherwise there was nowhere else. Given that the directory was set up like the Yellow Pages, it would have been sensible for people to advertise there. We regularly sold about 2000 of them, and of course the estimated readership was higher than this. From the advertisers point of view, this is all crucial information to help you in making your decision – but none of it is relevant unless you also have a system where you ask your new customers or clients where they heard about you, you then record it, and over time, analyse the results.
3. Understand the problems you are solving.
Now we’re onto the content of your advert, a huge subject in itself. What’s really important to remember is that your readers don’t necessarily understand from the title of your service or product what it is you are offering. In fact, it’s a good idea never to assume that they do! Better to gain their attention by highlighting their problem, and providing an answer to it. Or, if you prefer, simply to highlight the answer, bearing in mind that some readers may still need educating about the fact they have a problem at all. This is why most marketing experts will be asking you to identify what problems your customers or clients have, and what your solutions are to them. It’s because most people don’t go around saying “oh I need a chiropractor” or “I wish there was a bookkeeper near me”, or “I know, I need EFT”. Rather, they tend to say to themselves “Oh no, my back’s hurting again!”, “I wish I was good at figures” and “I feel so overwhelmed with everything, I just can’t cope”. So it really pays to think about what wording you want to put in your adverts, given the limited space, the particular readers of that ad, and your own budget.
Obviously there is a lot more to advertising than this, but just taking these points on board will help you, especially when you take into account my favourite mantra:
And only then Act.
Because of course, I haven’t even menioned intuition or gut instinct – and that, in my book, plays a vital role, even when you do know all about what to do for successful advertising.