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Tips on Buying Advertising
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Tips Buying Advertising 

If you're like most business owners, each year you spend a chunk of your advertising budget on print advertising. With that kind of investment, every ad should have one or two objectives from selling products or services to generating leads to building your image (branding). 

You won't win customers by boring them into buying. You've got to create a desire. A few simple pointers from experts will show you how to use print advertising to get those maximum results.  keep in min that your Chamber offers several publications, should you be intrested in reach specific audiences. Print and On-line Directories

Step 1: Set a budget

There are many tried-and-true techniques for deciding on an advertising budget. Yet many small businesses fall into the trap of spending "all we can afford" or "as much as our competition."

This can get you in trouble because the budget should be based on goals for the coming year and what the projected sales will be. Experts say the fixed percentage of sales budget is most widely used. As a rule of thumb, experts recommend spending 10 percent of gross sales the first year in business, 7 percent the second year, and never less than 5 percent a year after that. Base the figure on predicted future sales, using your knowledge of your average annual sales.

Step 2: Plan your campaign

The most successful advertisers are not capricious ad-by-ad makers. They're consistent ad campaigners. If you're constantly changing direction, the audience won't recognize you. Plan your ads six to 12 months in advance to deliver a central selling message and consistent look that builds customer confidence.

Start by clipping a few ads run by other businesses. Studying your competitors will help you discover your  "unique selling proposition." As you look at the ads, ask yourself "What do I offer that the others don't?" That aspect can become the focus of your campaign.

Next, define your image. What kind of services or products do you provide? Do you specialize in something? Or do you offer a full range of services? What image do you want to convey to your audience? 

Finally, think about your customers. What is their gender, age, education level and income? Who are your customers: businesses, new residents or businesses, home owners, visitors/tourists, etc.?

Write down these answers and keep them handy. You'll use them in creating ads and in choosing print advertisers. 

Step 3: Selecting publications to advertise in 

Below are some questions to ask yourself about the publisher or the sales person. What’s right for you might not be right for another business.  

  • What target audience do they reach? Does it match your target market?
  • Is the company reputable?
  • Who else advertises with them?
  • How is the publication distributed? Direct mail, hand delivery (home/business), subscription service or free? Different delivery methods have their pros and cons.
  • Is the advertising available in digital or only print? Can the publication be placed on your website, can you share your ad digitally?
  • What is the quantity published? Is it a mass marketed product or does it reach a special niche market?  How often is the publication printed?
  • Do the other advertisers and editorial content hurt or help you marketing objectives? Does the publication enhance your image?
  • How much advertising is in the publication? Are there a few advertisers or hundreds, will your ad stand out or get lost in the clutter?
  • What is the shelf life of the publication? Do readers hold on to it like a resource guide, or is a one-time use item?
  • If the publisher is selling ads on behalf of an organization or charity, is the percentage of the sale benefitting the cause or group? Don’t buy an ad just to help a good cause, consider a direct donation instead if you want to make a charitable gift.
  • Finally, ask about special discounts. Some publishers produce several publications or have separate zone editions for different cities. Some publishers also offer large discounts if you sign a contract to buy a certain number of ads per year. Some publishers, like the Chamber, offer discounts to members.Print and On-line Directories  

Step 4: Find inexpensive help

Unless you spend more than $10,000 a year on advertising, the experts say, you probably don't need an advertising agency. But professional help with writing and art can make your ad stand out from the "homemade" variety. What's a budget-conscious owner to do? 

You can use publishers' advertising departments or use a freelancer. Freelance writers and artists work on a per-project basis. You can sometimes find publishers, newspapers, independent freelancers, and marketing professionals just by checking:

  • local advertising clubs or trade associations.
  • Yellow Pages or other online directories.
  • your chamber of commerce (print and online directories).
  • the advertising, journalism, or art department at a local colleges or even high schools.

Step 5: Write customer-oriented copy

Even if you hire a freelancer, knowing what goes into good copy is an essential part of successful advertising.

Copy needs to emphasize benefits, not features. A feature is what the service is or what it does. A benefit tells customers what's in it for them. State your offer in clear terms. Appeal to your target audience's desire for style, status, popularity, savings and fun. Tell them how your product, service, or company will make their lives better.

Spend at least as long working on the headline as you do on the body copy. The headline and illustration have to work together; combined they are about 60 percent to 75 percent of the ad's effectiveness. 

Use your unique selling proposition. Throughout your campaign, emphasize the one thing you want customers to know about your business: price, quality, selection, convenience, honesty, reliability. Remember your target audience. Write your ad as if addressing one customer. Use the word "you." Call your prospects by name: "students, tourists, business owners, travelers, home buyers ... Ask about our special discounts." 

Pick the right products, services or messages to advertise. The Chamber suggests these guidelines: your most profitable products or services; "hot" or trendy services; your best values; services with new value; and services typical of your business. 

Decide on one goal for each ad and make sure every word in the ad reinforces that goal. Use short paragraphs, sentences, words. Be specific. Don't say, "Low prices," say "Tanning from $5 a session." Use proven "magic" words and phrases as high-impact, reader-stoppers. Try to get them into the headline: Free, New, You, Love, Results, Announcing, Save, 50% Off, For a Limited Time Only. 

Don't forget the basics. Include name, website, Facebook and Twitter, location, phone number, hours, credit cards accepted, and dates of the sale, etc. 

Close the deal. Tell the reader to act now with a call to action: "Call today for your appointment," or "Stop in this week and ask for your free gift." 

Step 6: Use design to reflect your image

You've decided on a central message and copy, now it's time to design the selling package. All your ads should have a consistent "family" look, as in the same ad size, typeface, basic layout and illustration style. 

Repetition is reputation, and having a consistent tone of voice and graphic look will build audience recognition. It becomes your business' signature. 

For great looks on a budget, experts recommend hiring an artist to create one "shell" ad. Have the artist select a type style and border, and show where the headline, illustration, copy and logo will be. For future ads, you simply write your headline and copy, and drop in the appropriate illustration. 

Step 7: Decide when to advertise

Follow these guidelines for picking your best day to advertise. Avoid the clutter days, when your ad will get lost in the shuffle. Wednesday is traditionally "food store day." Friday is usually crowded with entertainment ads.

Thursday is the traditional "retail day," a good day to catch shoppers getting ready for weekend spending. Sunday is good because people take more time for a leisurely read of the paper and the ads. 

Also consider advertising on days of the week your business is heaviest, payroll days of important local businesses, and just before holidays and local events, such as school proms or reunions that might put consumers in the market for tanning services. 

Step 8: Choose frequency over size

Experts say frequency is one of the most important elements of successful advertising. "Frequency" means the number of times your target audience has an opportunity to see your advertising message.

Experts agree the average person sees 2,700 advertising messages a day, and they won't make a decision based on one or two ads. 

Step 9: Choose the best position

Page position is very important. When buying space you can either request "ROP" (run of the publisher) or "preferred position." ROP means the publisher places your ad wherever it fits; preferred position means you choose a specific section, page or even location on a page.

Again, the experts are unanimous: Ask for a preferred position. Some publishers charge a little extra for this. One other important consideration is to get next to editorial material such as a story, column or photograph. Avoid the "buried" position surrounded by other ads, which some refer to as "the readership cemetery." 

Step 10: Test and follow-up

Simple testing and follow-up techniques can tell you how your ads are working and which print publishers work best. If you include a coupon offering an incentive such as a discount or free gift, write a different code number on the coupon for each publication, count up the coupons and you'll see which headline worked best. 

You also can use coupons to test publisher effectiveness. Run the same ad in several publications or mediums, again including coded coupons. Count how many coupons came in from each source. Divide the cost of each redemption by your ad cost to compute your own ROI . Test several types of ads, offers, sizes, mediums, and days of the week until you come up with an "optimum" ad, then run the ad with confidence. Remember that consistency plus repetition equals sales. And at the end of the year, you'll realize that advertising is fairly low-cost for the returns you get.