Written by Craig Haugo, Valhalla Community Magazines

For any business every dollar is precious, but for a small business each precious dollar is more critical. In regards to advertising, small businesses do not advertise for the sake of advertising. Instead, they want to get the most return for their investment. Your advertising campaign should translate to greater sales, greater exposure, more profits and healthier bottom line.

There are many venues where you can promote your business. In order to figure out which one you should advertise in, you need to ask three important questions:

  • What is my target market?
  • What is the best medium to reach them?
  • Can I afford to launch an effective campaign using this medium?

A central step to developing your sales and marketing plan is to select the right media to send out your message. Despite what advertising sales reps will tell you, there are no hard-and-fast rules as to which media is better. The right media for one business, can be the completely wrong medium for far another… even if they are in the same industry.

When you are ready to advertise and get the word out about your business, one of the steps is to select the right media to promote and advertise your products and services.

Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the usual suspects in print advertisements: Newspaper, magazines, yellow pages and direct marketing.

Newspaper Advertising

Newspapers are one of the traditional mediums used by businesses to advertise their products and services. Both big and small companies use this medium to “get the word out.

Advantages

  • Allows you to reach a huge number of people in a given geographic area
  • You have the flexibility in deciding the ad size and placement within the newspaper
  • Your ad can be as large as necessary to communicate as much of a story as you care to tell
  • Free help in creating and producing ad copy is usually available
  • Quick turn-around helps your ad reflect the changing market conditions. The ad you decide to run today can be in your customers’ hands in one to two days.

Disadvantages

  • Ad space can be expensive
  • Your ad has to compete against the clutter of other advertisers, including the giants ads run by supermarkets and department stores as well as the ads of your competitors
  • Poor photo reproduction limits creativity
  • Newspapers are a price-oriented medium; most ads are for sales
  • Expect your ad to have a short shelf life, as newspapers are usually read once and then discarded.
  • You may be paying to send your message to a lot of people who will probably never be in the market to buy from you.
  • Newspapers are a highly visible medium, so your competitors can quickly react to your prices
  • With the increasing popularity of the Internet, newspapers face declining readership and market penetration. A growing number of readers now skip the print version of the newspaper (and hence the print ads) and instead read the online version of the publication.

Magazine Advertising

Magazines are a more focused and are a more expensive alternative to newspaper advertising. But, this medium allows you to reach highly targeted audiences, therefore eliminating wasted distribution.

Advantages

  • Allows for better targeting of audience, as you can choose magazine publications that cater to your specific audience or whose editorial content specializes in topics of interest to your audience.
  • High reader involvement means that more attention will be paid to your advertisement
  • Better quality paper permits better color reproduction and full-color ads
  • The smaller page (generally 8 ½ by 11 inches) permits even small ads to stand out
  • If the publisher has done his/her homework, all of the content is read. Unlike, newspapers where each individual reader has their favorite section (sports, politics, event, etc.)

Disadvantages

  • Longer lead times mean that you have to make plans weeks or months in advance
  • The slower lead time heightens the risk of your ad getting overtaken by outside events
  • Space and ad layout costs are usually higher than other media due to the reproduction quality of magazine printing.

Yellow Page Advertising

There are many forms of yellow page advertising. From the regional business directories and local specialized ones, to national Internet based directories, they all have one thing in common: nobody goes to the yellow pages unless they are looking for you.

Advantages

  • Wide availability, many people still use the paper yellow pages
  • Non-intrusive
  • Action-oriented, as the audience is actually looking for the ads
  • Ads are reasonably inexpensive
  • Responses can be tracked more easily than other media

Disadvantages

  • Pages can look cluttered, and your ad can easily get lost in the clutter
  • Your ad is placed together with all your competitors
  • Limited creativity in the ads, given the need to follow a pre-determined format
  • Ads slow to reflect market changes

Some basic marketing strategies to keep in mind:

  • A better mousetrap does not ensure the mousetrap will sell. Not only do you have to have a solid product or service, you have to make sure potential buyers know you have solid products and services and how to get them. Market! PR! Social media! Referrals! Warehouses are filled with perfect products (imperfectly marketed) that are now covered in dust and obsolete.
  • A better mousetrap is not better because you say it is—no matter how loud or how well you say it. While it’s okay to “toot your own horn,” it’s so much better when others toot for you. When others say you have a better mousetrap, people take note. Toot loudly, but be sure that others are tooting for you as well.
  • A better mousetrap is only as good as the headstart you get. Once you have a great product or service, you only have a short window to corner the market. Hit the ground running and don’t look back. Every product has its copycats. Corner the market before others can copy you.
  • A better mousetrap needs momentum. It’s never okay to rest on your laurels. You may have more than enough leads today, but markets are cyclical. Get as many leads as possible now while sales are plentiful and store up for winter. Every product and service has a life cycle. Know yours! While sales are good is not the time to market less. Strike while the iron is hot!
  • Who is the best customer for your better mousetrap? Current customers! The ones who have used your product or service, love it and have told everyone about it are your best customers. Do everything to keep them. Fair prices, great customer service, consistent upgrades to the product or service, and being a responsive and proactive company will keep your customers coming back time and time again. It’s always easier—and less costly—to keep customers than to attract new ones.

By knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each medium, you can better determine where to market your businesses products and services and use your precious dollars wisely.