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Print Campaigns: The Best Way To Do Them!

When faced with the choice between selling to thousands of your best prospects all at once or selling to them singly over a long period of time, which would you choose? If you’re like most home-based business owners with limited time for selling and little in-office backup, you’d choose to reach thousands of prospects at once, hands down. This can be done through print advertising.

Print advertising helps you target your best prospects. More important, you control the content of your message and the context in which it appears, as well as the month, week, or even the day on which your prospects will be exposed to your message.


pepadOnce you have produced effective print advertisements, you’re ready to begin buying space. You must be careful to select the media that best target your audience. Where do your potential customers get information? Where can you afford to advertise with enough frequency to achieve effective reach?

Identify customers and markets. First, create a profile that approximates your best customer or client. Consider demographic factors such as age, sex, and household income. If you are marketing to other businesses, you may wish to target them by type or size of business.

Next, identify your market’s geographic area. Is it local, regional, or national? This is vital, since in order to reduce overall waste and media costs, you will eventually choose only those publications that have the bulk of their circulation in your primary selling area.

Janice Leaman is president of Tender Loving Cat Care, in Germantown, Maryland. Leaman and the 12 people who work with her to provide in-home pet sitting serve a small suburban area near their homes. So the publications Leaman uses to generate leads must all have a local circulation.

Newspaper ads.

Leaman depends on newspaper display and classified advertising. “I wouldn’t have a business without it,” she says. Your own city or town’s daily or weekly paper may help you reach either consumers or businesses. Some papers even offer zoned editions for distribution in designated locales in order to provide a more efficient buy to advertisers with smaller market areas.

Major dailies provide something for everyone through special-interest sections. Select the section you believe your audience will look to as a source of information. Leaman knows her target audience is composed predominately of female, middle-income pet owners, so she advertises in the Living section of her daily newspaper.

Newspaper sections that regularly carry a particular type of display advertising are, like classified sections, considered search-corridor vehicles. Search-corridor media offer the opportunity to reach your best prospects–those who are looking for information when they have already made a decision to buy.

If you’re selling a business product or service, consider advertising in a local business newspaper. These are generally weeklies with fewer readers and ad pages and, consequently, lower advertising costs than major metropolitan dailies. Business newspapers, of course, are the best way to reach certain businesses.

Don’t overlook classified newspaper advertising as a part of your media mix. When she first began advertising, Leaman concentrated solely on display ads. But the number of responses improved dramatically when she began adding classified ads in the same issues. They are usually typeset by the publication, so you needn’t spend money producing camera-ready art. However, some publications offer you the excellent option of running camera-ready artwork in the classifieds. By using logos and graphics as well as type in a larger point size than in other ads, your classified will have the impact of a display ad. And it will stand out on the page surrounded by a sea of smaller type.

Magazine ads.

Stuart Smith, co-owner of the Churchtown Inn, uses a schedule of well-targeted magazines to reach potential guests for his historic Pennsylvania bed-and-breakfast. After some trial and error, Smith narrowed his basic media mix to two magazines, one regional and one national. He stopped advertising in local newspapers and magazines after achieving poor results. Says Smith, “Our business has increased 30 percent during the recession”; he attributes some of this to magazine advertising.

Magazines, like newspapers, can help you reach either consumer or business audiences. Since magazines exist to address the special interests of their own particular readers, there are national magazines for people who buy everything from model airplanes to organic fertilizer. Select magazines that carry advertising for products or services similar to yours and contain articles on topics of keen interest to your target audience. And look for annual “directory issues,” which readers may save for as long as a year or more.

If you don’t wish to reach business or consumer audiences across the nation, some national magazines offer regional editions or demographic buys to target specific buyers or narrow geographic markets. If you’re selling a product or service locally, consider city magazines. Most are consumer oriented, although some major metropolitan markets have excellent business magazines devoted entirely to local business news.

One of my clients’ main questions is: Which directory issue should I advertise in? The answer is simple: Always choose the directories your best prospects will use the most. Often, these directories don’t charge for listings and are extremely comprehensive; they also contain the largest number of advertisers. For example, if you are a sales rep for an industrial manufacturer, you’d want to look toward the directory issue of a trade publication such as Modern Metals. Placing your ad in a highly competitive and often cluttered arena may seem a surefire way to get lost. But running a terrific ad in that environment will have a much better chance of producing results than running the same ad where there is little or no competitive advertising—out of the search corridor of your prospects.


One of the best places to begin the process of choosing the fight newspapers and magazines is a large public library. There, you’ll find the Standard Rate and Data Service directories, which are updated monthly. SRDS lists both business (or trade) and consumer publications by category. Publication listings will tell you about their readers, basic editorial content, frequency of publication, and advertising rates.

Make a list of the publications you’d like to consider. Then contact them and request media kits. These kits are the primary means publications use to sell space to agencies and advertisers. They contain rate cards, editorial calendars, descriptions of merchandising benefits, samples of the publications, audit statements, and other supporting data such as readership studies.

Magazine and newspaper sales reps are also excellent sources of information. They should be able to provide clear answers to any questions you have. And don’t hesitate to contact some of the companies who already advertise in the publications. Reps may even assist you in this by supplying references.

In general, costs are based on the projected number of readers who will be exposed to your advertising message. However, other considerations also affect costs, such as a unique, highly qualified, or otherwise hard-to-reach readership.

Here are just a few terms you’ll need in order to evaluate costs.

Circulation refers to the total number of copies sold or distributed. Select those publications that reach the highest percentage of your target audience with the least amount of waste. But be certain they are publications your audience reads actively. Over time, Leaman has come to rely on three weekly suburban newspapers that blanket her small market area. She doesn’t use her major metropolitan daily, because its wider circulation would force her to pay to reach many thousands of readers she cannot serve.

Reach is the percentage of a given market or percentage of the universe to which you are selling. For example, when evaluating magazines, Smith wants to know what percentage of those people who fit his target audience profile will be reached.

Frequency does not mean the total number of ads run. Instead, it’s the number of times the average audience is actually exposed to your message. Many readership studies indicate that the average ad page in a trade publication is noticed by 70 percent of its readership base. Frequency is one of the keys to any successful advertising campaign.

Cost per thousand is a means of comparing publication efficiency for any medium. For example, if two publications with similar advertising and editorial environments each reach 300,000 members of your target audience, but one has a cost per thousand of $13 and another $7, then the latter will be a more cost-efficient buy.


The policy on rate negotiation is determined by the management of each newspaper and magazine. While newspaper space is rarely negotiable, magazine. space increasingly is. When developing a magazine advertising schedule, consider negotiating for rates, premium position in the magazine, additional merchandising benefits, and bonus ads.

Placing ads. Insertion orders are the standard form used for placing ad space. And the minimum information your insertion order must contain includes run dates, ad sizes, and costs. Most publications will ask you to sign standard contracts. From your point of view, a contract is only essential if it guarantees you a reduced cost per ad as your frequency rises.

Tracking ads. Creating a media schedule to track your insertions and camem-ready-aft due dates can be as simple as jotting the dates down on your desk calendar. Or it can be plotted on any spreadsheet or word-processing program that lets you see or print a schedule for 12 months. Smith places and tracks his magazine schedule himself, since he uses only two publications on an ongoing basis year-round. Leaman, with her complex, multinewspaper classified-and-display campaign, has her printing company create insertion orders, track insertions, and check billing.

Evaluating ads. To grow a business long-term requires ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of all marketing programs– including media advertising. A productive campaign should not only produce leads, it must produce leads that convert to sales. From the inception of your media campaign, plan to track and record the sources of incoming leads and, over a period of time, review and evaluate your conversion rates by publication. Black-and-white ads are easily keycoded by publication and month? Responses or leads are then tracked for each ad and issue of a publication in which that ad appeared.

When keycoding isn’t feasible, be prepared to ask all prospects where they learned about you, and then fine-tune your advertising accordingly. Leaman says, “I ask clients where they heard about me on every call.” She tracks conversions to sales and has adjusted her buy based on response rates. Although, as she says, “I wait quite a while. I may run an ad as often as 30 times before making this decision.” Over time, tracking leads will result in the most costeffective advertising program, help you weed out the less effective publications, and may even provide greater insight about your best customers or clients.

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