In this day and age of social media, it is probably really uncool to talk about print ads; ads in magazines or newspapers. For some markets however, it may be the only or best way to reach your target audience. This is one reason for this post. The other reason is that a lot of the things to remember also apply to any other form of marketing communication.

Print ads can found in all sorts and types of magazines and newspapers. The variety in magazines and newspapers are endless. From a sports club magazine to the Financial Times, they all have a reader base and they all are – partially – funded by advertising.

Placing an ad seems simple and it really is not that difficult, but there are things to keep in mind for it to be effective.

1.       Determine your goal

First, it is important to determine why you are placing the ad. There are two main goals for running an ad. Building a brand is one of them. The other one is to persuade your audience to take action. In most cases that will be to buy your product or service, but it could also be to request information about your product so you can build a database with potential clients. For instance when a personal sales approach is needed to sell the product.

A brand is not build overnight and one ad will not do the job. The branding ad will be part of a larger campaign, which is a planned and themed series of marketing communication activities. Not necessarily on TV or radio.

Remember to make your goal SMART; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound. More on SMART goals.

© DOC RABE Media – Fotolia.com

2.       Determine your target audience

You need to know who your target audience is. Does your restaurant target the fast and hip crowd or does the target consist of families with children? Every business has market segments to consider and choose the one(s) that fit with what it has to offer. If designing beautiful jewelry is your business and you sell beautiful sterling silver necklaces for a three number figure, teenagers will probably not be your target market.

After determining your target you have to know where they are, who they are, what their habits are, and what they like and dislike. Profile your targets and group them together where they show similarities. You can for instance group them by things like age, sex, geographical location, income, behavior.

3.       Determine your budget

All marketing communication efforts usually cost money. It is sensible to set a fixed periodic amount and base your plan on that.

So how much budget should you reserve? A talk with your accountant could give the insight you need. If you do your own bookkeeping, you should be able to tell what your costs and net profit are. Set your financial goals and budget your marketing communication costs accordingly.

If you are a startup, ask advice on what your type of business needs and what the investment should be. People in your network are always happy to help. Do not underestimate the cost of marketing communication. On the other hand you must understand that marketing your product or service requires some kind of investment; time and money to buy ad space and have someone design and write your ad for you.

4.       Determine the media to best reach your target audience with the budget you have

Navigating all the media there are, can be tricky. As a business owner you cannot be expected to know all the media out there and know everything about them. There are media agencies that specialize in advising their clients which media to select. If you do not want to spend your budget on such an agency, you revert to the knowledge you have on your target audience. Who are they, where do they shop, what do they read, and how to they behave?

It may very well be that your audience does not read magazines or newspapers, but listens to the radio instead. In that case, do not run print ads. It would be a waste of money. If your target customer does read magazines or newspapers, make a selection of the media you want to advertise in.

Make your budget work for you. Don’t spend it all on one ad on the back cover of a popular magazine. It may be a prime spot on in the magazine, but if it means that you can only place one ad  it is a waste of money. Advertising works through repeat, so make a selection with which you can reach your target audience and make multiple impressions.

5.       Determine your message

Your ad has to have a message. This can be direct, as in BUY NOW, or it can be a more subtle message hidden in an image and a captivating headline.

If you run a campaign, make sure you stick to the same theme. As advertising works through repeat, you want to confront your target audience with the same message. That does not mean that the ads have to be exactly the same. Certain elements however should be, like the payoff (Just do it, Nike) or the logo (Swoosh, Nike).

When formulating a message try to think about it from your customer’s perspective. The customer does not necessarily want to buy your product or service. He wants to buy your solution to his problem. So focus on the benefits for the customer. Instead of listing your whole restaurant menu and prices in your ad, advertise that dining at your restaurant makes for a romantic night out. Or that your restaurant is kid friendly – if that is what your target group wants – and list your menu on your website.

6.       Ask a specialist to design and make your ad

Many businesspeople would not think twice about not hiring a specialist to do their financial work. When it comes to marketing however, it is often amateur hour, as many marketing communication efforts show. You certainly do not want to be mistaken for an amateur. It hurts your brand.

Every time your target audience comes into contact with your company it forms an opinion. In branding, that phenomenon is called “moments of truth”. These “moments of truth” are contacts with personnel, the website, the product, advertising, news items, annual reports, the building, logo, prices, company vehicles, and so on. Therefore, it is important that your ads contribute to building your brand. So ask an expert to help you. Make sure you brief him or her correctly.

Sometimes the media you advertise with, will offer to make your ad for a low fee or they may even do it for free. This is not necessarily the best option, as you want your ads in different magazines to have the same look and feel. In addition, you run the risk of your ad looking like the other ads in the magazine because the graphic artist has a fondness for a certain letter font.  Remember, the expertise of the magazine people is to make and sell magazines and ads; they most likely are not advertising experts.

7.       Make sure all the info that needs to be in the ad, is in the ad

Sounds superfluous doesn’t it? Well, there are tons of ads that forget to mention important information, like the town where the business is located. There is a street name but not a city. The ad states that a business is right next to a certain supermarket, but the ad does not mention in which town the supermarket is. The price of the product is missing while the ad is all about being the lowest priced plumber in the area. Forgetting to list phone numbers and websites also happens much too often. Make sure that you give your pertinent data so customers know where to find and how to contact you.

If you forgot your website in your ad because you do not have one, you have to get with the times. A business has to have some kind of web presence. Without it the consumer will ignore you because (s)he researches products and services online before buying them. If you are not online, they cannot include you in their decision-making.

8.       Check the proof 5 times, put it away and check it again

If you have someone else, the magazine or newspaper make your ad for you, demand a proof before it goes in the magazine. With the globally connected place we are all in, you may hire someone to do your graphics who speaks a different language. In that case it is especially important to check the ad, as mistakes can go uncorrected.

When you are working on an ad, you become blind to mistakes in it. You have just seen it too many times. Reading the text aloud helps, having other people look at it and running the spellchecker, helps too. Putting it away for a couple of hours and looking at it with new eyes works well also.

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

If you have an ad that is not in your native language, let a native speaker check it for you. You do not want to run an ad that would make your company and brand look like a fool.

Make sure the contact data are correct. If you spell your email address wrong there won’t be a whole lot of requests for quotes coming your way. And if you list your website URL, make sure there is a website to be seen. Again, it sounds obvious, but there are so many business that make mistakes like this.

9.       When you are happy send it to the publisher that is running your ad

When finally happy with text, image, headline, and layout send your file to the magazine or newspaper with instructions where you would like the ad placed. Ads that are on a right page are better viewed than those on a left page. Ads that are placed with popular articles or columns are better viewed than those who are not.

If the publisher offered to write an article about you because you have been such a loyal advertising customer, do not put the ad right next to the article. Every reader will know you have “bought” the article and therefore will not attribute much value to the content of the article.

10.   Evaluate the results

Beforehand you have to decide when you will be happy with the results. In order to be able to be happy you have to find a way of measuring the effect of your ad.

If you are going for increased brand awareness, you have to poll your target audience. For a small to medium company, this may be costly and labor intensive. You could tune in to the web and see what is being said about your brand. It does not give insight to the percentage of your audience being aware of your brand, but you can discover if people say nice things, bad things or nothing at all about you. Only the first one is good. A handy tool for this is Google Alert. When you have a Google account you can set up Google Alert and give in search terms concerning your business. You receive an alert in your mailbox when there is a mention of your search terms. It may be that someone mentioned your business on Twitter or wrote about in on their blog.

When you want to stimulate a direct response with your ad you can tell by the number of responses you received how successful the ad was. You have to make sure that you have a good “call to action” in your ad. Make an offer that your customers cannot refuse and have them bring in the ad or refer to it on the phone. Add a promotional code if necessary and take note of that. Do not make it too difficult though. You do not want to throw up barriers. If you refer them to a special landing page on your website you can analyze the traffic with Google Analytics. It tells you if the ad you placed generated any traffic.

If you place ads in different magazines, use these simple techniques to see which one worked best, or which ad has more effect. Being an entrepreneur is a learning process. You make mistakes or make the wrong choice and try to do it better next time.

Final thing to remember

Consistency is important. You want your ads to be consistent with each other, but also with the whole concept of your business. If you are a web designer, list a website in your ad, as you want to showcase your work. Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes. Would you hire a web designer that doesn’t list his website address? I wouldn’t.  It is like going shopping for shoes, but there are no shoes displayed in the window, seducing you to come in and take a look. But more about that consistency in another blog post.

By Pepita Bos