In these internet-dominated times, an advertisement that customers can rip out and hold is still effective — if it’s thoughtfully executed.


Advertising revenue for newspapers has been on the decline for years, while social media seems to have taken over the world. You’ve been told that to reach customers you must have a strong internet presence, including a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. But good old-fashioned print advertising still has a place in a small business’ marketing budget. Here are five ways print advertising still works:

1. If it’s targeted. Does every single person who picks up USA Today need to know about your pumping business? Absolutely not. There may, however, be a specific group of subscribers to your local newspaper who do. For example, my local newspaper distributes a community section free each Wednesday and has different versions of the paper for different geographic zones. Knowing that one of these zones is markedly more rural, with a higher-than-average number of homeowners who have septic systems, a pumper might find it pays to advertise specifically in that section of the newspaper in that zone.

2. If it’s relevant. Local newspapers generally produce special advertising supplements a few times each year. While it may not pay to advertise in a local newspaper every day, it may help to place an ad every so often to remind customers it’s time for a pumpout. If you also rent restrooms, an ad before special event season ramps up is a good idea, too.

Related: Building the Business: Spread the Word

Call the ad sales department at your local newspaper (if they don’t regularly call you) and find out how many special sections or advertising supplements they print each year, what the themes and rates are, when they are published and the deadline for including an ad.

3. If you can measure it. Print advertising is effective because its impact can be measured. Use a print ad in a local newspaper or regional magazine to make an exclusive offer. Include a coupon or a line saying “mention this ad” and offer a discount or whatever you think would make clipping out the ad worthwhile. If no coupons come back or ads are mentioned, you can assume the ad wasn’t worth the expense, but at least you know for sure.

4. If you want to make a name for yourself in the community. Not all advertising is designed to produce immediate sales. Sometimes its purpose is reputation-building. Take out an ad congratulating the peewee baseball team you sponsored on its great season. Include a picture of the team in front of your truck, wearing uniforms with your name on them, and your business name will be on families’ refrigerators all over town, boosting the mileage you get on the money spent sponsoring the team.

Related: Customer Satisfaction Builds Business Base

Print advertising can also be an effective way to draw attention to changes in your company. Take out an ad to thank customers for 20 great years of business. Or introduce your new location if you recently built a new shop. It’s possible the ad will alert the paper’s business reporters to the change and they’ll run a story about the move. But please, don’t make purchasing an ad contingent on the paper running a story. Reporters don’t like that and it may backfire on you, making them averse to giving your business publicity in the future. Your goal should be to build a good relationship with local media.

5. If you need to reach potential customers who are not tied to the internet. In rural areas there are still a number of people who are not getting their information from the internet. ABC News recently reported that 15 percent of American adults have no internet access whatsoever. And I’d wager including those who technically have access but don’t have good, fast, affordable internet service would double that figure. Especially if you operate in a small town or rural area, solely relying on the internet for marketing may mean you are unable to reach a portion of the population. Keep the generation gap in mind as well. Almost half of those without internet are 65 or older. Some of those decision-makers may have not embraced social media to the extent that their children and grandchildren have. In fact, some are downright mistrustful of the internet and may respond better to what they are comfortable with — print advertising.

Take a varied approach
Certainly, advertising budgets are tight and the low cost of social media marketing is attractive. An effective marketing plan for any business, however, will include a variety of different advertising methods. If you aren’t satisfied with your current advertising reach, print advertising could be the piece you are missing if you’ve cut it out of your budget in favor of online efforts. Just be sure to put some thought behind that ink.

Related: Grow Your Business in a Tough Economy

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