Sunday, February 3, 2013

In Praise of Print Ads, within limits.

Surprisingly Supportive of Print Ads.

Print Ads still have an important niche in the advertising eco-sphere. Consider using print advertising to target key or spot-market opportunities. When used wisely, targeted print ads will bring tangible value to your marketing campaigns. Print ads are useful branding tools when used properly, giving your business more exposure to quality B-to-B influencers and decision-makers, even if just for a few seconds.

Print ads, however, have intrinsic cost and data tracking disadvantages when compared to internet ads. The problem with print ads was identified over 100 years ago by a famous American retailer, John Wanamaker:

"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted;
                                                               the trouble is I don't know which half."   

Wanamaker, John

Full disclosure: I am a dedicated internet marketer first and foremost. When it comes to generating quality leads for technical business-to-business, nothing I've found in over 10 years beats Search Engine Marketing (SEM), nothing. If you know how to play the SEO game well, both organic and paid search create a powerful fire-hose of quality leads. These leads can be tracked and reviewed with various analytics and CRM data-tools to assess performance data and analytics. SEM gives us both quality and quantity results. The low cost-per-lead with SEM is attractive, and the ROI measurable.

But search engine marketing is not the only way prospective customers will find or remember us. Ignoring other ad options, like print ads, can limit your visibility to potentially key prospective customers.

John Wannamaker was conflicted
 with Print Advertising, too.
Similar to banner ads, the print ad can make a fleeting but favorable impression upon the reader. They may scan the ad and flip the page in a second or two, but the impression has been made. By including unique email addresses, QR tags, landing pages, and phone numbers, you can attempt to better measure direct response and lead quality rates. In most cases those response rates, along with banner ads and display (Adsense), will usually be significantly lower than with Adwords.

But trying to achieve a nearly impossible equivalent "click through rate" as compared to Adwords ads shouldn't be the prime goal with print ads. By carefully placing a print ad in the right place at the right time, with the right message, positive results can occur. Encouraging the reader to take positive actions later on, by positively recognizing your brand and company at trade shows, conferences, during web searches, etc, is a key benefit.

The print ad, if designed correctly, helps alert the target market to your company's existence, amplifies your value message and plants a valuable, latent, call-to-action which can generate a lead and business opportunity later on. We're talking mind-share here!

Opening the mind, Opening the Order Book:
Print ads are like bill-boards, helping to embed your company into the brain of the potential client. I've witnessed this happy result at trade shows and conferences, where key potential customers had learned about us first through print ads, and when we met them they already had a positive recognition of our company and services. Just one such lead turning into regular business will pay for a print advert many, many times over.

When and Where to use Print Ads?
In technical B-to-B marketing, the great news is that we can be very selective. Run a print ad campaign in a niche industry journal or magazine, or run periodic spot ads because that publication will be distributed at an important conference or trade show, or your company is one of the sponsors at an industry event. All of these options are valid, and you can keep your print ad budget costs down and within reason.

For niche B-toB, don't waste limited marketing budgets on lavish print-ads in general interest or mass-market publications. Find and target niche publications, evaluate their audience claims, check the validity with your own internal and external contacts, then test the waters. Cost can be controlled, often a simple classified ad running in a back-section of an industry publication will be enough for consistent lead generation. Running a 1/2 or 1/4 page ad can work and grab attention, if designed well.

"Just say No" to most print media telemarketers... often their print and online offerings can be of dubious value and aren't worth your time - they will devour your entire marketing budget if you let them. If they sound like penny stock brokers or used-car salesmen, end the conversation quickly and get back to real work.

Print ads are a useful advertising weapon in your marketing arsenal. Use print ads wisely and in a limited fashion, and you'll see benefits. Just don't turn off your Adwords any time soon!