The Small Business’s Guide to Buying Advertising

Flowers are nature’s way of advertising.
They fulfil the key functions of good advertising by:
• Attracting attention
• Guiding the customer/pollinator to take the required action
• Being a memorable prompt for the customer/pollinator to repeat the same rewarding action in future
• A combination of stimuli, colour, fragrance, and shape combine together to attract bees and pollinators
• Understanding the importance of timing, flowers appear in Spring when the climatic conditions are just right for the plant’s reproductive process to begin. In the same way, your advertising should take place at relevant times when conditions are likely to be right for your customers. Hence, the patterns with which we are familiar, such as heavyweight ad campaigns pre-Christmas, when perfumes are promoted which are rarely seen at other times of the year If you’re thinking about investing money in paid-for advertising, or if the phone might ring with an unexpected opportunity, here are my top tips for you :

• Know your terminology. Know the difference between circulation, distribution, and print run and readership (refer to the glossary on my website from April 1st)
• Think about the content not the numbers – you will be buying the opportunity to communicate with those who read the publication; it has nothing to do with the number of copies printed or distributed
• Will your target customers be reading this publication? If you’re selling fitness classes, inclusion in a wellbeing guide will be of significant relevance and value to you. Your target customers are likely to consult this as a source of information about fitness classes, so it’s important for you to be seen alongside your competitors. Does an association with the host publication benefit your brand?
• Don’t let your personal preferences out-weigh your business thinking. Just because you favour glossy pages and you can visualise your creative work and photography looking luscious, remember to consider the publication as a product: Does it have sufficient content to involve the readers who you’re trying to connect with? If it’s just packed with other advertisements which will compete for your target’s attention and purse, is it really worth you spending your money to be in it? Research has revealed that only 1 in 3 print advertisements have a positive impact upon purchase behaviour, so if you bear this in mind and assume that print advertising generally doesn’t work, then host publications can appear to be a licence to print money. The pages are printed and inexperienced advertisers part with their money with ill founded expectations of efficacy. There are some circumstances where print advertising can be effective:
• Is the publication highly targeted? e.g.: Is it a respected and valued directory which is read and consulted in a local area? Does it deliver value to the reader and will the pages be turned to thanks to its content?
• Timing – Be canny about when you place an advertisement. Have your copy ready and wait until there may be last minute offers available, or “shortfall “ opportunities
• Don’t be flattered if a publication approaches you, claiming that they’d like you to be included in a feature. Don’t let yourself be persuaded by the promise of editorial coverage. If your brand and product is truly of value to the readership the publisher should include you without you needing to pay them
• Positioning: Ask lots of questions. If you’re paying a premium for any guarantees, make sure that these are honoured and if not, demand recompense. If you’re being charged a surplus for a right hand page position, ask why. Can they provide any evidence to demonstrate that RHP really is better than left? If not, why the inflated cost? It has become a widely accepted convention in publishing to apply a premium for RHP, but the publication has to have pages on the right (imagine a magazine with only LHP!) It makes sense to pay a premium to be positioned within relevant editorial coverage, which will attract and engage your target readers, but that’s the only time that the piece of paper can command greater value to you
• Track your responses: Whenever possible, include a code or a mechanism which permits you to link enquiries back to a specific advertisement. That way, you’ll get an informed view of what works and what doesn’t
• Don’t make assumptions
• Be prepared to be inundated and budget carefully. Once you place one ad, you’re likely to receive calls from similar publications. That’s how ad sales reps find their leads, by scouring competitor publications to see who’s spending money

Like the flowers on a plant, think of your advertisements as a means of satisfying your customers by providing them with the information which they need at the time that they need it. Advertising is not about persuading people to spend money which they don’t want to spend; it’s really a method for solving people’s problems and making them happy.

If you’d like to know more about how advertising works please send me your questions by email to [email protected] or book an appointment at my next marketing clinic