Q: I'd like to use print ads to advertise my business, but I'm not sure which type to choose first. What are the pros and cons of using newspapers, direct mail and Yellow Pages ads?
A: An ad in your local Yellow Pages is the first type of advertising you should purchase. It's necessary because it lends credibility to your business, assuring the public that your company is not a fly-by-night outfit planning to grab a little business and get out of town. In my opinion, however, it doesn't take a large display ad to establish that fact--a listing is just fine.
My personal bugaboo with the Yellow Pages is that it leads potential customers to your competitors while they're looking for your number, and many of them will be big businesses with much larger ads than yours--a distinct disadvantage to small businesses. I advise my clients to purchase a listing or a small display ad in the directory, but never to refer to it in other forms of advertising. In other words, we say the business can be found in the White Pages, rather than point customers toward the Yellow Pages.
The newspaper also makes it easy for potential customers to tell how large or small a business is by the size of its ad. Your little one-eighth-page ad can run directly under a half-page ad or across from a full-page display, making it easy for readers to guess the size of your company. You'll make a bigger splash in the more affordable weekly papers where you can run your ad by ZIP code, covering only the geographical areas you want or can afford. Yes, you can run in specific geographical areas using the "neighborhood" sections of your daily newspapers, but they're still generally more expensive.
Newspapers are usually read more completely by the over-50 segment of our population than by the younger folks who like to get their news from radio and television. Because of this, avoid using small print in your ads. In fact, if the over-50 crowd is the demographic you're trying to reach, use a slightly larger sized font in any form of print advertising you do.
Direct mail includes a lot of options, including single-piece mailings and the more affordable cooperative mailings such as Carol Wright and Val-Pak. In a single-piece mailing, your letter or brochure arrives by itself on the nicest paper with the number of colors you can afford and with text that's professional and compelling. The pieces mailed in the cooperative envelopes are all the same size, so no one company looks larger or more established than any of the others. How do you decide which to do?
- Your single direct-mail piece stands alone but is more expensive. The cooperative piece is crowded into an envelope with perhaps 60 other pieces, and the recipient must shuffle through the others to get to yours, but it's a lot less expensive.
- Your single piece can be mailed whenever you wish and as often as you please; the cooperative piece will be mailed in compliance with a structured mailing calendar. These companies divide the ZIP codes they service into a calendar year, mailing to selected areas in different months.
Print advertising provides you with a number of options. Just remember to choose the ones that best fit your business and will reach your target market.
Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent Partner Advertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets for retail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written for businesses owners who are working with small advertising budgets and can't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy via her website at http://www.silentpartneradvertising.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.