Subscribe to Making Money Magazine

UK Startup Business - Focus On Business Opportunites

Experts in helping new & seasoned entrepreneurs start new businesses since 1997

Start a Business

Marketing Savvy

Paul Clapham explains how small businesses can get the most from local newspaper advertising Marketing Savvy

Many small businesses have more or less given up on advertising in their local newspapers. The reasons they give are varied, including it’s too expensive, the paper overall is poor and, above all, they have experienced disappointing results.

Given all the online options, many of them free, it’s little wonder people are turning their back on the local paper.

But ignoring your local press may be a mistake. A good local newspaper is part of the warp and weft of a town or city. People do read them and respond to the adverts, but increasingly the customer is marketing savvy. You have to do it well to get results.

Read the paper regularly

Start by reading the paper regularly - every week for a weekly and at least twice a week for an evening daily. You’ll get a feel for what the paper is about in a short time.

If you decide it’s only fit to wrap chips, fine. But if you come to thinking: “Actually, this is not at all bad,” you need a game plan to get the best outcome.

Make a first appointment at their offices. Is there a vibe in the place? There should be. A weekly won’t be like a national daily approaching deadline, but a sense of activity should communicate itself.

They will present their wares. How good a job do they do? If you get a sense of pride in the publication, well and good. They should tell you about the myriad options, the ideas they come up with and the success stories they can quote.

If the advertising manager just walks you through the paper and the rate card, it looks like you’ve got a chip wrap.

Tough questions

Then they should visit you. You should have some tough questions to ask. What deal will you offer me as a new advertiser? Can I get front page/back page space as part of that?

How often can I expect editorial coverage? What type of story are you looking for to achieve that? Do you run reader offers and how would you use my products/services within them?

But there’s a lot more you can do. If you are, say, in a parade of shops or on a small trading estate, persuade your business neighbours to share a halfpage or full-page advert with you.

The paper’s advertising department should love this - one trip to a location to collect copy from, say, six or more advertisers. Require a free header saying, for example, This Week at Northsouth Parade. All the legwork should be done by the paper.

The benefits to you are clear. Between you, you take a significant space in the paper, but it costs each of you only a small amount; customers who are attracted by your neighbours’ offers may well visit you, too; and you would be acting as a business community and people like that.

Make your advert stand out

The best way to make an advert stand out in any publication, but particularly a local paper, is to do the artwork properly. If your cost alarm bells are ringing, maybe they shouldn’t.

Even a non-expert can tell which adverts have been put together by the paper and which by a trained, experienced graphic artist.

The latter look smart and clear and reflect well on the business. The former often look tacky, certainly unimpressive. But if you don’t have the budget or the inclination to get a professional to do the job, what then?

You may well have the solution in-house. Plenty of young people have learned how to use the design functions of a computer at school. Do you have one of them working in your business?

Their product might not be as slick as an advertising agency’s but it will beat the newspaper’s version and you won’t get a bill for it, as that staff member will most likely enjoy doing it too.

Talk to your suppliers. If you’re featuring their products in an advert, they should be climbing all over themselves to help you. As a minimum, they should have top quality product photographs available, plus logo artwork.

They may have a set of preartworked adverts ready to use. They could have an in-house studio that can do the whole job for you.

Likewise, they may have a co-op advertising programme. A typical example would share media space costs 50:50, although they vary.

Even if the rep you contact is a superstar at their job, insist on talking to the marketing department about the above. The rep can give you the broad brush picture, but you will need the detail. Make first contact by phone, followed by an email that spells out what they need to know.

The best place

Buying space in any newspaper is as much an art as a science. There’s no such thing as ‘the best place’ in a newspaper. However, there may well be ‘the best place’ for your business.

As a generalisation, spend the extra money on special positions, rather than going for run of paper. The former can mean next to the TV guide, weekend sports events, vehicles, property and so on.

The latter means ‘anywhere in the newspaper’. I suspect most of the people who are disappointed with their results from local press buy ROP because it’s the cheapest slot.

I would recommend, instead, trying to get the most premium positions. These would include front page solus, title corners and back page solus.

A solus advert is the only large one on the page. It will have a non-negotiable size and price and it will work. Title corners are small and appear to the left and right of the masthead (the newspaper’s name). Not all newspapers offer them.

Typically, these premium positions are sold out many months, even years in advance. Guess why?

Still, my best tip is if there are a number of newspapers in your area, ask for first refusal on title corners when they come available and be creative with how you use that small space. Pound for pound, those slots punch far above their weight.

If you get a front page solus slot, cling onto it like a limpet and do a great job with it. It’s on the front page, so the newspaper will love you if it makes them look good, too. That typically means you’ll get first shout on your other wishes.

Making your choice

You may well have a choice of newspapers. Assuming you don’t have a big budget, choose just one and focus on it. The circulation and readership are the first considerations, followed closely by the quality of the publication.

Consider also who else advertises there regularly. If there are several other businesses in your immediate locality, join them. Likewise, if there are competitors in a paper regularly, it’s reasonable to believe they get results. Copy their lead and do it better.

Good local papers come to you with good ideas. But good advertisers come up with ideas too. If you see something good in a local paper elsewhere, share it with them. They might not agree, but they should appreciate your input.

If you want the best from your local paper and that means best spaces at the best price plus regular editorial coverage, you have to treat them equally well. Regard them as an important supplier, a business you will work with in the long term.

Obviously, if they don’t respond the same, you can and will go elsewhere. Read more like this

< Back