Are Print Ads Worth the Cost in This Highly Digital Age?

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It’s no secret that digital marketing is taking the focus away from traditional print mediums like billboards, magazines, newspapers and brochures. However, depending on your industry and target market, you may still find success by using clever print ads in your marketing campaigns. Before you decide on your marketing tactics, be sure to compare the costs of print versus digital and look at what your target market favors.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Whether print ads are worth it for your business will depend on your industry, your target audience, your location and your marketing campaign.

Know the Goals of Print Advertising

Advertising by nature is designed to share your business’s unique value proposition with a large and varied audience. As a result, ad campaigns are best for gaining awareness about your company or product, sharing sales promotions or reminding customers about your product benefits. It’s not the medium of choice if you want to develop close relationships with customers, ask for referrals or build brand loyalty.

Always identify your marketing goals before you determine which medium you want to use. If your goals align with creative print ads, be aware of the situations for which this channel is best. Print advertising is effective for:

  • Engaging in a physical customer presence: For example, if there is a physical event, retail location or trade show, then print advertising at that location will be an effective way to share your marketing message.

  • Focusing on hyperlocal markets: Many small businesses operate in small local markets, and this is an area where print continues to excel.

  • Increasing engagement: Studies have shown that consumers read print with more concentration than online mediums, during which people usually multitask. This means prospects may engage more deeply with print mediums.

  • Complementing digital campaigns: For many businesses, you don’t need to choose between print or digital. Aligning both mediums in one campaign can be a great way to reinforce your marketing message to your potential customers.

  • Promoting luxury goods: Specific industries and areas of the market warrant print advertising, such as luxury or high-end goods. Using a tangible platform such as print media adds credibility, authority and integrity to your brand.

  • Driving action: A recent study showed that consumers were 65% more likely to take some form of action after looking at a newspaper ad. The tangibility and weight of the best print ads may be more influential to certain consumers than digital ads.

Always Keep Your Target Audience in Mind

When determine your advertising goals and which channels you’re going to use, it’s critical to understand to whom you’re marketing. All of your promotional efforts depend on your target audience. If your target audience doesn’t venture online often, for example, then you’ll want to focus on print mediums. On the other hand, if your target audience is mainly digital, you may be wasting your money with a print campaign.

Learn your target market’s demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral traits. This will help you determine the media channels to which they pay attention the most. You can also ask your customers where they heard of your business at every engagement to get an understanding of which of your current campaigns are most effective.

Different Kinds of Print Advertising

There are a number of different promotional channels available within the umbrella category of print advertising, and many of those options are cost effective for small businesses. Consider incorporating the following into your marketing campaigns:

  • Direct mail delivered to your prospect’s home or work address

  • Business cards with your company contact information and branding

  • Brochures showcasing a specific product or service you offer

  • Local billboards placed in strategic locations

  • Banners and signs promoting sales, events or other temporary promotions

  • Local newspaper and magazine ads to reach your target audience

  • Community sponsorships to boost your brand image

Research the Marketing Campaigns of Leaders in Your Industry

Your industry may affect how successful print advertisements are as well. Certain industries, such as luxury goods or live events, have more success with print advertising compared to others. A good way to check whether print is a channel you should use is by researching the leaders in your industry and learning which channels they use to promote their products and services.

While large businesses in your industry may work with an ad agency like Ogilvy & Mather or Leo Burnett Worldwide for their series of ads, you can learn a lot from their successes and failures. Big brands like IKEA, McDonald's, KFC, Heinz, Nivea, Volkswagen, Adidas and Guinness spend a large amount of their marketing budget on researching their target market. If you share the same target market, you can look at which channels they deem appropriate to promote their products.

For example, if you sell athletic apparel, have an overlap with Adidas’s target market and see that they use print advertising, you may also want to take that route. Similarly, if you notice that a big brand in your industry only focuses online, that may be the best option for you as well. On the other hand, sometimes going in the opposite direction from your competitors may help you gain more visibility on certain media channels.

Understand the Effects of Online Advertising on Print Advertising

The growth of digital marketing, online advertising, SEO, Google and social media has changed the way consumers intake information. It has also affected the success of print advertisements, both positively and negatively. With the influx of online advertising, there is less print advertising in some industries. As a result, businesses who take the print route may have more chances of being noticed if they have less competitors advertising in that medium.

Because there is so much promotion happening online in most industries, viewing print advertisements may help consumers view those brands as more credible and authoritative. As a result, if one of your goals is to establish yourself as the authority in your industry, then advertising in industry print publications may help you achieve that objective.

Compare the Costs of Print Advertising

One of the reasons many small businesses choose to take the online route is because it can be more cost effective. However, the costs of print advertising may be worth it if your business is in a print-focused industry and has a target audience that pays attention to print media.

While the cost of print advertising varies greatly based on publication, duration, location and quantity, consider these as an average range for print promotions:

  • Billboards: In most U.S. cities, billboards will cost around $1,500 to $20,000 to display for a short period of time and $1,000 to design.

  • Newspapers: On average, local newspaper ads can cost between $1,000 and $20,000, with design costs around $500.

  • Magazines: Local magazines charge anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000 for a full-page ad, with an additional $500 for design costs.

  • Brochures: A color mailer may cost anywhere between $4 and $10 each to create and distribute but will depend on the location and quantity.

Measure the Success of Your Print Campaigns

In order to determine if your print advertising campaign has been successful, it’s vital to track metrics before, during and after your campaign. Tracking the success of a print campaign can be difficult, but there are several metrics you can review:

  • Sales of the product or service you’re advertising

  • Use of a unique promo number you’ve included in your advertisement

  • Web traffic to a particular web page you’ve included in your advertisement

  • Use of a social media hashtag you’ve included in your advertisement

  • Use of a unique point of contact, such as a phone number or email address that is used just for the print advertising campaign

  • Customer responses when you ask them whether they have seen your latest campaign 

Remember, if you don't feel confident making your own print ads, you can hire an advertising agency to help you with strategy and graphic design.

References

About the Author

Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.