Small Business Tips: A Basic Guide To Print Advertising

Use the expertise of an advertising agency for the creative aspects of print advertising with controls on how advertisements are planned, designed, executed and audited.

Print advertising is a productive and cost-effective of reaching out to large numbers of potential and existing customers and employees, persuading them to consider purchase, to apply for a job in the company, motivating them to act and reminding them about your product or service and its unique benefits. It also gives confidence to channel partners and investors about the strength of your competitive position.

The cost of print advertising could go well beyond the nominal amount paid to the newspaper or journal. An ill-timed advertisement, inappropriately placed, with inadequate repetition, unappealing visuals, pedestrian headline and absence of a unique selling position, could individually or in combination causes you to lose revenue to the competition. Effective print advertising calls for both creativity and process. A small business should focus on process, leaving creativity to a specialized agency. There are many advertising agencies that cater specifically to the needs of small business.

Choose an advertising agency that has a portfolio of success in communication for small business. Interview the account executive that will be assigned to your business because the role of this person is crucial to success. Effective print advertising calls for close coordination between various specialists in the agency and coordination with people inside your company as well. The account executive should demonstrate interactive and organization skills as well as commitment to deliver results for your business. Ensure that the person assigned by the agency is the one associated with past campaigns that attracted you to the agency in the first place.

Large corporations earn commissions on the value of enormous advertising budgets. You may wish to offer an agency that impresses you, a flat fee to compensate for a relatively modest budget with which you may wish to start work. Consider the strategic advantage that an agency can offer a small business.

The agency will need access to your proprietary business information. Trust is essential. Conditions related to the agency not working with competitors should be spelt out in the beginning. Be watchful of leakage of information to competitors through agency personnel and suppliers.

Selection of an advertising agency with a record of success in print campaigns for small business, with a committed accounts executive to serve you and with adequate safeguards to protect your information resources, is a basic and first step towards using print advertising for your business growth.



Creation of a print advertising campaign starts with a brief by the company for the agency. Such a brief should cover a scan of the business environment, information on competition, sectional growth, models of buyer behavior, segmentation, demographics and psychographics of the target, positioning and branding, sales history and gross margins. Some of this information may not be available with a small business and you may have to ask the agency for professional help to generate it. Print advertising may be wasted in case the agency does not base the campaign on sound primary data on the macro and microenvironment.

The next step is to fix a budget for print advertising. It is normal to use industry convention as a benchmark for the total advertising budget. It is often a proportion of total revenue. The share of print media in the total advertising budget will depend upon the nature of the product or service and the media habits of the target. This is an area of specialization and a small business would do well to abide by the advice of the agency.

The business and the agency should then agree on the objectives of the print advertisements. Should they just create awareness, arouse interest or motivate customers to buy? The business would want as much as possible but the agency should help set realistic goals. The latter must be stated in measurable terms for appraisal after the campaign has been run.

The agency is now in a position to create the campaign. The visual appeal, the headline, copy and the pay-off line are the elements that will decide whether or not the advertisement achieves set objectives. The business should ensure that the campaign is tested through primary research before it is released to the press. The agency must have the diligence to junk its work and start over if people do not react to the proposed advertisement as has been assumed.

A pre-tested campaign is ready for press release. A media expert has to design the optimal use of a budget to reach exposure, frequency, duration and image objectives. Large advertisements with prime positions in widely circulated prestigious publications will be most effective, but only if repeated with a certain frequency over a minimum period. Small and casual insertions in less-read sections of a local newspaper or journal appear to cost less but they may just result in a waste of money and effort. Juggling conflicting objectives of reach, impact and cost calls for experience and skill and the business should trust an expert. A media planner would also be able to negotiate favorable terms from most publications.

Campaigns must be evaluated for future reference. Most campaigns are run again or modified over time. A business should have valid reasons for decisions on the future of print advertising business. The elements of the marketing mix other than print advertising should be kept constant before, during and after the campaign or else changes in revenue and awareness cannot be measured with accuracy.

Successful print advertising can play a pivotal role in growing a small business. It is worth finding a professional and trustworthy advertising agency and forging a beneficial relationship with them with meaningful control on process.

© High Speed Ventures 2011