Stop wasting your marketing budget …

Erik-Michael Collins - Tulsa Premier Marketing & Advertising Specialist for Small Businesses (web large).jpg

When I meet with a potential new partner, one of the first things I ask for is a copy of their annual marketing budget. Some of them have never had one, they've just always spent what they thought was necessary. When they do have one, I immediately locate the budgeted funds allocated for print advertising and start slicing like the wind.

Now, before I continue with this article, let me just say that I am in no way, shape, or form criticizing all efforts of print marketing. Print has its appropriate uses but much of it is a complete waste of money.

I recently sat down with a local small business owner in Tulsa who had opened his doors about a year ago. 12 months later, he found that he'd managed to harvest a good-sized 'regular' crowd but that new faces were few and far between. Appropriate to my form, I asked him for a copy of his marketing budget - to which he did not have. So, I asked him to tell me a little of what he had been doing over the last year. He informed me that he used social media, a website, and word of mouth. As I proceeded to ask him a bit more about how he was leveraging those avenues, he interrupted me with, " Oh, we also have a 12x contract with (local) magazine company for a monthly 1/2 page ad and I think that's $2900 each."

... No words. Absolutely no words. After I realized that I was just awkwardly staring at him after his statement, I asked to confirm, "So, you're spending three large per month on magazine advertising?" He nodded. Without jumping over the table and ringing his neck, yelling, "Why would you do that!" I instead started in on my 4-point lecture of ongoing, excessive print marketing. And it goes like this:

1. Print advertising unnecessarily expensive for any SMB
2. Print advertising rarely reaches new audiences
3. Print advertising is not well perceived by the viewer
4. Print advertising is not transparent in terms of output

Now, to further explain each of the 4 points and compare them to the obvious alternative, digital.

1. Print advertising is expensive. Period. Small businesses are tricked into spending thousands per month by local magazine and newspaper account managers. They showcase that beautiful media kit and BAM, their sold. Unfortunately, that media kit is bolstered with big, fancy "this is what you get when you advertise with us" numbers that persuade the business owner into not even giving it a second thought. What it really comes down to is that they don't know the questions they should be asking. And why would they, they're not marketing experts and shouldn't have to be. When I compare the cost of how many people I can reach on digital platforms vs. print, it really is astonishing. More of this ties into the next few points.

2. When you really sit back and think about this one, it all makes sense. In relation to the scenario I shared above in which one small business owner was paying (local) magazine company $3000 per month to run an ongoing ad, how would he possibly resolve his issue of reaching new customers running the same ad month after month in the same magazine? The fact is that a magazine has its select audience, and rarely ever does that audience change. When you advertise, that audience knows of your existence the FIRST time you publish an ad. Running it month after month only exhausts them of seeing you because they're already aware of you. So, after a month or two of your ad appearing in a magazine, it really becomes more of a reminding effort rather than a marketing. On digital platforms such as AdWords and Facebook/Instagram promos, you can directly advertise to the audience of your choice. And, to top it all off, you can manipulate how many times that ad is shown to one person so that you can continue to reach new people all the time. Wow, imagine that. Now, why would you continue to pay 5x as much for print that reaches the same group of people over and over when you can spend a fraction of the price advertising digitally to new audiences that you hand selected because you know you're missing out on them?

3. Magazine companies don't care about your ROI, they care about completely filling up the page to the point that it's exhausting for the viewing to even comprehend what your ad's purpose is. You get absolutely zero traction from any print efforts when your ad is sitting there right next to another. When magazine companies reach out to me and try to sell one of my partners things like eighth, quarter, and half page ads, I don't even take the time to acknowledge such ludicrousness with a response. Going back to point #1, print advertising is expensive and the only way for an ad to have any sort of effect is if it's a standalone, full-page ad. My experience is that, in the city of Tulsa, a full page ad runs anywhere from $4000 - $6000 in a quality magazine (less if it's a newer or lesser known magazine). No business that is struggling can or wants to afford this. Therefore, they are forced to pay for a cheaper, small ad that gives them absolutely no return because it's on page 87 and is mixed in with 3 other ads.

4. I have been told that I am someone who takes analytics a little overboard. How do you know what you really got out of that ad that you just spent thousands of dollars on? Digital efforts allow you to setup UTM and other tracking so that you can go into your analytics platform to see what the click-through to conversion rate was. Well, you can't do that in print without using some digital efforts that work with it, such as call tracking or vanity domains. So, now you're talking even more money on top of the overpriced print ad. And the best part is that the publishing company can't tell you what you got out of it ... and they don't care. I always need some level of reporting that leverages every dollar I spent in marketing efforts. In short, digital can do that - print can't.

In closing, I want to reiterate that not all print marketing is a bad idea. It really comes down to the frequency in which you use it and what industry your partner is associated with. Putting a one-time, full-page ad in a local magazine for the grand opening of your partner's new restaurant is not a half bad idea. But, the ongoing advertising in that same magazine throughout the year is. They've seen you, they know you serve food, they're aware you exist, and that's it. You don't need to keep reminding them month after month that you're there. That's when they quit paying attention and you dollars are now being thrown down the drain. Putting an ad in a local magazine for the opening of your new clothing shop that sells modern styles for the 16-21 age range is not a good idea. They're not reading through that magazine, I can guarantee you they spend 10 hours a day on social media so that's where you should be focusing your efforts.  Again, remember the rule of frequency (don't advertise month after month) and industry (know your audience and whether or not they are looking where you're printing).