Written by Chris Lambrinides
CHAPTER 13 - NEWSPAPERS AND PHONE BOOKS
Print is not dead! Although so much has moved to online only, many print-only solutions remain that can be very successful for your business. As a matter of fact, I have observed that with fewer and fewer people using print, it’s becoming more and more effective.
I have always used newspapers as part of my marketing plan in one way or another.
There are a lot of newspaper options in our area. Being close to New York City, people love the New York Times. We also have the Star-Ledger, which is a New Jersey–specific paper, as well as the New Jersey Herald, which is a county-only paper. Then we have other, smaller, town-based regional papers.
A definite inverse relationship exists between a newspaper’s size and its effectiveness. This relationship is also reflective of the paper’s affordability to the advertiser. The bigger the paper, the more expensive and less effective it’s going to be for you. Niche down and go as local as possible.
■ My local papers’ distribution rate, from highest to lowest:
New York Times
New Jersey Herald
Strauss local regional papers
■ My local papers’ cost to advertise, from highest to lowest:
New York Times
New Jersey Herald
Strauss local regional papers
As you can imagine, we focused all our energy on our Strauss local papers. They have seventeen different versions that they put out, and all are tied to specific towns in my area. Over the years, I advertised in them quite a bit. I ran classifieds, display ads, and inserts. I even used them for help wanted ads to assist in finding employees.
The beauty of these papers, aside from the lower cost and barrier to entry, is the personalization.
The more personal you can make your message, the better. If you speak on a more personal level as much as possible, it’s going to resonate with your prospective customer.
For example, I knew that the Goshen Strauss newspaper was going to go only to residents of Goshen Township.
You better believe I started all my messages in that paper with “Dear Goshen Resident” or “Attention Resident of Goshen” or some other variation. I would find a way to speak to them as a resident of that town in some way.
I would bet you have a local paper that could potentially be an excellent source of leads for your company. If you do, call them up and get some statistics. How many papers do they have? What’s the distribution rate? What day of the week is it delivered?
Consider our discussion of demographics in chapter 1. Do any of the towns you identified as gold have a local paper you can capitalize on? If so, run them through your filter to determine if it could be worth using.
This is going to be the best bang for your buck in the local paper. Have you noticed these when you open up a paper? Look to the middle and see the different handouts, grocery store coupons, etc. Call your local paper and see what they would charge you to insert your flyer or direct mail piece.
Usually, for a nominal fee (a couple of cents per piece), they will add in your printed material. They will often allow you to provide your own print, or they will print one for you. Crunch the numbers on each way to determine what’s going to be cheapest. But if it’s close, I recommend providing your own print. It’s the only way you can guarantee the quality. Plus, it will make your piece stand out. It will likely be the only thing in there not printed on the same type of cheap paper. It’s easy to look good if you print it yourself. To clarify when I say “yourself,” I mean have it printed at a professional print service, and then supply it to the newspaper company.
We would insert the same Every Door Direct Mail 8.5 × 11–style mailer we distributed via the post office. This helped cut down on printing fees because we were ordering in bulk. And it assisted in giving us a clear, consistent look and message. I believe inserts to be effective because they are in-your-face ads. If you open the paper and just flip around a bit, it’s almost impossible to miss them.
Newspaper Classified Ads
My first paid advertisement was a small classified ad in the back of the local paper. It was under the home improvement selection.
Twenty windows cleaned
$179—in and out
Storms not included
It was just a straight offer, with no real call to action or information. But it worked; it brought in work and kept me busy. Over the years, the classifieds became way less effective. I eventually pulled the ad in favor of more frequent inserts. These were effective at the time because, pre-Google, people would go there to search. I talk a lot about Google in Chapter ten.
These are the larger-type ads sprinkled throughout the paper, usually 3 × 3 inches or so. I experimented with these on and off, with limited success. I wouldn’t recommend them or use them again. They get lost and actually require a person to read the paper to find them.
Have you seen these? I used these for a year or so right before I sold my business, and they worked well. I would consider using them again. I like them because they look like a coupon, and they give you the ability to make a straight offer. Plus, they’re on the outside, and prospective customers are more likely to notice them. This is also a semi-new concept in print advertising, and people haven’t become numb to them yet.
This is something that I wish I took more advantage of but neglected to capitalize on. As I think back on it, I guess I had an aversion to trying to make a big deal out of things involving my company and me. As the business owner, I hid from the public whenever possible. I’m not sure why, but that’s how it was. I realize now that this held me back from taking the company even further.
If I could do it again, I would try to get a press release into the paper on a semi-regular basis. After all, it’s nothing more than free publicity. I was paying for publicity, so it was foolish of me not to suck up the free stuff when I could have. I had all sorts of things I could have done press releases about: new management hires, new service offerings, charity giveaways, contests, etc. I was doing it all, and I never told anyone about it. It was a mistake I won’t make again if I ever have another local business.
In 2003, I was paying for ad space in twenty-two different phone books. We made a killing on them, for the rate of return was huge. In 2004, we lost money on all but one of them. In 2005, I canceled every single one of them but stayed with my free local listing.
For the past ten years, whenever my yearly phone book delivery has arrived, the procedure has been the same. Bust it out and check my listing. Then, look for any new competitors that may have popped up, and see if any competitors have disappeared.
Toss it in the trash, rinse, and repeat year after year.
I was over at my grandfather’s house a couple of months ago. I noticed he had a phone book right by his wall-mounted rotary phone. I asked him if he still used the phone book. He said, “Yes, of course, at least once a month.” I wasn’t surprised. Although I would never pay for another phone book ad, I do believe there’s great value in having your free listing current and up to date. People still do get them, and they still reference them. These people are likely not in your target market, but who cares? It’s free and will generate calls.
Create a list of all the phone books in your service area, and give them a call. Ask for a free copy, and they will send you one. Check your listing. If it’s not right or not active, give them a call and request to get listed in it. The data for the businesses that don’t pay for an ad are generated via public record. There’s a fair chance it will be there and will be accurate, but you never know. Investigate it, and make sure you’re listed and the information is correct.
Phone Book Sticky-Notes
I have seen these showing up on phone books recently. If the price is right, I would give them a try.