Print Advertising Versus Direct Mail

Believers in direct mail say it hits the target harder and more accurately than general advertising. March 21, 2012

I just signed up for my first print advertising in a local magazine for one month. The salesman said there is a good chance I won't get a great response. He said I should be doing a full year and not to give up after the first month. Have any of you had success with one time advertising? I would happily do a year if it was going to pay for itself, but I am not sure if he just wanted to sell me more or if he is right.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor K:
One broad rule-of-thumb is that it will often take 3 hits to gain a potential customer's attention.

I have never been a fan of print media advertising - newspaper, magazine, etc., for several reasons. There is a tremendous amount of competition for eye-space; it is difficult (or very expensive) to make your ad stand out from all of the others on the same and other pages. I consider most print advertising, magazine, newspaper, Yellow Pages, etc. to be passive. Until the target of your advertising is already primed for your product or service, he or she tends to not see your ad.

I much prefer direct-mail. With this method, I know that my ad will be in those people's hands and that I will have their specific attention - if only for a few seconds - even if they had no prior thoughts about my product.

1) I can control and/or change my message, making it as short or as complete as I wish.

2) I can specifically target who will receive my message - by neighborhood, by city, by demographics, and more.

3) I can easily send different messages to different target audiences.

4) With a direct mail piece, I have confidence that, at a minimum, my message will be noted, and I also have confidence that the recipient will read at least a part, if not all, of my message. If I choose to do so, since I know who received my advertising piece, I can also do follow-ups. In media advertising, it is a much more passive process: I put out the ad and then wait to see if anyone calls me. If no one does call, I have no way of finding out why.

5) I can control the response volume, by controlling how many advertising pieces are mailed out in a given period. Could I handle 50, or would 5,000 inquiries cause all of my ongoing work to stop?

6) Another issue in making the decision is whether you are servicing a relatively local area or trying to reach a national audience.

From contributor P:
Doing magazine advertising may be getting the cart before the horse, because you first need to know who your customer is and who you want to be your customer.

I agree with contributor K about magazine, yellow pages, and newspaper ads. But companies are successful using them. My take is that they are marketing driven companies which means they have streamlined the product/service to very little customization. E.g. which of these 3 colors would you like? By doing this, it becomes easier to get someone else to do the work. They have to charge more to cover the marketing costs.

I don't know where your company is coming from. But the best bang for the buck is going to be to mail or email or both to your former customers every month. In general I think of broad advertising as a way to build up my list of people to mail to.

At the end of the day you just want to stay connected to your customers. Create goodwill, create your brand and position in the marketplace. This position is in your customer's mind.

I wouldn't spend any more money on advertising until you find out more about this. Don't feel too bad - we have all pissed away a boatload of money on advertising that didn't pull.

From the original questioner:
The reason I just want to do one month at a time is because I fear getting overwhelmed with work. So month to month gives me more control. My feelings are that my existing customers already know I exist; I need new customers. Waiting for referrals is too slow for growth.

From contributor P:
As far as the overwhelmed thing goes, rest easy. If you do get too much work, raise your prices. You did say you want to sell more work, didn't you? Don't wait; create. To answer your question about having success with one time advertising, the answer is no.

From the original questioner:
A lot of my customers are on a Facebook page that gets updated several times a week. I would think this would be the same as the emails. I am not sure what I would email. Do you just send them an email asking if they need any more work done? I am sure there is a good way to do this but I have no idea where to start.

From contributor P:
I don't know about Facebook but I'm sure it is a good thing. I usually just go with a newsletter type deal. I have had them professionally done but currently I do them myself. I also just do postcards. The main thing is that you keep your name in their mind - it doesn't matter too much what you say. It works! I also use Constant Contact. They have some templates for doing this.

You have to think of this as a hat/job that you have to do, which is hard for most cabinetmakers. The problem is that these two hats are opposites in that as a cabinetmaker, you are trying to drive work out the door. A salesman is trying to drive work in the door. It is sort of like going down the freeway and putting the transmission into reverse - it is a hard thing to do until you have the machine (your business) built.

The older guys (which most of us are) on this forum will say word of mouth is all you need, but they had demographics and economic expansion filling their sails, this is not so much the case today.

From contributor T:
I agree with the salesman, one ad will not do much and is probably a waste of money. Also, do not confuse leads with sales. While media advertising will generate interest (as you know) there is a lot more to actual sales. One ad will probably get you some leads but not one piece of business. The importance of repetition in advertising is a well-documented and proven methodology for producing leads. The importance of repetition in measures of recall (remembering your name), comprehension, attitudes toward your product or brand, purchase intentions, and choices) is critical to success.

If you only have the budget for one ad, there are more effective methods of attracting new clients. Google ad words and improving your website so you are more easily found by the types of customers who want your type of service are two that come to mind.

From contributor V:
I have done magazine advertising for custom furniture. It took about 3 months for it to be worthwhile. After that the one ad in one mag kept me busy for 2 years.

For cabinets I used to do the business section in the back of local small papers and it would always keep me busy. I tried that again recently but because of the electronic changes it did me absolutely no good. I had ads in 3 papers and only got one call. They ran for 3 months.

Part of the key to magazine advertising is to have a good website. If you don't have that, you will not get near as much response. And yes, it does take repetitive monthly adds to get noticed.

From the original questioner:
I also signed up with Google adwords a week or so ago.

From contributor L:
While I do an occasional mailing that headlines what we have new to offer, most of our work comes from 30+ years of developing relationships with the right people.

From contributor P:
If you mailed to those right people every month it would do you some good. It keeps you that much more connected. The key is to stay connected.

From contributor O:
See if you can get a 4-6 month advertising campaign through them. In one month you might see direct sales from the ads, but you would need a little more time than that, especially in this industry. I think the salesman is being just that, a salesman, and trying to lock you into a longer period when realistically I wouldn't say it's ideal to jump into a year contract without seeing what this advertising campaign can do for you.

From contributor G:
We are wholesale to the trade, so we don't advertise. I do have a neighbor in our industrial park that paid a lot of money for an area in a new interior design showroom that is open to the public. It was a bust for him and he did not gain a sale. I send e-mails with a photo of one of our latest pieces that is unique to our existing customers and always add a few new designers from our area. Seems to work well for us.

From contributor B:
Traditional media is dead. We've all been training since birth to filter out boring ads. When was the last time you saw a print ad for one of the manufacturing companies on the Inc. 500 list? I'll take it even further... When was the last time you saw a paid advertisement in any form for one of those companies? Take the money you were going to spend on print and invest it into something creative, social, and buzz worthy. Send out a press release and let the print media cover your story for free. The key here is creativity, and fear is the only thing stopping you.