Realizing Real Value in Print Ads and Listings
In certain circles, discussing the benefits of print advertising might garner the same reaction as claiming dinosaurs still roam the earth. While digital ads, consumer reviews, mobile apps and online search predominate as preferred channels for advertisers, a sizable group of consumers and small businesses still rely on print advertising.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that print still delivers remarkable value. This is especially true of print ads in mailers or directories that are directed at local audiences seeking professional services, skilled tradespeople, and specialty goods. Print advertising also enhances other marketing vehicles. When integrated strategically with social media, digital display, and other channels, print advertising helps drive stronger results.
The same is true of printed directories containing display ads. In a natural disaster or personal emergency, online services may not be available. A Thrive Analytics Local Search Survey of 2,004 online respondents from August 2013 found that 70 percent of consumers would be extremely likely to reference a print directory in these situations.
Compare the Cost Per Lead From Print vs. Other Channels
The 2015 DMA Response Rate Report shows the response rate of direct mail outperforms all digital channels. With a house list, direct mail has a 3.7 percent response rate, and 1 percent with a prospect list. All digital channels combined (email, social media, paid search and display ads) achieved a much lower 0.62 percent response rate. The same study found the cost-per-acquisition for direct mail ($19) to be competitive with email ($11-15) mobile and social ($16-18), paid search ($21-30), and display ($41-50).
Some services and products, especially those involving higher price points, customization requirements, or special skills, require the consumer to research and compare potential vendors. Many demographics (e.g., 40 and older) are more comfortable using print than online searches or review sites for big-ticket items and services. Other populations (rural area residents, lower income) may not have reliable access to online resources.
Measuring Results: Gain Insight on Leads Generated, Cost Per Call and Call Quality
Print advertising is alive and well. The question is how do you measure results? Consumer data, tracking, and metrics are a big part of the appeal of online advertising vehicles. You can analyze print advertising results in much the same way, and get to know customers better along the way. Print advertising can be evaluated by unique URLs, redemption codes, or call-tracking lines where the number appears only in the ad. This customer data can easily inform and fine-tune your print and digital strategies. Regular reviews of print campaigns are an essential tool for understanding your market and improving the effectiveness of targeted outreach.
Evaluate Advertising Metrics Regularly
Important metrics to track include: response rate, cost per response, conversion rate, cost per lead, order rate, customer acquisition cost, revenue per order, and expense-to-revenue ratio. Analyzing these metrics individually, compared to each other, and across advertising channels (e.g., print vs. online) will provide a big picture of ROI and the ability to drill down and make changes where there are gaps, overspending, or unexpected success. Revisiting these metrics regularly (at least monthly) over long periods of time will help detect positive or negative shifts related to specific efforts, which can then be investigated.
For example, if a recent mailer created significantly more sales than a mailer sent at the same time last year, there is an opportunity to assess if it was the promotion offered, the design of the ad, or the list used and be sure to build on that successful component. If the cost per acquisition is also good news, rest assured you’ve hit a sweet spot, at least for now. Over the long run, these metrics can help detect seasonal and regional patterns that can inform more tailored and timely outreach.
Track Where Most Substantive Leads Are Coming From
No matter the type or size of business, maintaining a balanced mix of advertising channels is important. Assess your target demographic and think about how they shop and research. Put yourself in their shoes, in the scenario most likely to lead them to a purchase.
If you’re a business owner that prefers digital everything, reach out to some of your customers or neighbors from a variety of backgrounds to get a better understanding of how they make purchasing decisions. If your ideal client is 50-plus, then print advertising may be the most effective way to reach them. When it comes to print ads and directories, the type and location of business can have a big impact on results. For example, we’ve found that community-centric businesses like insurance brokers and credit unions can generate hundreds of leads per year from print ads, which often produce twice as many leads as digital ads.
There are those who will dismiss print advertising out of hand. And indeed, direct mail advertising has seen some decline, but appears to be very effective among those already using it. Companies need to consider the most appropriate channel to reach their ideal customer, and where they are likely to look for products and services. Successful businesses look for the most effective ways to engage with their target audience, and use data to guide these interactions to improve competitive positioning. With some careful planning, consistent metrics tracking, creative design and a bit of storytelling, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your audience and ensure your potential customers find you when they need you.