Internet marketing is the buzz of the news media and business world. Forrester Research predicts that online advertising expenditures will reach $77 billion by the year 2016, comprising 35% of overall ad spending. Yet despite the Internet’s explosive growth, print is still a great marketing tool for most businesses. After all, many consumers and businesses aren’t connected to the Internet 24/7, and even the most dedicated “wireheads” continue to read newspapers, magazines, and direct mail.
What’s more, print can leverage your Internet marketing efforts, and vice versa. Each medium reinforces the other, creating the same “double whammy” effect that Fortune 500 corporations build with television and print campaigns.
Let’s assume that you have an advertising budget or at least know what you can afford to spend on print marketing. How can you squeeze the most value out of those dollars?
Outsourcing vs In-House
You have four basic options when planning your print campaign:
- Retain a full-service advertising agency. This is a great approach if you can afford it, but an agency’s fees can add up quickly—and any production work the agency farms out is typically marked up 17.65 percent.
- Hire specialists as needed. A design studio, freelance copywriter, media-buying service, or Yellow Pages specialist can help you create an effective campaign by providing skills that aren’t available in-house.
- Do it yourself. This is the cheapest approach. With a tool like Microsoft Publisher 98, you can create professional-looking advertising and merchandising materials without paying $50 an hour or more for an outside designer.
- Mix and match. Many companies (both large and small) use both outsourcing and in-house work. A business might use an ad agency for magazine campaigns, hire a graphic designer to create publication templates, and produce low-budget materials such as data sheets and newsletters internally.
For this discussion, we assume you plan to create at least some of your materials in-house—if only because most small businesses can’t afford to hire agencies, studios, and other specialists for every job.
Your Audience And Goals
Before you can decide how to spend your budget, you need to know:
Who’s your audience? A consumer campaign aimed at residents of ZIP code 60011 requires different materials than a business-to-business campaign targeting America’s 500 largest scrap dealers. Similarly, a high-fashion clientele expects sophisticated advertising materials, while industrial buyers of commodity products might be satisfied with laser-printed price sheets.
What do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to build awareness of your brand, get leads for your sales staff, or generate immediate sales? Once you answer this question, you can select an appropriate strategy. For example:
- To build awareness, a strong graphic image and memorable headline are key.
- To obtain leads, you might want to offer a gift (“Free 200-page Widget Selection Guide”).
- To generate sales, you need an irresistible price or other offer (“$1,000 rebate or 0% financing until January 1″).
- Your Budget and Return On Investment
- Inevitably, you’ll have to make choices when planning your campaign. You may be faced with questions such as:
- “Should I do three high-quality mailings or six cheaper mailings?”
- “Will the added costs of a $100 discount be offset by greater revenues?”
- “If I use third-class postage, how many more letters can I afford to mail?”
- “Should I trim 12 pages from my catalog and spend the extra money on my Web site?”
- “What R.O.I. can I expect from a $1,000 increase in my monthly promotional budget?”
A spreadsheet program can help you explore “what-if” scenarios and make informed decisions. Change one number in the worksheet and your other figures are updated automatically. You also can use worksheets to track your campaign’s results. Built-in graphic tools make it easy to see where you’ve been and where you’re going. Just as important, graphs are a handy way to communicate trends and proposed budgets to colleagues, dealers, bankers, and investors.
Creating Your Materials
Microsoft Publisher can help you save the cost of a design studio or freelance graphic artist. You’ll still want to hire a professional for high-end work or complex jobs like four-color catalogs, but Publisher is an excellent choice for newsletters, flyers, mailers, posters, tent cards, and many other projects. You can even use it to create pages for your website.
Because it’s geared toward small-business and home users, Publisher includes “Wizards” and templates that automate the design process. You also can have a local designer build custom Publisher templates for frequently updated materials like newsletters, price lists, and data sheets. When delivering work to a commercial printer, create a PostScript output file in Publisher. Your printer can use this file to make plates or, in some cases, to print the file directly from a floppy disk.
Distributing Your Message
Once your piece is printed, you need to give attention to distribution. Your most obvious option is mail, but you should also look at making your printed material available at trade shows, presentations, and other marketing arenas.
A strong print marketing program is one of the most cost-effective ways to build your business. It can attract new prospects, cement relationships with customers, generate sales, and build awareness of your company and brand names. Best of all, you don’t need a huge budget to use print effectively—thanks in large part to today’s design and publishing tools.