Think clearly about print advertising

Note: I originally posted this on, but I thought I would post it here as well, with a few modifications

Derek Sivers has a great story on his blog about a musician who booked an ad in a magazine hoping to convert 1% of the magazine’s readership into sales.  In this case, 1% would have translated into 10,000 CDs sold.  The result?  4 CDs sold.

He ends with this line: “He forgot there was a number lower than one percent.”

This story reminded me of when I owned my retail shop.  We would place a full-page ad in the newspaper (with a coupon), hoping sales would pour in.  The newspaper’s circulation was 20,000, so a 1% conversion would have meant 200 new customers.  But sure enough, only a handful of new people would walk through the door.

Circulation means nothing without engagement. This is one of the reasons the newspaper industry is in such trouble; for years, businesses would throw money at advertising and hope it would make a difference.  The problem is that, often, it didn’t.

This isn’t to say that print doesn’t have a place; there are many factors to consider, including the size of one’s target market, ad design, etc…  The difference is that online you can measure engagement:

  • with a well-built website, you can track visitors, and what they're reading when they are on your site

  • a social marketing campaign can be measured for success based on blog posts on other sites, comments, tweets, etc.

  • an email newsletter can provide you with stats based on interests and click-throughs.

I recommend that businesses with yearly marketing budgets of $500-$5,000 spend most of that money building engagement online.  When you compare it with print advertising, you will get a much better return on investment.

Published on October 18th, 2009
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