Getting Noticed By Your Customers
Today there are lots of ways in which you can put your name, products and services in front of your prospective customers – personal sales calls, telesales, direct mail and email, websites, exhibitions, TV advertising, press advertising, editorial mentions. Which to use is a marketing decision depending on many factors, and there are negative as well as positive considerations. For example, business people and householders alike are becoming increasingly irritated with a rising tide of junk snail-mail, spam e-mails, Tracy or Kevin from the telephone call centre, and unscheduled reps’ visits ‘just to make sure we’re looking after you alright’.
However, it does seem that the pages of the trade, consumer and local press are still keeping their popularity as a promotional medium. When the latest issue of Widgets International or Today’s Gardener pops through the door or lands on the desk, there’s often a feeling that ‘my’ magazine has arrived. Many are read from cover to cover with genuine interest and respect, and often in quiet moments when the reader has time to absorb the contents.
So there you are, relaxed, coffee to hand and gently turning the pages of your favourite mag, when... DAMN! It’s happened again! Your major competitor has once again got his name in there with a good, positive news story which is now being read with interest by thousands of your prospective buyers. Why on earth aren’t we in there?
The answer is simple – you should be, you could be, but you’re not trying to be. Question: How do we go about trying to get in there? What’s most effective – advertising, or editorial? And is it worthwhile anyway?
Let’s start from Square One. There are just two ways of getting your name to appear in the press, and you could use one or both:
- by aiming for free coverage in the editorial pages
- by buying advertising space.
Editorial items that appear in magazines – articles, case studies, news stories – are largely written and submitted by press relations agencies or in-house PR professionals.
Readers may be subconsciously aware of this when they are reading them. Even so, they feel that the companies, products or services that are mentioned somehow carry the independent endorsement of the magazine. Also readers will often relate to, for example, a case study describing a problem that arose and how it was solved with a particular product or service – ‘we’ve got a problem like that’.
Advertising, on the other hand, while it can certainly make an impact, also prompts a feeling of ‘they’ve had to pay money to say that’ – and, of course, they have. The level of price will depend upon the publication’s standing in the industry and its distribution, and will be based on space (full page, half-page, etc.) for a display ad or, for classified ads, lineage or column inches/centimetres. Add to this the cost of good, professional artwork; unless you have a fairly hefty promotional budget, the same artwork tends to get used in the same publications month after month after month. This may be good economics, but it’s also dead boring.
Worthy of mention here is the so-called ‘advertorial’. This consists of one or more pages that look just like editorial pages, but are actually paid advertising. Look carefully, and you will find the words ‘advertising feature’ or something similar, probably in quite small type at the top of each page. Advertorials can be expensive because of the space they occupy, but you might occasionally be offered a bargain by an advertisement manager who is trying to hit his sales target.
Pros and cons
Advertisements and advertorials do have one thing going for them. Because you pay for them, you call the shots. If space is available, they will be published as, when and how you want them to be. This is something that cannot be guaranteed with news stories and other copy that you send to editors. You don’t have to pay for editorial material to appear (unless you fall for the magazine’s request for so-called colour separation charges to use any pictures you send with them), but usage is entirely at the editor’s discretion (see the next chapter).
However, it is worth pressing on with the editorial route because surveys over the years have shown that readers are invariably influenced more by what they read in the editorial pages than by advertisements. Editorial mentions result in more and higher quality enquiries than advertisements produce. Also, the cost of achieving the editorial mention may be only a fraction of the cost of buying advertising space.