Advertising on a Budget -- Part 1: Using Print to Drive Traffic Online

This is the first article of a three-part series. I decided to try something a little different and illustrate the marketing challenges of a small business. I'm using one of my clients, PrescottWeddings.com (you can read more about PWC, including a testimonial from the owner of PWC, on my Web site, http://www.writingusa.com)

PWC is an online resource guide for couples planning their weddings. Along with a ton of information for brides and grooms, the site includes a resource guide where local businesses can advertise their products and services.

We launched PWC in November 2001. Like many start-up businesses, PWC didn't have much money for marketing. Yet we had two major challenges (three counting the limited budget):

1. PWC had to attract two kinds of target markets to the site -- advertisers and couples -- essentially at the same time. And if that wasn't bad enough, we had to appeal to each group even though one was dependent on the other -- advertisers wanted brides and grooms logging onto the site, and brides and grooms wanted a complete resource center.

2. Several bridal print publications had come and gone in Prescott -- and had burned their advertisers while racing out of town. Businesses were understandably hesitant about sinking their money into another bridal venture.

Armed with those challenges, we went to work. Now, just over two years later, PWC enjoys well over 40,000 hits a month and has increased its advertising base by over 600%. On top of that, PWC is well on its way to establishing a reliable brand in not just Prescott but throughout Yavapai County.

So how did we do it? A great Web site with great content (but more on that in a later article) plus three main marketing strategies: 1) Using print to drive traffic online 2) Thinking small 3) Frequency, frequency, frequency

I'll cover number two and three in the next two articles. Today we'll talk about number one: Using print to drive traffic online.

The cornerstone of PWC's marketing program has been print advertising, more specifically monthly advertising in the local newspaper. Print advertising is an excellent choice for many businesses -- from small to large. In fact, it's not uncommon for small and medium-sized businesses to build their advertising program around print.

The strength of print advertising is its flexibility. Print publications come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They can appeal to a broad readership or a narrow one. They can be published every day or once a year. This variety gives you a lot of flexibility in fitting print advertising into your campaigns.

You can also track print to a certain extent (coupons in newspapers for example). Print is physical, allowing your customers to carry something around with them.

However, print's weakness is also its strength. It's a visual medium only, so it requires more effort and interaction from your audience to make an impact (they need to stop and read it).

In the case of PWC, we chose monthly advertising in the local paper as the foundation of our marketing program. We decided upon the local newspaper because it has the broadest reach. Prescott isn't big enough to have its own evening television news, so the newspaper is the best vehicle for local news.

If you live in a big city, the local newspaper may not be practical because of cost. In that case, you may want to try a niche newspaper or magazine, like a business or lifestyle journal, or maybe a regionalized newspaper. In Phoenix for instance, the Arizona Republic is the main newspaper, but all the cities around Phoenix, like Scottsdale and Tempe, also have their own papers.

Because PWC is a Web site, there's an assumption we should be using only online methods to advertise. Online methods are good, and PWC does use them, but they only take you so far. Print is a part of the "real world" -- something you can touch and pick up, not virtual like a Web site. Print has also been around a lot longer, and carries more trust with it. We found by using print, some of that trust and "real world" essence rubbed off, making PWC seem less anonymous and more like a "bricks and mortar" business (a business with a store front).

Also, since we were trying to drive local traffic to the site, it made sense to advertise locally rather than attracting people from all over the world. But even with our local advertising, we still have a substantial number of visitors from around the state, including Phoenix and Tucson, as well as all over the globe.

The point of our marketing program was to advertise regularly so we could both build the PWC brand and drive traffic to the Web site. Yet it was essential to keep our costs down. So we leveraged our monthly newspaper advertising to stretch our marketing dollar as far as we could. More on that and how we "thought small" in Part 2.

Michele Pariza Wacek owns Creative Concepts and Copywriting, a writing, marketing and creativity agency. She offers two free e-newsletters that help subscribers combine their creativity with hard-hitting marketing and copywriting principles to become more successful at attracting new clients, selling products and services and boosting business. She can be reached at http://www.writingusa.co m

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