Print Advertising vs. Digital Marketing

Do we really still have print advertising in 2020, when digital marketing is wildly more effective? Hats off to those selling print ads, but here's the scoop on why print advertising is passe'.
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David Victor

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Print advertising vs. digital marketing: not a fair fight!

What’s the optimal kind of advertising for my business?

As we sit here in the middle of 2020, I must admit to being somewhat astonished that print advertising is still with us. 

My wife and I sometimes receive print advertising in the form of glossy home improvement “magazines” which contain zero helpful articles and 100% ads. 

Inside these publications are ads for home remodelers, paving companies, handymen, flooring companies, fencing companies, companies who sell outdoor barbeque grills and accessories, fireplace installers, garage storage racks and cabinet makers, windows, outdoor deck installers, “Solatube” skylight installers, and more. 

At our house, every time, these home improvement magazines go straight into the recycling. 

And as a marketer and advertiser, I feel bad for these advertisers. 

After all, these poor business owners spent a great deal of money to put this ad in this magazine. Many are probably locked into multi-month contracts, spending thousands of dollars for their full-page or half-page ad.

And here I am just tossing it into the round file.

What are these businesses paying to inhabit my garbage can?

The Cost of Print Advertising

How much did these advertisers spend, anyway?

Print Advertising vs. Digital Marketing 1
What is the ROI of print advertising?

Recently, I was able to get a hold of a rate card for one of the biggest glossy advertising magazines. 

These folks have magazines that target all sorts of geographic areas around the United States, with a special emphasis on the more affluent areas.

The advertiser splits out the rates based on the approximate number of homes in the area, with discounts given for multi-month advertising.

For our own East Bay Area with approximately 150,000 homes, a full page ad with a four-time discount (you agree to a deal that requires you to run the ad four times) costs nearly $3500 per issue. Getting a yearly discount only lowers the cost to $3200 per issue. The front cover costs $4200 per issue. 

A half-page ad (probably the smallest size to attract attention) with a four-time discount is $2K per issue.

Clearly, these advertisers are spending a good chunk of money. But what are they getting for their advertising dollar? Let me list the takeaways for the advertiser.

  • The chance to be seen approximately once a month within a blizzard of other ads.
  • Maybe someone else in the household will pick it up too. 

Uhh…I think that’s pretty much it.

This type of print advertising is olde-timey direct mail advertising. 

The hope of these advertisers is that, when you’re ready to tackle your home improvement challenge, one of these magazines will just be there in the home, or perhaps even arrive in the mail that very day. 

And sometimes that does happen. 

Hopefully no one threw away the last issue.

More likely, your ad will not be handy at the moment the buyer is interested in getting a few quotes on that kitchen remodeling or driveway paver work. 

So what will they do?

If they’re like most busy people these days, they’ll head right over to Google or Bing, and search for the answer.

So what is the real cost of print advertising? 

The cost is not to be found the instant your prospect is looking for you. 

Since Google began, we have trained buyers that the answer to their question at this very moment is just a click away. Today, this is simply how people think. 

Why would they waste time looking for that magazine when they could just use a search engine on the smartphone in their pocket or their desktop at home?

What is Digital Advertising?

It’s tempting to jump right to the ROI question and why digital advertising is so much more effective than print.

Before we get there, let’s address what digital marketing actually is. 

What types of activities are part of digital advertising? 

The ROI of Digital Advertising

Digital advertising enjoys many advantages over print advertising. 

What are the advantages of digital advertising?

  • Being in the right place at the right time: the instant the buyer asks for you.
  • Knowing what the buyer did after they arrived at your website.
  • Understanding the type of content that engages your visitors. 
  • Learning what types of questions that people are asking about your business. 
  • Following the buyer’s journey through your website and content.
  • Tracking your ROI: how many visitors submitted the contact form or clicked-to-call you?

Of course, understanding your customers helps you focus your messaging and marketing in a way that a static print ad never could.

In fact, Google actually shows you exactly what real people are typing into search engines. 

The next time you search on a term, check out the Google “People Also Ask” section in the search results. These are a list of the most-asked questions that people searched on. 

If any of these terms relate to your business, you would be wise to answer them in the content of your website. 

Why allow a competitor’s website to be the authority in your area?

Where Is Today’s Smart Buyer Looking?

Print Advertising vs. Digital Marketing 2
Today’s smart and money buyer goes right to the internet for answers and solutions.

If you’ve read this far, you already know the answer to this question. 

I’ve been involved with building websites for service and ecommerce businesses since 2003, but I’ve never seen a market as apropos for digital advertising. 

With the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, people are even more apt to search for answers on their own desktop or smartphone. Why pick up a magazine at a supermarket that may have been touched by dozens of other people?

Let’s try a real-world example. 

If I wanted to do a kitchen remodel, I would head to Google and search for “kitchen remodelers near me”. 

From where I sit today (my IP is in Pleasanton), these are the results I see:

Print Advertising vs. Digital Marketing 3
Google search results

As you can see, the listings in the Google “map pack” (the colorful section below the paid ads) are the most eye-catching.

I see “Kitchen Remodel and Design Pleasanton” with a 5.0 average review score, and 15 reviews. Pretty healthy!

The second listing (name blurred to protect their identity) with a 3.8 average score, and 19 reviews. Hmm. 

The third and final listing, has 7 reviews and 5.0 average review rating. Another good one.

Both the third and the 1st reviews have websites. Time to check ‘em out!

Do you see what just happened there?

In about 20 seconds, I now have two businesses that I’m going to check out. 

I also have 41 anonymous friends who gave me some tips on which businesses to investigate. 

Can you believe every online review? Of course not, but those gold stars are eye-catching, and as humans, we’re tempted to think, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Maybe some of those bad reviews are smoke.

Why should I be the one to find out? 

I’ll take the easy way out, and call the businesses on the Map Pack with good reviews first. 

But, uh, how can we show up in the Map Pack? Good question, here’s one answer!

Be Where Your Buyers Are

The next time you need to advertise your business, be sure to consider today’s moneyed and savvy buyer.

They are not waiting for the next printed magazine to show up in their mailbox.

They want answers, recommendations and resources now.

They want to solve their problems, and get on with the fun and enjoyable parts of life.

When you use digital marketing you have the opportunity to be there when your ideal customers search for the products and/or services that your business provides. 

A final shout-out to the folks who sell print advertising: my hat’s off to you, if you can still sell print advertising in 2020!

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