I run my own company and ever since I started I have struggled to find the best way to advertise our services. I fully understand that without advertising, my company cannot succeed.
Brand It Sign and Design is a few years old now and we have built a good name for ourselves in both our local area, Altrincham, and right across Manchester and the North West. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising any company can have. If your friend recommends a new Chinese restaurant, you will probably take your better half one day. If you have a leak, you will probably ask your Dad if he knows a good plumber. Word of mouth is powerful advertising; but takes years to build, and no one can rely on word of mouth alone. So what else can we do to help promote our business?
Signwriting is all about advertising. Well-signwritten work vans are hugely effective moving billboards. We do signs, so naturally we use them as much as we can to promote ourselves, and I personally know how effective vehicle branding can be. When I am in my signwritten company van I make sure I have business cards because it’s fairly common for people to ask “How much would… be?” when they see the advertising on the van. But beyond signs I have had to experiment to find the best ways to advertise. Which forms of advertising offer my business the best return on investment?
Whether you put an ad in the local paper or hand out a stack of flyers, traditional ways to advertise always seem like the proper way to do it. You could get a small ad in your local paper for around £100, which seems quite reasonable. You may even be able to make your money back off just one job if you are lucky, and considering local papers usually reach about 50,000 homes/ businesses it seems like a no brainer. But is it? How many of the 50,000 people actually still read these papers? I don’t know. I also think it is impossible to get any accurate estimates for this. The free local paper comes through our door every week and goes straight into the recycling bin unread. But I know my dad reads it every week. This is how I see newspapers. Read by the creatures of habit of the older generations. They don’t use twitter or facebook. They don’t look on the BBC news website on their lunch break. It’s an age thing. This strikes me as a very useful trend.
Behind our website, Twitter is our main advertiser. We get perhaps 25% of all of our work from twitter. It is invaluable to us as a way to reach more people and develop continuing relationships with clients and suppliers. It is easy to do, easy to maintain and is completely free. Compare this to advertising in the local paper. I cannot recall a single ad campaign that has even paid for itself. This may be that our specific industry isn’t suited to the audience any more. The older generation who reads them may be less likely to set up a brand new business, so wouldn’t need new shop signs or vehicle branding. Or it could be a decline in readership altogether.
So should we stop paying hundreds of pounds to advertise in a dying format with an increasingly shrinking audience?
The answer is not quite yet. The local paper still has some effectiveness as an advertising tool, but only for the right kind of advertisers. You have to think harder about who and how many people actually read these publications nowadays. It still has an audience you can try and sell to, but as the internet becomes more prevalent, I think the local paper will represent a decline in traditional advertising methods as a whole.
Alex Strath is the Owner and Lead Project Manager of Brand It Sign and Design Manchester based sign makers.