ICS Magazine

Don't Write Off Newspaper Advertising

March 16, 2010


Look at the newspaper, one of the first mass advertising media. It’s still a profitable form of advertising for some cleaners, but is it right for you?

Go back to 1920. If you owned a cleaning business, you would almost certainly use newspaper advertising. Back then, there weren’t too many other marketing options other than word of mouth.

Today in 2010 we’ve got so many more choices. So should newspaper be something a cleaning company still considers? Absolutely! First, let’s see if the newspaper is the best medium to deliver your message to your ideal target prospect.

I’ve written and tested well over 200 different newspaper ads. Most of them brought a nice response, and some brought more than a 22-to-1 return on investment. Of course, there were a few ads that didn’t do too well. But all in all, the newspaper has been one of the most profitable ad media for my cleaning company.

“The majority of our newspaper clients are middle- to upper class who have had their carpet cleaned before. We don’t usually get price shoppers calling us from the newspaper ad,” Cory McCook, owner of Carpet Cure in Macon, Ga., said. “The ad doesn’t mention price so prospects are initially attracted to us based on the benefits written in the ad. Most people who read the newspaper read it every week, which gives me consistent exposure to them. The return changes according to the season but our average annual return is 4-to-1 each year.”

One common question is, “Hasn’t newspaper circulation dwindled since the Internet?” Yes, it has declined in most cities. In fact, most media have suffered decline since the Internet revolution. But this doesn’t mean you should write off newspapers.

Here are just some of the reasons why you should consider the newspaper as an advertising platform:
  • It’s easier than direct mail. Just set it and forget it.
  • 65 percent to 75 percent of adults read it weekly.
  • It’s a primary news source for the 45-plus age group.
  • Readers are typically higher educated.
  • Highly targeted in sections.
  • Deadlines are short. Your ad will run within a week.
  • It adds credibility and trust to your company.
  • Some people read the newspaper to see ads and coupons.
  • It’s very flexible. You can change your plan weekly.
  • You can quickly become a local celebrity.
You won’t reach everyone with the newspaper. But you will reach homeowners in what most cleaning companies consider their target market. It’s a place where you can send regular benefit-driven messages to educated adults in your city. The flexibility of newspaper is a wonderful perk. You can advertise heavily during your slow season and cut back when you get busy.

And the local celebrity thing isn’t bad either. Wouldn’t your client feel more comfortable with the celebrity carpet cleaner who is in the newspaper every week? People have stopped me in public to ask about my cleaning service because they saw my picture in the newspaper. You’re not only buying the newspaper ad, you’re also buying credibility and celebrity.

Newspaper is one of the few media where people seek out advertising. No one watches television, listens to radio, or opens their mailbox for the ads. But people do purchase newspapers for the advertisements. If you run your newspaper ad on days with heavy amounts of inserts, you’ll usually get a better response.

Here’s when newspapers work most effectively:
  • Small- or medium-size cities. Big city newspapers are a little impersonal.
  • When you have a unique offer or guarantee.
  • If you are running a contest with a big prize.
  • Running an “advertorial” ad that appears like an editorial.
  • When you have a true, newsworthy message to get out.
Ron Holt, owner of Two Maids and a Mop serving Alabama and Florida, used newspaper when he started a new branch in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“The newspaper is what got our new operation going. We received 300 responses from a $1,000 full-page ad,” Holt said. “Our offer gave the first 37 callers a $7 full house cleaning, the next 37 callers received a $37 house cleaning, and the last 74 callers received a $25 gift card. Everybody who called was put into a direct mail sequence for follow-up.”

Some pitfalls to avoid with the newspaper:
  • Be careful about newspapers with leanings or views homeowners don’t embrace.
  • Stay out of the coupon sections if your prices are higher than average.
  • This isn’t ironclad, but avoid free newspapers.
  • Do not forget to have an offer in your ad.
  • Avoid offers other cleaning companies use-make yours unique.
  • Boast your guarantee in every ad.
Dusty Roberts, owner of Luv-a-Rug and Rugbadger.com in Victoria, BC Canada, has used newspapers to grow his carpet and rug cleaning business.

“We’ve done great with advertorial-type advertising,” Roberts said. “We ran one in a shopping-type newspaper with a 6-to-1 return on investment. You need to track your results starting with a small test. If it works great, keep using it. If it starts dropping off, it may be time to change your media.”

Thinking of trying newspapers? Why not call a few other companies who advertise in your local newspaper and ask how their response has been? Unless it’s a competitor, you’ll get an honest portrayal of what your local newspaper will do for you.

If it looks like a good fit in your city, test it out. The newspaper may end up being your best advertising choice if you do it right.