Small business owners run up against an advertising problem all the time.  They are bombarded with account executives that promise that their publication or radio station or digital marketing service is the one that will be the magic bullet that drives customers to their businesses.  Nobody seems to know how print and digital advertising work together.

Over time, many small business owners are frustrated with their efforts.  80% of their media purchases don’t seem to be bringing clients into the door.

The 20%

What ad buys actually work for small businesses in a small market?  We have been doing a fair share of research to come up with an answer to the 20% question.  What if a small business could spend most of their ad budget on 20% that works?

Recent studies are showing that a cross-platform campaign strategy is deadly effective.  Print is by no means dead and digital is not the only way to go.

Things have just changed and strategies have had to adapt.  Print has moved over to make room for the explosive rise of digital media and the truth is that digital media has some huge benefits.

Digital Media

  • It is inexpensive
  • It is exact
  • It is interactive

But it can also feel cheap and temporary.

The Studies

A few years back, Neilson did a study that looked at the retail sector to see how US consumers arrived at a purchasing decision.  The results were astounding in this digital age.  Believe it or not, more than half of the consumers surveyed said that they were more persuaded by printed circulars and direct mail than by digital ads.

Then…The leading metric for digital advertising was not social media or pay-per-click, as you might expect, but a well written, old fashioned email campaign followed up by a great website.

What can we learn from these studies?

  • None of the studies are showing that you should abandon your print marketing strategy for the sake of digital ads. You should change them, but not abandon them.
  • Your small business needs an effective printed advertising method, a great email marketing plan that is supported by a professional website.

Let’s picture your marketing strategy like a train.


The tracks the train sits on is your company branding.  Your branding is important and you should not start a marketing campaign until your brand is put together properly.

Marketing is about getting people to look for you in the first place.  Our research is showing us that a large percentage of what is working right now for small businesses also happen to be 3 of the least expensive media pieces to develop.

Print, Email and Web are the Main Engines that drive a marketing campaign

Putting print and digital together with you website

The home of your brand and your marketing efforts in your website.  If you are taking your marketing seriously, your website should look professional.  It needs to be easy to navigate, rich in content and maintained often.  Word Press is currently the preferred platform for most small business websites.

Putting print and digital advertising together with print

Second, the research is still showing that direct mail, circulars, postcards, magazine ads and newsletters are hugely effective if they are done properly.  So pick 1, well-written, well-designed print piece that is delivered to your target demographic at least 1 time per month.  Change the artwork monthly. Offer a new, limited time special monthly.  Depending on your industry, these print publications could be:

  • Postcards, Direct mail, EDDM
  • Circular / Coupon mailer
  • Glossy local or trade magazine
  • Newspaper or Newsletter

Don’t try something just once.  Commit to it for at least 6 months and then evaluate it’s effectiveness.

Putting print and digital advertising together with your email

Lastly, develop an email campaign that follows up with new clients and that retargets existing client in order to invite them back to the business to make more purchases.

  • Mail Chimp is an easy-to-use and affordable tool for getting this done.
  • Some credit card processors offer a free email retargeting service as well.

If these basic aren’t covered, there is no reason to move on to other, alternative methods of advertising.  For some small businesses, especially owner-operators, this could be all the marketing you’ll need to keep yourself booked.

I’m not going to have time today to move onto more complicated media types, like content marketing, pay-per-click, broadcast and so-on, let me offer a few words about how to make just your print, web and email pieces work together for you.

Here are a few techniques to drive and track customers from print to digital and vice-versa.

#1 Track it

You need to know if you have an underperforming ad.  If you have an underperforming ad it is either because you are using the wrong media or it’s because you have the wrong content. Either way, you need to know if you are getting visitors from your advertisements, so make sure to embed a way to track the traffic from your print ads.

In your print advertising, use a URL (with a qr code) that is unique to that advertisement and a phone number that you are able to track.

#2 Combine Direct Mail with Online Content

Used together, direct mail and digital can play to the strength of each:

  • Digital provides a modern edge that print can’t offer.
  • Print provides a level of trust and stability that digital can’t.
  • Additionally, direct mail lasts longer. It is often left sitting on a counter or a desk for much longer than a digital ad or an email lasts on someone’s computer screen.  Remember, direct mail does not face junk filters, unsubscribe buttons and it doesn’t require anyone to opt in.

When a message is coordinated across your digital and print platforms, it can give your digital advertising a seemingly longer shelf life.

#3 Use direct mail to direct people to your website.

There is a fascinating statistic that says that direct mail will direct 8% more people to a website than social media.  Make your website robust, easy to navigate and full of useful information.  Then use your print pieces to direct people to the great content on your site.  Then on your site, make a great offer that requires people to enter in an email address to receive the offer.  This powerful combination give you the opportunity to retarget those leads through a high-impact email campaign later.

#4 Don’t Just raise awareness, always include a Call to Action on every advertisement

A lot of advertisement is too passive.  It is designed primarily to spread awareness of a brand.  I’m a huge advocate of ditching awareness campaign.  Small businesses need to sell and advertisements that sell always have a clear call to action.

  • If you want them to come to the store, invite them
  • If you want them to take advantage of a sale, ask them to buy

When designing a print piece ask yourself,  What do you want people to do when they see this ad?  People read about 7 words, they look at pictures and they might take 1 action.  DON’T WASTE YOUR AD by making the call to action unclear.

#5 Coordinate your efforts

Here is the rest of the marketing train.  I didn’t touch on social media or a number of other advertising avenues.  As your organization grows, your could find yourself with 10 different account executives working for 10 different media organizations.  Plus you may have multiple designer and producers.  They will never naturally be on the same page.

You need to coordinate your advertising efforts on a regular basis.  Have regular creative meetings so your media staff remains on the same page.

If all of that seems overwhelming, that where an agency can be really helpful.  An agency will come in on a regular basis and make sure your message remains the same and effective.  They will help you to evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns, they will help to negotiate contracts and they typically have reliable sources for design, copywriting and production services.

Hire an Agency… Like Ablaze Media

Ablaze Media can coordinate your print and digital media together.

Our professional web and print designs can create pieces to help make you look more professional and drive business to your company

Our agency service will help you to get the most out of your advertising dollars.  If that interests you, then let’s connect up later this week.

At Ablaze media, we believe that Excellence deserves attention and it is our goal to help top-tier small business owners get noticed in a noisy advertising environment in this digital age.