If you run a health- or wellness-related business that serves local clients, you may be running ads in your local papers—or at least considering it.

But here’s the question:

Is print advertising really worth it?

Or is it—as more than one wellness marketing agency will tell you—a colossal waste of money?

By the time you finish this article, you will know:

  • Why most local businesses get it dead wrong when it comes to advertising in print
  • The 2 main types of advertising and why they work
  • The #1 most effective way for local businesses to advertise in print – and a simple 5-step template you can use to do it
  • The shocking truth about digital marketing vs. print advertising

It’s my hope that the information in this article will help you make smarter choices about advertising your local business.

And if you do decide that print advertising is for you, it will give you a proven strategy you can use to get the best possible results for your advertising dollar.

Ready to get started?

Let’s start by answering that pressing question above:

Is print advertising worth it? Here’s what this wellness marketing agency owner thinks.

The simple truth is: it depends.

Advertising in local publications can be effective.

Most people love to know what is going on in their local area. Local print publications are a popular way to find out.  

Local newspapers are getting harder to find. But almost every community around the country has a specialty mag or two that carries local interest articles and event announcements.

People love to read them. And most businesses can afford to run at least a small ad in them.

But the problem with advertising in these or any kind of print publication is this:

It can be really hard to tell how much business it is driving through your door.

If any.

And nothing can drain your business bank account faster than print ads that don’t work.  

Want to know the wrong way to advertise in print? Read my story of local marketing woe.

Way back in 2006 I learned this the hard way.

This was WAY before I ever dreamed of owning a wellness marketing agency. My then-husband had just started a second branch of his music store in Wausau, WI. As a stay-at-home-mom with an art degree and zero experience in business, I did what I could to help.

Mostly it was sweeping the floors, stocking shelves, and answering the phone. But Dan hated marketing. So it wasn’t long before it became my job to handle the advertising.

I did the best I knew how to do. Which boiled down to picking a budget and placing ads.

The Internet was still in diapers back then. So Yellow Pages ads were a no-brainer.

But we also bought ad space in the local daily and weekly papers from the friendly ad reps who kept stopping in with cookies.

They assured us that their award-winning ad design staff would know how to create effective ads for us.

“Great!” we said. “Go to it!”

Week after week, we waited eagerly for store traffic to start picking up.

And week after week, aside from the occasional phone call (almost certainly from the Yellow Pages listing), we got…

Crickets.

And bills.

Big advertising bills, for a little music store.

Especially for ads that didn’t actually work.

Ouch.

Can you imagine how frustrated we felt?

Perhaps you too have experienced the pain of spending gobs of money on ineffective ads.  

If you have, you might be thinking what I thought at the time:

“There’s got to be a better way to advertise!”

And guess what?

You’d be right.

Here’s What I Wish I Knew The First Time I Tried to Buy Local Advertising

I’m now in my second marriage. Ironically, my new husband Rich and I also started out our married life together by starting small businesses.

Two of them in fact. Concurrently. During the pandemic. An e-commerce pet supply business and a local home inspection company.

But this time, I’d had 12 years in the field as a professional marketer and copy writer.

I’d studied under some of the best ad copy writers and marketers in the country – including the legendary Dan Kennedy.

Even though I’m branded as a wellness marketing agency, I’d been on enough top marketing teams promoting businesses of all types—and had my share of both successes and failures—to feel confident that we could make this work.

Long story short, both businesses were profitable in their first year and are growing nicely.   

Did print ads play a large part in it?

Actually, no.

Print ads were frankly not the best choice for our businesses. We opted instead for a digital marketing approach, combined with strategic networking in the case of the home inspection business.

But that doesn’t mean print ads can’t work for you.

The thing is, you need to understand how they work. And take it from a wellness marketing agency: you need to take a strategic approach to make sure they actually pay off for you.

Image Vs. Direct Response Advertising: Which Ad Type Should You Use?  

The first thing you need to be aware of is that not all ads are alike. 

There are two main types of advertising: image ads and direct response ads.

Huge companies use a lot of image advertising. Ads like the super bowl ads and the Geico lizard ads and most car ads in magazines are good examples of image advertising.

Usually image ads have nice looking graphics and try to evoke emotion around your brand. Or they might tell a little about your business.

The purpose of an image ad is primarily to increase awareness of and interest in your brand. The hope is that the ads will help people remember you next time they need a product or service like yours.

In other words: place it and pray.  

That said…

Image ads can be effective for wellness marketers. But here are 3 things you need to know about them:

1.    Size matters with image ads. Ideally, they should be eye-catching. In a print publication this typically means large. It’s usually best to get them in color, too, if you can. So it’s not cheap to do it right.   

2.    Image advertising works best over time. Just running an image ad once probably will not help you a whole lot. You need to run image ads over and over again for weeks or months to the same audience to be effective.

The idea is if they see you (or hear you) often enough with ads that trigger something positive in their mind, you will eventually become their preferred brand. Again, this requires a sizable investment.

3.    It’s nearly impossible to measure how effective an image ad is.  Big companies have big budgets. They are able to correlate changes in sales volume with national or regional ad campaign roll-outs. 

In contrast, measuring the effectiveness of image ads can be really hit or miss for a small business.

You have to keep asking your clientele, “how did you find out about us?” and then hope they remember correctly. And if you’re running the ad in multiple places, good luck figuring out which one brought them in.

In short, you can spend a lot of money on image ads and never know if they’re working or not. 

And the sad truth is, to use them effectively takes a higher advertising investment than many small local businesses can justify.

Luckily, there are more cost-effective alternatives. Let’s explore them, shall we?

Direct Response: The #1 Most Effective Way for Most Local Companies to Advertise in Print

Photo of woman calling a business who used a wellness marketing agency to write direct response print ads
A good wellness marketing agency can help you run an ad that gets you the results you are looking for!

First, while we’re still on the subject of print ads, there’s another kind of advertising that you really need to know about. And that is called direct response.

The idea of a direct response ad is that it’s got a very compelling offer and a call to action. When done correctly, it grabs your prospect’s attention and virtually compels them to reach out to you.

If you are going to advertise in print, I highly recommend using a direct response approach, at least to start. But don’t count on the magazine ad design departments to do it right for you.

Even many a wellness marketing agency doesn’t have direct response expertise. But we do!

If copywriting isn’t your thing. we’re always happy to help you create a direct response ad that gets results. But if you’d like to try it yourself:

Here is a simple 5-step formula for a direct response newspaper ad:

1.    Start with a compelling Headline. You need to really know your audience and speak to their biggest pain point and/or biggest desire. This needs to be something that stops them in their tracks.

2.    Give them a juicy Offer they can’t refuse. This could be a coupon, a free sample, or useful information such as a free report.

3.  Include an element of Urgency. A limited-time or while-supplies-last offer encourages them to act. 

4.    End with a clear Call to Action. Tell them exactly how to contact you to get the offer.

5.    You’ll also need a way to Track your responses. A coupon makes it easy. But you can also use a dedicated phone line, or direct them to a special page on your website.

As a wellness marketing agency owner I can tell you there is a whole science behind creating a great direct response ad. But that is the subject of a future article. For now, this basic formula is a good place to start.

Why This Wellness Marketing Agency Owner LOVES Direct Response Advertising

The beauty of a direct response ad is that it tells you exactly how well your ad is performing. You can measure in numbers the ROI of your ad spend. So if a certain venue isn’t responding to your ads, you can cross them off your list—and spend your advertising dollars somewhere that actually pays off.

Can you imagine what a game changer that can be for your business?

The Power of Digital Marketing for Your Natural Health or Wellness Business

In this digital age, print ads can still be a good option for some local wellness businesses in some cases.

That said, if you are relying primarily on print ads without optimizing your digital presence as well you are likely leaving a lot of money on the table.

In a world where 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before purchasing a product or service

…and 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information…

…it’s my honest opinion as a wellness marketing agency owner that digital marketing needs to be a priority for nearly every local natural health and wellness marketer today…

…even if print ads are working well for you.

Want better results from your print or digital marketing?

Why not start with a free Wellness Marketing Mini Audit from Green Ink Consulting?

  • Just send us a draft of your print ad for a complimentary copy and design critique.
  • Or if you prefer, give us your business name and website and we’ll create a short custom video evaluation of your online marketing you can use to get more traffic, more leads, and/or more revenue for your marketing dollar.

Request your free mini audit from our wellness marketing agency here.