With a population of just over 90,000 people in 39,000 households, there are plenty of potential customers in Southport. But how will they find out about your business? How will they know to contact you next time they need someone who does what you do?
Advertising! The more places your business is listed or advertised with your phone number or web address, the more likely it is that potential customers will contact you or walk into your shop.
You can advertise in the newspapers, on billboards, leaflets, online, all sorts of places. But what is going to work best for you? And should you invest in all of them?
I’ve found, speaking to most of my new clients, that they always advertise in the same places because that’s how they’ve built their business to be the great business it is today. They’ve tried out new advertising opportunities, particularly online ones, and some have worked, others haven’t, but it’s always best to revert to what you’re happy and comfortable with. Those gut feelings are why they’ve done well in business, you can pretty much work out where your potential customers are looking and visiting, and advertise there.
However, and yes I’m bound to say this as I’m a marketing consultant, but it’s often worth trying new things, a few times a year for two reasons.
- You might find great new ways to increase sales leads without increasing your costs
- You can get your staff involved and excited about their jobs again!
I’ll come back to number 2 later. But let’s concentrate on what new ways of advertising your business you could consider. I’m going to concentrate on ones specific to Southport because if you’re based in Southport then that’s likely where the majority of your potential customers are.
OK so you’re probably going to think this will be a list of newspapers. Well no, media includes online media now because it shouldn’t surprise you that most people go online to read the news nowadays because it’s more up-to-date.
Southport Visiter – was founded in 1844 and has provided a free local newspaper to the majority of Southport’s residents for decades, as well as a paid issue. It’s now part of the Trinity Mirror group. They now also have an online presence. There are several advertising opportunities with them in the newspapers as well as online. They also offer the opportunity to have leaflets inserted or posted with the paper.
Champion – is Southport’s other local free newspaper delivered to most households weekly. With an online presence as well they have several advertising opportunities.
On The Spot News – Is a locally managed website which produces local news daily, and has hundreds of daily visitors. They provide several advertising opportunities as you will see when you visit the website. www.otsnews.co.uk
Southport Club – are the local experts in social media advertising They have thousands of local social media followers on Instagram and Facebook and post offers and promotions regularly. They also have a very extensive local business directory you can advertise your business in for free. Uniquely they also have a business-to-business VIP club which helps Southport businesses trade with each other.
Southport GB – Is another locally run news site which also has some extensive business listings. Again this has hundreds of daily visitors who are local Southport residents. Several advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
There are also plenty of other media advertising options, including companies who will do leaflet drops to specific areas within Southport. There are a couple of monthly and quarterly magazines which are distributed to local businesses where there are passive readers. In addition, there is the Trader and other door-to-door directories produced regularly that you can advertise your business in.
Another avenue is the traditional business directories such as Yellow Pages and Thomson Local which still produce (although not sure for how much longer) directories which are posted to local residents, but also have online directories.
Alternative media advertising options might include billboards, bus stop adverts, back of bus adverts, and roundabout signs.
Which ones should you advertise in?
Well, really that comes down to what your business does and who your customers are. In broad terms, the older generations pick up the local newspaper and read through it, whereas the younger and middle-aged generations now search online for news and search for local businesses and services. Of course, I’m generalising here, but say for example you own a hairdresser’s who want to do a special offer for OAP’s you’re probably best advertising in the newspaper, whereas if you want to attract younger ladies who want their highlights done, then perhaps better to try some social media advertising.
Newspapers reach the large majority of local households every week. But that doesn’t mean everyone sees your advert every week! The issue with newspapers are that they don’t have a long shelf-life, they’re often thrown in the bin or on the fire after a few days. According to statistics, less than 50% of people read their local newspaper (Pew Research Center 2014), and I suspect that number will continue to decrease. The same can be said for paper directories, they’re used less by people because online search is more convenient and up-to-date.
With online advertising, your advert is there for a lot longer (as long as you keep paying for it to be there) and is going to get seen repeatedly by the right people if it’s advertised in a relevant place. However, you’ll likely pay more for it because it’s got an indefinite shelf-life.
Here are some interesting facts about people using search engines to find local businesses:
- 72% of people who do a local search visit a store within 5 miles (WordStream, 2016)
- 30% of searches done on a mobile phone are related to a specific location (Google, 2016)
- 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase (Google, 2016)
- Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit a store within 24 hours. (Google, 2014)
- 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases (Search Engine Land, 2014)
When you consider those statistics it’s obvious that if you want to reach local people you do need to be advertising online. Think about how you do things yourself. Say you’re at home or walking down Lord Street, your watch stops working, what do you do? Most likely you pull out your phone and do a Google search for “Watch Repair Southport”.
Ten years ago what would you have done? Probably opened the Yellow Pages or the local newspaper and looked for a listing. But now it’s there in your hands.
All things considered, if you have the budget it’s wise to invest in several different locations, some that provide passive enquiries all year around like Yellow Pages and online Business Directories, and others that will inject a larger number of new enquiries when you have a special offer or sale, such as newspaper advertising or social media advertising.
Depending who your customers are, events can be a great opportunity to promote your business. Southport has several regular events such as the Flower Show, Food & Drink festival which give you the opportunity to interact directly with the public and even sell your products and services directly.
I recommended the Flower Show to one of my clients, who sell electric bikes online, and helped him man his exhibition stand for the weekend. Because all of his interaction with customers is online or via telephone it was a real eye-opener for him to meet client’s face-to-face, answer their questions, and get their feedback about his products. In terms of sales the show more than covered it costs, but in addition to that, the knowledge he and I came away with was invaluable, which has helped us to make decisions on developing new products and services, as well as sales channels.
The stands either side of us were a local jeweller’s and Virgin Holidays, and speaking to their staff manning the stands, it was an annual highlight for them to be at the show and interact with so many customers. Events like this can really boost your staff’s morale and help to make them stop and think about your business and your customers.
I’m a big fan of direct mail if it’s done well because I think with the amount of advertising that bombards us on television, radio, online, in magazines and newspapers, there’s not much that gets our undivided attention. However, a professional looking letter through the post will capture someone’s attention even if it’s just for 10 seconds.
Provide them with a special offer, discount voucher, or something tangible and there’s a good chance you piece of mail will get pinned saved and used. Could you say that for an advert in the paper or an advert on yell.com?
One company I worked for sold vehicle insurance and the biggest win I identified for them was to improve the number of client’s they could get to renew their insurance each year. There was no point going after new customers every year and letting the current ones walk away. So we devised a direct mail pack which went to new clients a couple of weeks before their renewal which offered them a discount if they renewed early. We followed that up with a couple of reminders and a phone call too. Renewal rates increased massively just because of that personal contact. In some industries like insurance these types of contact are mandatory, however, you can go above and beyond the usual dry letter, and surprise and delight a customer.
I also remember recently a company who do direct mail sending me a package which had a packet of cheddars in it. Their line was something like “we know it’s cheesy but we want to send you something so you remembered us”. And it worked! It was cheesy, but they surprised me, they did something different which made me contact them.
Your Own Business Premises
It might seem obvious but so many companies fail here, your shop window, or the outside of your business premises is the prime location for you to advertise your business. When people walk past or drive past, do they know what you do? If you drive a van or a car for work, does it advertise what you do?
Some builders stick a board outside the house they’re working on, and alongside that is their van with their contact details as well. I builder I know gets a lot of new business enquiries from people just because they saw his van or his board. If it was me I’d also take 20 minutes at lunch time during the first day on a new job and post leaflets through everyone else on that street saying something like “I’m working in the neighbourhood this week, if you want a quote for any work I can pop in, give me a call”.
When it comes to advertising on your shop or van it’s important to have a strong recognisable and memorable brand or name. “PGH Window Cleaning & Sons” is less memorable than “Happy Windows” (I just plucked them out of the air, no offence to anyone!). Utilise that branding then across everything and suddenly people remember you, recommend you, call you first when they need something.
How many times has a friend asked you something like “do you know where there’s a key cutters?”. Unless you’ve used one yourself recently, you’d probably say “I’m sure I’ve seen one on Shakespeare Street” or something like that. That’s where a lot of custom comes from, so make the most of it.
Anything left to say about advertising in Southport?
Not really I think I’ve covered most of it. To summarise, to connect with local customers you need to advertise locally and/or advertise online. You should probably have a variety of locations you advertise in to build up your brand awareness. Make sure you’re in the business directories so people can look you up, and don’t overlook social media advertising because it can provide a large boost in enquiries if you have a launch, sale or offer. Also don’t shy away from things like events as they can give your staff a real morale boost and get your business out in front of thousands of new customers.
Feel free to ask questions below about any of the things I’ve mentioned, I’ll try a provide a comprehensive answer as possible. And of course, if you want to develop an advertising campaign for your business feel free to contact me to discuss this.
About the Author
My name’s Stephen Haigh, I’m an experienced Marketing Director who has worked as a consultant, and also managed marketing departments at several medium-sized businesses in the Northwest. I love marketing because it’s creative and it can really help turn around a business. I’m a Lead Consultant at Southport Marketing, an expert in marketing strategy for small businesses, advertising, digital marketing, professional services and retail.