Belfast Telegraph

Put your money on ink if you want to grow your business

A marketing promotion that leads to 60,000 individual sales - did the company in question use Twitter or Facebook to get the word out? Perhaps it was another famous Groupon promotion? Or was it a discount voucher scheme in a daily newspaper?

If you went for the third option, you were right.

While social media has recently been lauded as the best way to promote businesses, newspaper promotions such as the Belfast Telegraph's own £6.95 meal deal offer brings up to a staggering 60,000 redemptions when it is run in the newspaper.

"On the £6.95 Meal Deal offer, we get up to 60,000 redemptions in restaurants across Northern Ireland," Commercial manager for the Belfast Telegraph Sarah Little said.

"And a voucher for a leading toy store saw around 3,000 redeemed in their outlets."

Ms Little attributed the success of the schemes to the quality, as well as the number of readers.

"We have 181,000 adults reading the paper every day - that's a massive readership," Ms Little said.

"Other forms of media tend to be more fragmented but people who buy the paper will sit down with it every day and take their time reading through it."

Achieving that all-important added value is key and Ms Little believes it's a careful balance of choosing good quality offers which are tailored to the readership, rather than the false economy of offering any product.

"There will always be a place for newspaper advertising", she said, but acknowledged the need for it to "change and evolve".

Mark Durkin, professor of marketing at the University of Ulster, last week spoke of the risks to small business of diverting "valuable resources" into social media strategies.

Speaking at a Digital Media Strategy conference held last Thursday in Belfast's Grand Opera House, Prof Durkin said: "Research shows that while over three in four companies are attempting to engage in social networking with customers, over half of customers have no desire to engage with brands in this way."

He said most people prefer to use social networks to engage with friends and family rather than brands.

"Where customers do wish to engage with brands through such networks they want to see added value and tangible benefits for doing so," he said.

It seems that newspaper advertising is successfully tapping into this desire for added value - becoming increasingly important as consumers cut back their spending.

Prof Durkin echoed Ms Little's thoughts that there would always be a place for newspaper advertising, saying it would simply form part of a broader marketing mix.

Prof Durkin drew comparisons between the digital marketing phenomenon and another internet-based business offering.

"When online banking was first introduced, it was widely thought at the time that this would be the end of branch banking," he said.

"What actually happened was customers wanted to make use of all the different types of banking, including the traditional in-branch banking and telephone services.

"What's important is to reach your customers using an appropriate mix of marketing.

"The balance is changing, but there is only a tiny percentage of people who get their news entirely through the internet or social networks.

"You ignore the more traditional media at your peril."