How to Advertise in Print

This is the 21st post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.

Stack-magsFor a modern B2B startup, it almost seems taboo to consider advertising in print. After all, digital is more cost effective, easier to measure and the way of the future. However, print can still be an effective part of a brand building and demand gen strategy. Let’s breakdown when it is appropriate to consider print:

When you need to establish your band

Brand recognition is this hazy, nebulous “thing” that CFOs often despise because it’s so difficult to measure real ROI. However, there is no doubt that if you are the new kid on the block as a startup, targets recognizing your brand is going to create more trust and accelerate conversion on content downloads and demo requests. Being seen in a widely read industry print publication regularly helps to build that trust and recognition.

When there are a distinct set of industry publications

A B2B startup placing a print ad in the New York Times is obviously a poor use of marketing dollars. However, if our industry has specific niche publications that are widely read and respected by our targets, there is a lot of value in placing an advertisement. Primarily, it’s an opportunity to reinforce our core messaging.

When you can gain access to PR

As an advertiser, we often get VIP access to having our press releases included in publications that we advertise in. This can be particularly helpful if these publications have a wide reach among targets, and if that reach extends from print to digital as well.

When you get additional digital advertising included

One benefit of print advertising is getting free digital advertising in the same package. Most industry publications have a print and digital presence. Their digital presence may include a high-traffic website and blog. This is a prime opportunity to distribute our content to a wider audience and drive traffic back to our website.

When you have access to strong design resources

Print advertising is about sending a clear message that is memorable and resonates with our target persona. Design is a key part of making that happen. If our team lacks solid design resources, it may be best to hold off on print.

What makes a good print ad?

Focus on simple, core messaging

A good print ad is extremely simple, hammering home our core messaging. The worst print ad has a large amount of small text, describing minute details of our product. People flip through magazines quickly – we need something bold that catches their eye and can be digested within seconds.

Have a clear call-to-action

Magazines lack the holy grail of online content: the CTA button. Therefore, we need to build calls to action into our print ads that drive targets to our website. It might be a special offer or unique URL that we can measure traffic from.

A/B test print ads

To understand which print ads are most effective, consider trying different iterations (design, copy) and different industry publications. If you use a unique landing page URL in each ad (shortened of course to make it easy to type), it’ll be easier to track effectiveness of each ad. Keep in mind, some ads might be better for just raising brand awareness and the conversion may happen later on a different landing page. In that scenario, the unique URL is useless for measurement.

Rotate messaging and design every 2 months

To keep our ads fresh, it’s best to rotate the design and copy about every 2 months. This is of course dependent on our access to design resources. Not everyone will see the ad the first time, so 2 months (i.e. magazine issues) typically covers it.

How to get started?

Plan for $2,500 per publication per month

While pricing may vary, print ads are often quite expensive in mainstream industry publications. We’re talking about roughly $2,500 per publication per month.

Negotiate for lower rates and additional services

The key to making that $2,500 line item in our marketing budget more reasonable is getting additional content and digital marketing included in your advertising I/O (insertion order, i.e. contract). This might include additional sponsored content in the publication (i.e. a profile on our CEO) or display ads on the publication’s blog.

Build a relationship with the publication

Ultimately, print advertising helps us build a strong relationship with the publication. This is tremendously helpful for being included in articles, distributing our press releases, speaking at events and generally being a part of the industry community.

While print advertising is expensive and difficult to measure, under the right conditions it is a reasonable component of a successful B2B marketing budget.

This post is part of a 50 article series on startup marketing

Greg Skloot is a technology entrepreneur and marketer. He is currently VP Growth at Netpulse, the #1 provider of mobile apps for health clubs and a $40M VC backed software company in San Francisco. At Netpulse, he leads marketing, operations and strategic growth. Previously, Greg was CEO and Co-Founder of, where he built the initial product, raised $3M and hired a team of 30. Contact Greg at

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