Print advertising in the digital age

By Posted on May 06 2014 | By

The Spring 2014 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal highlighted the role of print advertising in today’s business environment. It’s conclusion was that print—as opposed to conventional wisdom—is alive and well. The following are three pieces I contributed to the magazine.  

Dr. Lawrence J. Finkel Dermatology

In 2002, Dr. Lawrence J. Finkel opened his medical practice in Warrenton. Since then, he has seen almost 45,000 patients. To paraphrase the moniker of the late recording artist James Brown, the doctor is the hardest working man in dermatology.

His office is located at 360 Church St. and “sees patients from infants to the elderly”, providing medical, surgical, pediatric and cosmetic services.

“The best advertising, far and away, is word of mouth. It’s very gratifying when people come in who were referred by neighbors and friends,” says Finkel. “As a result, we continue to grow. Some days we see 15 to 20 new patients. That’s good for growth.”

IMG_6484An adjunct to word of mouth advertising is the collateral benefits of providing a good office experience. His phone service, reception room, attentive nurses, and prompt check outs all factor into satisfied patients who return again and again.

Indeed, the hallmark of an office visit is the friendly greeting from the reception desk followed by “the doctor will see you shortly.” Long waits don’t happen on Finkel’s watch.

Central to the practice’s growth is that he accepts most insurance plans. There is a shortage of dermatologists who do. Except for the 20 percent of his practice that is cosmetic services—which is cash based—the business primarily involves insurance billing.

Notwithstanding the success of providing a professional experience in building a medical practice, paid advertising plays a role. “It’s important to advertise. We are listed on all the insurance carrier websites that we are affiliated with. Many of our patients come here because they go to their carrier’s website and see I am someone who takes their insurance,” explains Finkel.

Print advertising focuses on magazines and newspapers. “We advertise in ten to twelve publications, including homeowner newsletters. We also place ads in one time event publications such as concert and football programs. Print is the most expensive form of advertising we do and I say no to lots of print ad requests.”

When print is chosen, one criteria considered is the shelf life of the publication. If a magazine is published on a monthly or quarterly basis, it increases the amount of time it may sit on coffee tables or in reception rooms multiplying the number of impressions the ad scores over time.

A particularly useful application of print advertising is when the practice purchases a new piece of medical equipment. “We need to market any new devices since patients do not know about them,” states Finkel.

Yellow Page placements are used to draw older patients who may not have access to the internet. Conversely, online search engine optimization is continually updated with key words to stimulate business from younger patients who live in the digital world. “We get twenty-five percent of our new patients from website searches.”

Social media is limited to Facebook and is primarily directed toward building the cosmetic side of the business, called MedSpa 360. Electronic ads include a once a month email newsletter highlighting cosmetic specials. Conventional direct mail rounds out the media budget but is used on a limited basis.

One future possibility for internet advertising is the use of smartphone promotions. Finkel knows today’s teenagers rely on devices to manage their lives and sees that placing pop-up and banner advertising on them could reap dividends.  “They’re on their phones all day,” he correctly observes.

One final form of no cost advertising is the fact that the doctor lives in the Warrenton area. “Because I live and work in the community, it provides a good source of advertising. My kids are in the local school system. People may see me in the grocery store and elsewhere and say, ’Oh, I need to come and see you’. I get patient visits because I don’t live an hour away but am in the community daily.”

The good doctor closes with the observation, “I hope to practice for a long time. At some point I may cut back but have no imminent plans to retire.”

It sounds like the industrious Dr. Finkel may double his patient files over the second decade of his practice. Better make that appointment today.


 Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas

“Advertising is very important to the club,” says Jeanna Hilton, director of sales and marketing, at the Stonewall Golf Club at Lake Manassas.

It’s important because it pays. But it must be targeted to score the type of business the club seeks

At Stonewall, a total of $50,000 a year is spent helping to generate revenues of over a million dollars. The ad budget is down from a high of $75 thousand annually when the club first opened in 2001. Back then, the money was apportioned across the three segments of the business: the golf course, the restaurant, and special events.

Today, the golf business receives only a minimal amount of ad dollars because the reputation for a quality golfing experience has been established and precludes the need to extensively promote it. The number of new and repeat golfers keeps the tee time sheet full.

“We used to do local radio and TV advertising to promote the golf side of the business. We no longer find that necessary,” says Hilton.

Wedding at Old House Vineyards

Wedding at Old House Vineyards

Not so the case with trade shows, weddings and banquets. “We host an annual bridal showcase each year. I charge the thirty participating vendors $300 each to set up a table. That’s money they need to recoup in sales and they expect to see brides at the show.

“And they do, some forty to fifty brides have been at each showcase,” Hilton says. As a result, the vendors know their investment pays off and they return each year.

“Fifty percent of our overall ad budget goes into print; specifically local magazine and newspapers. $6 thousand of that amount is dedicated to the bridal show alone.” The strategy reinforces the fact successful advertising needs be targeted to reap the expected dividends.

Other revenue streams come from the fifty weddings the club hosts annually, private parties, bridal showers and restaurant dinners; both for groups and public dining.

“We also advertise in a local wedding magazine. The editor has a great website and blog so we advertise with her and get the benefit of her website and email blasts.”

Another reason for advertising special events is that many customers who have only been to the restaurant once are often unaware the club hosts group affairs.

The digital world plays an increasing important role at Stonewall. “We have a twenty thousand email database and send out an online newsletter twice a month. It promotes everything the club offers, from golf tournaments to special dining events.

Rounding out the media tool kit is the popular Money Mailer direct mail program. The co-op mailer is a hyper-local approach to direct mail using coupons and individual ad inserts. It is delivered to eighteen thousand homes and has proven its return on investment over the years.

In addition to conventional advertising, the club is a member of both the Prince William and Fauquier Chambers of Commerce. Hilton regularly attends chamber meetings. She also belongs to business networking organizations, including a wedding network group that she created five years ago.

Networking is a lower cost way to build awareness of the Stonewall Club and promote its event schedule. “That’s a huge part of how I do business,” Hilton emphasizes.

In partly describing her role at the club the energetic Hilton says, “I decide what media to use, including social media such as Facebook. I love my job and like interacting with the community.”

The financial performance of the Stonewall Club confirms her success in managing the company’s advertising budget.  __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Moving business forward with reverse mortgages                 

Andreas Keller may be a reverse mortgage specialist, but to bring home the bacon networking is his forte. “The best advertising for me is networking. My experience with print advertising has not been as good,” says Keller.

His observation underscores that a business person needs to know both his product and potential clients before creating a successful media budget. It’s a lesson typically learned through experience.

Reverse mortgages are increasing in popularity with seniors who have equity in their homes and may want—or often need—to supplement their income. Participating homeowners normally defer payment of the loan until they die, sell or move out of the home.

Given the rocky economic landscape many older citizens have been moving across over the last decade, increasing cash flow through their declining years can enhance peace of mind.

Keller works for Southern Trust Mortgage in Warrenton. The firm does not provide advertising dollars to generate reverse mortgage business. Promotional efforts are out-of-pocket expenses of the broker. Finding the best avenue to the settlement table at the least cost is paramount when your own wallet is in play.

But lead generation absent splashy print ads and colorful direct mail means work. “Networking is the number one way I generate business”. He devotes a lot of hours to “giving presentations to senior groups, civic clubs, churches, financial advisors, wealth counselors, realtors, insurance agents, attorneys and more.”

And yes, Keller is an articulate and enthusiastic person so networking perfectly fits his personality.

LandscapeThere is, however, one advertising technique that reaps fruit and doesn’t cost Keller a cent. Since reverse mortgages have gained the attention of major lenders, many use national TV and print advertising. Often people come to him because of an initial interest created by a national campaign.

“I always ask people how they got referred to me, how did they find me. One of the frequent ways is they have read one of my articles or heard my presentation and wanted to learn more.

“But, I also have people say they’ve responded to a national TV or print ad and either got a pressured sales pitch or didn’t like the company’s responses to their questions. So they wanted to talk to me. I don’t use pressure. I am an educator,” says Keller.

That might be dubbed lead generation by “drafting”. But if it places a NASCAR driver in the winner’s circle, it’s a sound strategy for Keller.

The second successful promotional effort is social media, specifically, one called Constant Contact. The marketing website permits users to communicate with current and future customers.

“Whenever I do a presentation or make contact with a potential client, I ask them if I can add them to my email address list. It’s not spam. I get their permission. Then every four to six weeks, I send out information and updates on reverse mortgages. I’m getting a lot of good comments from the use of Constant Contact. It costs $35 a month,” Keller says.

As a further on to social media, Keller employs a panoply of sites including, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Goggle Plus. “They all generate leads.”

And finally, print ads are not totally ignored. “I spend about $5,000 a year on magazine advertising, including the Guide to Retirement Living Source Book. I submit articles for publication in the magazines. It’s not the ads alone generating business. It’s the ads along with my articles,” emphasizes Keller.

So how does the hard working mortgage specialist relax? He is a member of the Warrenton hiking club called Boots ‘n Beer. “Our motto is a drinking club with a hiking problem!”

Two to three times a month you can find him leading hikes in the Piedmont region followed by a burger and brew at a local pub. Keller is a reverse mortgage specialist with his boots firmly planted in the mountains.

Boots 'n Beer

Categories : HAGARTY TALES