Is advertising or PR best to find new customers?

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There are a number of ways you can raise awareness of your business to drive sales, but should you pay for advertising or go down the free route of trying to get press coverage. In this article, we look at the pros and cons of each approach and how they can work together.

Why use advertising?

Control – With advertising, you get to control the timing, message, look and layout of your advert, after all, you are paying for it. You can even request whereabouts it sits on the page (though usually at a cost).
Targeting – Advertising allows you to be very targeted because you can choose which publications or website your advert appears on. Things become even more targeted online, where you can make sure that only relevant visitors see your ads, and you only pay for these results.
Measurement – With direct response advertising, that is an advert that prompts the reader to do something like make a purchase or request a brochure, it can be easy to track where a customer came from by using a separate phone number, web page or discount codes for each campaign.
Online advertising also makes it easier to measure the return on your investment by tracking a visitor from when they click on your advert to completing an action, such as a purchase, on your website. Read our top tips to get more out of your advertising spend

Why use PR?

Credibility – Precisely because you’re not paying for press coverage, it instantly has more credibility and readers are more likely to trust it.
It’s cheaper – If you do your own PR, and there is no reason why a small business can’t have a go themselves, it is free.
Better reach – If you advertise, your budget may only stretch to one publication, with a successful PR campaign, you could get featured across dozens of websites and publications.
It’s good for SEO – People can’t search graphics-based adverts online, but they can find mentions of your company in articles published on websites. Even if your article appears in print, many publishers – even small local papers – will publish them online too. Plus, any links back from these websites will be seen by search engines as votes of confidence, pushing you higher up the search engine rankings.

What business owners think

We put the question to the business owners in our LinkedIn group – here’s what they said: “You need to do both if you are serious about selling. PR is more difficult to measure, however… If whatever you are doing isn’t working, stop it!” “PR is a more compelling approach to increased awareness than advertising – so long as the stories published are authentic and interesting rather than a veiled attempt to sell. PR needs to be part of a sustained strategy. One article won’t hack it.” “Frequently, in a B2C context, advertising becomes the best media channel to reach a mass audience, whereas a B2B audience could be better served with a targeted PR campaign of news, case histories, testimonials and white papers.” “If you are going to run advertising, I believe it should always be on the basis of having a more PR-led piece somewhere else in the magazine that is. That way, you get a nice balance.” “You need to fully understand who you are trying to target, what is their profile, what makes them tick, where they are, when they might view … and then determine what are the best channels to reach them.” Summary Though some companies do manage to generate sufficient business by using only one of these channels, the best results come from using a combination of both techniques, along with telemarketing, SEO, direct mail and other promotional techniques to raise awareness and drive sales. If you already advertise, you can potentially reduce the amount you spend on advertising and reach more prospective customers but by using free PR and social media techniques. Whichever tactic you choose to take your business forward, one thing is for sure, you need to understand your customers, which publications they read and where they go to find information. It is also important that you have a strong plan in place and are very clear about the results you expect to achieve before investing your money and time. If something isn’t working for you, you may need to review your strategy and try a different technique.