Newspaper advertising was once the cornerstone of home improvement marketing. It spoke to a large audience and generated low-cost leads that closed at a good rate. Today, readership is shrinking and lead cost is climbing. Disappointing ROI has put newspaper out of reach for most home improvement companies. The beleaguered newspaper industry is responding with new, more advertiser-driven publications and by broadening the platform to include digital and other means of delivering traditional content. Some larger papers, faced with losing a big direct-response advertiser, have moved from a rate card cost to selling a guaranteed return on the advertiser’s investment in the form of pay per inquiry (PPI). The advertiser agrees on a price he is willing to pay, and the newspaper gets paid when the inquiry is delivered.

Getting on a PPI Program

Ask your newspaper rep if he can offer a PPI program and he’ll probably say no — especially if you’re buying on a rate card now. It costs the publisher money to set up and manage a PPI account, and it moves the risk from the advertiser to the medium.

If you’re already running a schedule, show the rep the ROI you’re achieving with other more productive media and explain that the newspaper must achieve a comparable return. If you’re not running a schedule, call in the rep and offer him the business if he can guarantee ROI. Show him the ads and offers you have successfully used in the past and the leads they generated. Offer a price you’re willing to pay for a lead.

Making PPI Work

When you’re offered a PPI arrangement, the publication will establish an ad track phone number to monitor leads for billing purposes. Often the publisher will be producing creative calculated to generate big numbers.

Carefully monitor lead quality, including close rate, go-good rate, and average sale. If quality slips, renegotiate lead cost or suggest changes in the ad.

PPI can make the newspaper a valuable partner, bringing their best thinking and account management to bear on your marketing problems. The result could be lead costs like the old days. —John Stevens consults with manufacturers and dealers in the home improvement industry to build brand and generate leads. 678.481.1660; jcsteven@bellsouth.net

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