Two-Lane Livin'

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28Aug

Purchase Advertising Online

28 August, 2011, 16:25

Businesses and Organizations can easily purchase our most popular contracts

online  — any time!

09May

The Value of Two-Lane Livin’

09 May, 2011, 18:16

One of the most common compliments we get from Readers of Two-Lane Livin’ is “I read it from cover to cover.” I enjoy hearing that because, as editor, I know of all the little treasures tucked and hidden inside.

While Two-Lane Livin’ magazine is free, each page is bursting with value. If you skip a page, or a column, you may be missing out on some valuable information. (For example, don’t miss our collection of money-saving coupons on page 23.)

One of the next most common compliments we hear is, “we keep our Two-Lane Livin’s next to the porcelain throne.” An odd compliment, yes. However, we know that this location in the house is a place of distinction. A place where folks do much of their serious reading.

Some magazines would prefer to be on display, perhaps in the living room, on the coffee table. But I am proud to learn how many copies are kept handy next to Central West Virginia toilets. For some reason, it assures me that more copies, more pages, more words of each issue are being absorbed — long after a new issue is released.

A Little Two-Lane Livin’ Goes A Long Way

Two-Lane Livin’ is distributed in 16 counties around the region, at over 500 locations. In addition, each month, we send dozens of subscription copies out side the state. Even our readers mail copies out of state to family and friends.

But with the arrival of the summer travel season, Two-Lane Livin’ gets even further mileage. Copies found at our distribution sites and at Visitor’s Centers by visitors traveling through the region are picked up a carried like seeds to homes far away. Copies have traveled to Pennsylvania, Washington State, Arizona, Canada.

Many subscribers who have signed up in summer months are those who have picked up a single issue while passing through our region. To me, it feels like our message is in a bottle tossed in the ocean, or is tied to the string of a helium balloon. Who knows how far it will go?

If you are such a traveler, please let us know. Send an email, post card, or sign of some kind.

Talkin’ Two-Lane Livin’

Because Two-Lane Livin’ is free to you, we are completely supported by our advertising clients. That really leaves us in a position where it is up to YOU to support and patronize the businesses who support us.

With more than 45,000 readers each month, it should be easy. All you have to do is speak up.

When you visit their store or business, thank our clients for supporting us and providing you with copies every month. When you pick up your monthly copy, tell the staff at that location how much you enjoy the magazine, and thank them for carrying it. When you find someone who offers a fantastic product or service, suggest they call us.

See, just as we know how wonderful our columnists are, Frank and I know how vast and loyal our readership is. If you enjoy Two-Lane Livin’, please share it, speak about it, and support those who support it.

Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools available today. A kind word from each of you could go a very long way. So, let’s start talkin’ Two-Lane Livin’. We’d love for you to talk about us.

~ Lisa

Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine is available, free, in print to Central West Virginians thanks to the support of our advertisers and supporters. If you would like to support the continuing education of the region, please consider making a donation:

05May

RECESSION: A Small Business Opportunity

05 May, 2011, 16:06
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Economies, like most processes, have a cycle. When the economy is strong, most people are employed and making money. There is a larger demand for goods such as food, electronics and vehicles and this increases so much that the supply can not keep up with the demand. This excess demand creates a rise in prices, or inflation. When the prices for goods and services get too high, consumers decide goods are too expensive and slow down or stop buying. When the demand decreases, companies lay off workers because they don’t need to make as much as before. Decreasing demand fuels declining prices, which means the economy is in a recession. Companies counteract this by lowering prices to spur the demand.

As demand picks up, people begin buying again, fueling the need for greater supply. And the cycle starts again.

Although today’s media seems to tout a recession as a uncommon occurrence, until the last 25 years, recessions were a common economic event, often occurring every few years. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has noted that there have been only two recessions (1990-91 and 8 months in 2001) in the United States over the past 25 years; over the previous 35 years, they noted, there were eight. The bureau defines a recession as “a significant, protracted decline in activity that cuts across the economy, affecting measures like income, employment, retail sales and industrial production.”

When we hear rumors of a possible recession, we immediately want to cut back and stop spending. The real trick to surviving a recession is to spend wisely — save where you can and get your money’s worth when you spend. Recessions most often last only a few months. But recession-smart spending can save you money, and bring greater returns on your investments far, far into the future.

Advertising during a recession can actually help businesses to dominate their market. The benefit is clear: when fewer competitors are advertising, those that continue advertising become more visible to the consumer. In fact, research has revealed that companies maintaining or increasing advertising during periods of economic slow-down boost their market share. Some companies even see an increase in sales over their competitors who cut their advertising.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that advertising works cumulatively. Cutting back during a downturn is like throwing away your investment. Maintenance today costs much less than rebuilding tomorrow. But as a business owner, you’ll want to spend your advertising money wisely during a recession period. But how can you make sure you’re spending wisely?

recession period is when customers are actually “shopping” and not just “spending.” This is the time when people want the most for their money, and it is a wonderful time to advertise sales, or provide customers with coupons. It is a good time to promote payment plans, and added purchase “perks” like free shipping and quality service. When gasoline prices are high, it’s also a good time to remind customers to shop locally and save money spent on gas.

A recession is a time when your customers are “shopping around” before they spend. They will do so by browsing advertising and marketing information before they climb into their car to compare options in person. If businesses cut back on advertising, how will their customers make comparisons?

A recession is a temporary condition that provides smart business owners with an advantage. Your advertising will never be more effective.

Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine is available, free, in print to Central West Virginians thanks to the support of our advertisers and supporters. If you would like to support the continuing education of the region, please consider making a donation:

05Feb

Business Advertorials in TLL

05 February, 2011, 0:10

These feature articles on your business let you share your story in your way! Only one business feature is included in a single issue, filling an entire full-color page.
Here’s how it works:
* Our experienced journalist and photographer will visit and interview to create a positive, thoughtful profile of your business. You [...]

01Jan

MARKETING SENSE: Measuring Advertising Success

01 January, 2011, 12:30
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A new year. A time for resolutions, changes, and evaluation.

What business goals have you set for yourself? Did you resolve to expand in some area? Or maybe do more promotion? Or hire new employees? Or start a website?

Whatever your goal, stay focused on it and you’ll see success. Don’t  be disappointed if success isn’t immediate or if it doesn’t measure up to what you had anticipated. Any step in the direction of your goal is a step in the right direction.

When it comes to advertising, how do you measure the success of an advertising campaign? Most of us would say a noticeable increase in sales would be a success. But, the true success of advertising is made up of multiple areas.

In order to accurately measure the success of an advertising campaign, you need some “beforehand” statistics to compare to.

If you have a service business, figure out on average how many new clients contact you over a 30-day period. If you plan to advertise your website, be sure to track your site traffic as well with a traffic counter.

If you have a retail business, count the number of people who enter your store within a certain number of days, for example, two weeks or a month. (Take into account that some days of the month may yield heavier traffic than others.) Also, review the sales totals and number of phone calls for the same time period.

Once you’ve established your “before” stats, begin your advertising campaign. Track the same statistics – number of new clients / customers, foot traffic, phone calls, sales totals, and website hits. This information is your “during” stats. (Remember the Small Business Association recommends running an ad at least five times before evaluating its success, so a one-time ad probably won’t give you an accurate picture of effectiveness.)

Since consumers purchase products and services when they are ready, and not necessarily when they are advertised, you also need to track the same statistics after the advertising is over. Do this for the same amount of time that you did the “before” tracking.

You can probably figure out what to do next – compare the “before” stats to the “during” and “after” stats. Is there an increase in any of the numbers? Maybe foot traffic increased, but sales stayed the same. Was the advertising effective?

Only expecting to see an increase in sales as a result of advertising isn’t necessarily logical. Not every person who walks through the door will purchase a product – think window shopper. However, since you tracked foot traffic, you will know that more people entered the store during and after the advertising. The same works for a service business – increased contacts is a measure of success.

Another idea that will give you feedback on advertising success is using coupon or discount ads. These ads can offer a free gift, a percentage off a purchase, or a specific sale price on a product when the customer mentions the advertisement or enters a code on your website. If you are using the same ad via multiple media outlets, make sure each ad is specifically coded so you can track what media outlet offered the best results.

If you have considerable contact with your clients, such as a restaurant or service business, and can easily strike up a conversation, ask new customers where they heard of your business. Comment forms with a “how did you hear of us” question will also give some feedback. However, not everyone remembers the exact name of a publication or station and may give a general answer like “television.”

While tracking multiple areas – foot traffic, sales, phone calls, website hits, etc. – before, during, and after advertising may seem tedious, it is easier to see how effective the advertising was. You can then modify future advertising to target a certain aspect, such as sales or website hits, or change to a different media outlet if your stats remained stagnant.

Kara Starcher is a freelance editor and designer, and marketing consultant for Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine clients. She can be reached at 304-377-3941.

To enjoy all the articles from the January 2011 issue, visit one of our distribution locations, or purchase the PDF file here.

03Dec

MARKETING SENSE: Creating a Year-Long Advertising Budget

03 December, 2010, 10:52
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The longer I work as a marketing consultant for Two Lane Livin’, the largest independent print publication in West Virginia, the more I realize an ongoing trend, especially among small, local business owners.

As the end of 2010 draws closer, I’m told, “I can’t advertise this month. I already overspent my budget for the year.” Or I hear, “I won’t be advertising for the rest of the year. I don’t have the budget. Talk to me in the spring when sales pick up again.”

Yikes! We’re in the biggest retail time of the year, and there’s no money left to draw customers to your business versus your competitor’s?

As a small business owner myself, I realize that maintaining a small business is no easy task, and many small business owners, myself included, would rather crawl under a rock than think about budgets and advertising.

With a little bit of forethought, a business can have advertising dollars year round. Here’s how to overcome the advertising budget hurdle and never utter those disturbing phrases again.

Determine how much you can spend on advertising. Start by looking at your gross sales from the year (if you’ve been in business for a couple of years, average those years together). Experts recommend setting aside about 5% of gross sales for advertising. Notice that the budget isn’t based on profit, but on gross sales.

Don’t plan on spending “whatever is left over at the end of the month” on advertising – something more important always comes up. Set aside money in the beginning. Remember: While advertising is recorded as an expense in your accounting ledger, you are investing that expense in your business growth.

Review the sales trends. Are certain times of the year stronger for sales? For example, nationwide statistics show that December makes up 23% of jewelry store sales for the year. (And if I had to guess, I’d say February was another big month.) Would a jewelry store benefit from advertising more in strong months or more in weak months?

A good rule of thumb is to advertise the most when the business is needed, or in other words, the weaker months. However, that’s not saying a jewelry store shouldn’t advertise in December. A monthly budget should never be set to 0%, even for good sales months. Some form of advertising should always be done, even if it is something small.

Research shows that consumers respond better to smaller ads published consistently than larger ads done once for a one-time push. According to the Small Business Association, every ad should run at least five times before evaluating its success. The consumer sees the ad and is influenced by it, but the consumer does not buy or act until he/she is ready. Your advertising needs to reflect when the consumer wants to buy a product, not when you want to sell it.

When choosing where to spend your advertising dollars, don’t advertise with a publication or station just because the sales representative was the first to walk through the door. Evaluate the effectiveness of the publication or station based on your business needs. Ask how many copies are left over when the next issue comes out (you are paying for your ad to run in those leftovers).  Ask about coverage area (regional vs. local) and their number of readers / listeners. When dealing with radio and television, find out the differences in peak versus non-peak times. Also, ask around and see how many of your friends, family, and business associates have heard of the publication or station. If no one you know has heard of it, it might not be a wise investment.

And just in case you wonder if advertising really works, “fewer than 50% of items carried by most stores are never advertised. Their sale is the direct result of customer traffic created by the advertised items.” (http://www.sba.gov). One of the key phrases in that quote is “the advertised item” – advertising to build name recognition is great, but at some point, businesses need to start advertising specific pieces of merchandise along with details and prices.

If you are interested in learning more about setting up an advertising budget to last you through the entire year, I highly recommend visiting the Small Business Association website (www.sba.gov). They have a great series on advertising budgets complete with planning worksheets.

Kara Starcher is a freelance editor and designer and can be reached at 304-377-3941.

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