Is It Advertising, Or Is It a Donation?

Booksellers, you know what I’m talking about. The high school yearbook committee, women’s club, civic theatre, etc. are eager to beat down the bookstore doors when it comes time for them to sell advertising, but are your business budget dollars well spent in these venues?

Effectiveness of advertising can be looked at in a couple of different ways. The first, very tricky to determine, is how many new customers any particular ad or ad campaign brings in. “Bring in this coupon” or “Mention this ad for a 10% discount” are examples of campaigns that yield quantifiable results.

One ad campaign, however, is not an advertising plan.
Here are a few features of a serious advertising plan, as explained to me by my private publicity guru:

bookstore advertisingConsistency. Print ads, for example, should be tied in design to other pieces of your bookstore publicity, say your signage or blog design. The object here is to present in consistent fashion the unique personality of your store to make “your face” known.

Repetition. Repetition is implied in consistency, but it’s important so I wanted to repeat it! However striking an ad may be, people will not remember it for long. You have to come back again and again with the same message–and in a consistent way that reminds them of earlier ads.

Long Term. Even after your ads have been seen or heard for months and then years, you still need to remind old customers and attract new ones. The reminders reinforce the idea that you are an established part of a community.

Returning to the original question, we can now look at it in a different light. An ad in the yearbook or club or play or concert program may not bring in customers by itself, but it can still be part of your long-term advertising plan.

Still, you wonder…. Well, of course you do! As someone in business, you must! How much of this kind of advertising can I afford? How much expenditure in this category is reasonable? What you may not have thought to ask is, How can I take advantage of these advertising opportunities without taking money from my own business?

Seriously? Yes! It is possible! Here I must admit that I did not come up with this idea myself. Two of my loyal customers came forward, on their own, saying, “I’d like to buy you an ad in _________.” As one explained it, “It’s supporting two things I believe in, your bookstore and

I think of these supporters as “sponsors” of my bookstore, and while I have not solicited sponsors, it seems like there is potential in this idea, in these days, and I’d like to hear from any other booksellers who have experience with sponsorship of advertising.


Pamela Grath

Dog Ears Books

106 Waukazoo Street P.O. Box 272 Northport, MI 49670

(231) 386-7209

2 thoughts on “Is It Advertising, Or Is It a Donation?”

  1. You are fortunate to have come across a publicity guru – mine made it clear years ago the only ads or publicity that generate business consistently are the local newspapers. That information has been valuable. Prime locations with professional signage also pay off.

    But … supporting the community could be considered a merchant’s obligation and yearbooks are a history of a community.

    Yours must be a very special book store to have customers volunteering to invest in spreading the word about you. Congratulations!

  2. As stated before, you are very lucky to have someone purchase advertising for you because in their belief of your store.

    I also donate gift certificates to charities in hopes of getting our store out there and have considered purchasing ad spots in local high school yearbooks or newspapers.

    However in the past I have found that the yearbook and/or newspaper ad spots have not panned out as productive ad spots for us. It seems no one really reads the ads other than other yearbook staff from other schools who then want a donation.

    I am all about donating to a good cause but, my advertising budget is small and I have to invest in what is going to bring me sales back in.

    One thing that has helped us and is free advertising is having a web presence, our Facebook page, has helped me reach more people than just print advertising alone has managed to do.

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