Since starting my business almost ten years ago, I've spent a good deal of time and money on business networking. Breakfasts, luncheons, cocktail events; I've done them all. A frequent hot topic of conversation among business owners was advertising; what was working and what wasn't. What I realized after many of these conversations, was that many business owners complained that they were spending all their money on advertising but they weren't seeing the return on investment. Often times, it actually seemed like they were blaming the newspaper or magazine for not producing more business for them.

This is a grave mistake many business owners make. They rely on the publication to produce for them, when in reality, the only real mission of most publications is to sell advertising and distribute a publication. They're not in the business of knowing the intricacies of how to market your business, your industry or to your specific clientele.

One of the most effective forms of print advertising in my business that has paid itself back multifold, is the advertorial. Basically, paying for space that looks as if it's a feature article in the publication, not a traditional ad.

The advertorial gives you an opportunity for the reader to actually get something of value; not just a picture of your logo or monthly special. This, in turn, subliminally tells the reader that you have a clout and credibility because you have an article in print.

Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your advertorial:

- Advertorials are ideal for local-focused newspapers or magazines. Start looking around town for the free or paid-for publications (check doctor's offices, coffee shops, hair salons, etc.). Ask your target clientele what local publications they read.

- Contact the publication and ask for a media kit with information on their advertising options.

- Even if they don't offer "advertorial" space specifically, you can always use whatever ad space you decide and include information useful to the reader, versus just listing a promotion or your company information.

- Now come up with your content. Think of a question you get asked often. This may be a great topic to write about.

- Don't directly solicit your company or your services; readers will see right through that as a tactic to sell them. You can "pepper" your credibility throughout the content instead.

- Use the footer or the end of the article (hopefully you're able to include a headshot or image) to describe in no more than two sentences who you are, how to contact you and maybe one "teaser" about your signature service or product.

- Be sure to ask each person who inquires or calls about your services, how they heard about you, this way you can track what's working and what isn't to more efficiently allocate your marketing dollars.

The best advertising doesn't promote your brand; it gives you credibility. If you're considering print advertising, think beyond just buying ad space and look into ways that will establish you as the go-to expert in your community. The advertorial may be a great outlet to promote you and your business.