Gillingham & Shaftesbury Guide is a local conduit for businesses to inform local customers about services and to announce local events to the community.
The magazine, celebrating its 6th birthday this June, was born from a wish to help small companies struggling due to the lack of cost effective advertising. How could I help? A monthly publication seemed a significant project and commitment, but nobody offered what small businesses needed; low cost, local advertising directly to the homes of their possible clients. It has grown into a far more successful community project than I envisaged when delivering those first 2,500 copies to Gillingham in the pouring rain. Currently we deliver 7,000 Gillingham & Shaftesbury Guides, each month direct to your front door.
Who was I to take on this project? I live in Gillingham with my husband and our 3 sons who have grown up integral to the town community; I worked at a school and volunteered at North Dorset RFC. In the past I’d run businesses; a coffee shop specialising in cream teas and a lettings agency set up after leaving Reuters. I’d written articles and designed adverts for magazines in West Sussex. It would be a challenge.
What do I think is the secret of my survival? Our fantastic community ethos and contributions! It is not a newspaper but celebrates good news through editorials, and promotion of free community and charitable events. Our quizzes are popular, as are the recipes. The size and glossy format mean people keep it to use sometime later. The listing of local clubs and groups is a wonderful opportunity for their promotion.
Our low costs mean we are affordable for every business. The Guide manages to cover its costs, also paying the army of teenagers who deliver it. It doesn’t make a profit; that is not the purpose. It is here to help businesses, community and customers. I now run a full time secretarial business during the week. The Guide is my weekend ‘hobby’, although I spend time each evening catching up with correspondence.
Our deliverers are fantastic; so are their families. Registered with the council they need to be 13 or over, tend to stay till 16 when they move on with a reference and experience. By then many have trained their siblings; the transition is seamless. I am also incredibly lucky to have the multi-talented Jenny who looks after my accounts but can turn her hand to designing, correspondence and lay-out, she is also an invaluable sounding board.
People use our advertisers because they consider them to be ‘my friend’. They trust the magazine and therefore the advertisers. Although we do have a popular version online and use social media, the Guide is targeted at everyone. We have superb feedback from advertisers who return time and again, plus lots of positive feedback from readers.
So what does the future hold? With a turbulent business future ahead I hope to help my customers survive. I’ve plenty of ideas to give back more to the community. I’m always looking for new ideas and innovations to produce the Guide, entertain and inform readers. Most of all I am here to help the local businesses who trust in me.
“people need to see an advert several times before putting trust in that product or service.”