Revised and updated February 1, 2020.
Although an increasing amount of people’s lives are conducted online in the digital era of the 21st century, several of the companies on this list are direct marketing companies still making use of old school methods – and are doing well. Entrepreneurs who want to do well by reaching consumers using both new and old methods have a solid set of companies to explore on this list of the top 8 advertising services franchises of 2020.
In spite of the rise of the internet and smartphones, direct marketing – and yes, that includes the old-school method of direct mail – remains the #2 advertising channel in the US. Yes, the direct mail segment in direct marketing is in decline, and yet as a market it’s still worth more than $11 billion a year.
So, while it may be declining, there’s still a good deal of money to be made from being in that particular niche. The overall advertising industry is worth $54 billion a year, which means direct mail marketing and advertising is still a healthy chunk of the industry.
Of course, the savvy companies in the advertising franchise industry are also getting into digital advertising in all its different forms. This is the smart move to make as it’s likely that direct mail marketing will continue to decline in the coming years. Here are the 8 best advertising services franchises of 2020:
1. N2 Publishing
N2 Publishing has a different model from the other companies on this list. It creates high-quality magazine formats for specific communities. Each edition features resident-submitted stories and photos, allowing neighbors to get to know each other, and of course features well-designed ads for upscale area businesses. This type of approach works best in print format, and the high-end magazine approach is well-liked by each community’s residents.
Franchisees are called Area Directors, and you can get started with this company without a big up-front franchise fee. However, you basically have to be located in one of the exclusive communities they want to be in.
Founded in 2004 and franchising since 2016, there are now 935 locations, of which only one is company-owned and all are located in the US.
2. Money Mailer
Money Mailer is all about reaching consumers with local deals and coupons, and continues to include direct mail marketing as a core offering for doing it. It calls its coupon mailers “hyper-local direct mail” and bills it as the important method of first contact, but then supplements that with digital advertising and coupons, including its Money Mailer Mobile App, email, and its searchable online database of coupons through its website.
The company’s recognizable direct mailers reach more than 15 million households in 30 states. Franchisees do much of their work online, including requesting ad designs from corporate headquarters, and receiving and distributing ad proofs for approval – it all happens online.
Founded in 1979 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has been declining the past couple years and currently stands at 229 (down from the previous year’s total of 233), of which 80 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. Valpak Direct Marketing Systems
Valpak Direct Marketing Systems also combines both direct mail and online options to get coupons into the hands of consumers. Its direct mail packs reach 39 million targeted households in 45 states and four Canadian provinces.
On the digital side, consumers can visit the Valpak website to search for local coupons by zipcode, browse through coupon codes from all kinds of companies that can be used when shopping online, and also a wide range of grocery coupons (these tend to be printable manufacturer’s coupons). Valpak’s digital platforms host approximately 8.5 million daily unique visitors, of which 61% happen through mobile devices.
While startup costs for a franchise are surprisingly low, there are only a handful of available territories, all of which are those available for resale by the current franchisee.
Founded by Terry Loebel in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1968 and franchising since 1988, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 179 in 2012 to 143 in 2017 (the last time data was reported), of which 14 were company-owned and four were located outside the US.
4. Discovery Map International
Discovery Map International produces both print and digital maps of specific communities. When visiting the company’s website, you’ll realize you’ve probably seen one of their maps in your own community or on your travels. The illustrated tourist maps not only highlight all sorts of tourist sights people visiting the area want to know about, but also show the area’s local businesses both residents and tourists might want to visit.
Anyone can also visit the company website and search for maps that interest them for places they are going to visit. Around the perimeter of the map are all the businesses who paid for advertising space on the map, with their locations clearly marked on the map.
Founded in 1974 and franchising since 1993, the number of locations currently stands at 135, of which four are company-owned and three are located outside the US.
5. RSVP Publications
RSVP Publications reaches consumers with exclusive upscale offers for life and home. The mailings consist of 4-color picture postcards featuring the kinds of upscale local businesses in which the wealthiest 20% of highly-targeted homeowners are likely to have an interest.
Consumers use the postcard as a follow-up contact to the business to express their interest in learning more about special savings on a service or product. The homeowner can fill out the postcard and put it back in the mail, call the business directly, turn the postcard in directly at the business, or visit a custom URL to make contact with the business electronically. This variety of potential contact methods means responses are very trackable for the advertisers.
Founded in 1985 and franchising since 1998, the number of locations currently stands at 67, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. Our Town America
Our Town America targets its direct mail packages to people who have newly moved into a community. For each category of business, the company only partners with one company in the category for a given territory, making it an exclusive channel for its client companies.
What the new resident receives is a packet of gift certificates to local businesses. When they go to redeem the certificate, they must provide their name and address, which is then used for a follow-up postcard mailing to tempt them to return to the business with an additional offer.
As many as 40 million people move into a new community every year, so there’s a constant supply of potential new customers in many cities and towns across the country. It’s a great way for local companies to meet new customers and gain their loyalty for repeat business.
Founded in 1972 and franchising since 2004, the number of locations has fallen for the first time in several years to the current total of 60 (five less than the previous year’s total of 65), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
7. Town Money Saver (TMS)
Town Money Saver (TMS) has a tagline that says “Shop Locally. Save Locally.” Its direct mail publication reaches more than 2.3 million households every month with coupons and money-saving opportunities at local businesses. Consumers can also search the company website by zip code to find and print coupons. The company’s current locations/territories are concentrated in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Kentucky, which means there’s lots of room to expand.
TMS has a very interesting franchise model that allows new franchisees to earn their franchise without fees. Its Performance Awarded Franchise Opportunity program is possible because you don’t need a storefront and corporate headquarters handles all the graphic design, printing, and mailing of the monthly publication. In this approach, the new franchisee has to generate enough sales to cover the cost of their first TMS mailer. If they perform well, they will be awarded a franchise.
Founded in 1992 and franchising since 2005, the number of locations has just fallen for the first time in quite a few years to the current total of 50 (two less than the previous year’s total), none of which are company-owned and all of which are located in the US.
BirthdayPak has come up with an interesting twist on the direct mail advertising model. When a consumer signs up, they will receive a special mailing for their birthday that includes gift cards to local restaurants, day spas, clothing stores, and other local businesses.
Interestingly, the company’s model has a distinct focus on targeting women for its mailings. The participating business advertisers are meant to be upscale, and the women consumers are meant to be affluent. The company website notes that more than 500,000 women have signed up so far.
Founded in 2009 and franchising since 2014, the number of locations currently stands at 29, of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.