Which Forms of Media Will Work?

You can't "try" advertising.  You might as well flush your money down the porcelain bowl.

To ease your mind, all forms of advertising will work as long as you use them correctly.  Evidence of that is  found in the fact that the various types of media use each other to promote themselves. You see radio and television stations advertised on bus cards and on outdoor billboards, radio stations advertising themselves on television, newspapers advertise themselves on outdoor billboards, and television programs are listed in newspapers. And who doesn't know the name Monster.com? The Internet giant built its name on television. Even with all of the Internet hoopla, traditional advertising remains the best way to reach the most people. That's why the dot com companies use traditional advertising to bring people to their sites. And that's why, at least for now,  you need to do the same thing. For more information on the Internet and web pages, please go to the bottom of this page.

When someone tells me that he or she had tried a particular form of advertising and found that it didn't work, I know right away that the problem is in the word "tried."  You can't try radio or television or print. It will never work. As I write in my book, this is not like wallpapering your guest bathroom yourself to save a few bucks, or landscaping your yard a little each year. Once you start advertising, you're in, and every penny counts. If you plan on running a few ads and then disappearing, you might as well flush your money.

Radio: Each radio station has a very specific audience to deliver. There may be thirty or forty radio stations in a medium-size market and only four or five of them would do your business any good. Each format (Talk, Rock, E-Z Listening, Country, Alternative, etc.) carries a specific group of people, known as a demographic group. The groups are broken down by gender: Male, Female, and Adults (includes both male and female), and by age: 18-34, 18-49, 25-54, 50+

There may be more than one country station, or more than one rock station in your market. You don't have to use the #1 station if it's too expensive. As long as you use a station that reaches the audience you need, you're not wasting your money.

Radio Info will give you everything you need to know about any radio station anywhere in the country. Once you get to the site, click on Radio Station Database.

Network Television: (Non-cable stations) While you buy radio station-by- station, you buy network television program-by-program. After all, on any given day, almost every demographic group in existence can be reached on any network television station, you just have to find the right programs. They all carry soaps, news, sports, movies, cartoons, game shows, etc. -- so it doesn't really matter which network television station you use. Yes, the ratings for news or soaps or any of the types of  programs I mentioned will be higher on one network than on another. But when you're working with a small budget, you can go with the stations you can afford. It's the group you're hitting that matters. If your budget is not large enough to buy commercials on the #1 game show or the #1 news show, buy the #2 or #3 rated show. Just be sure the audience is the one you need to reach.

Cable Television: You buy cable television the same way you buy radio - station by station. Cable's specific programming (ESPN, LIFETIME, CNN, NICKELODEON, etc.) lets you select a station where you are able to effectively buy less-expensive schedules called rotators or total audience plans. These schedules run your commercials in non-specific time slots, so the station can offer you a better rate. In other words, instead of buying only news and sports-related shows on network television, where each show had a specific price, you can let your commercials wander during the day on CNN or ESPN, giving the stations flexibility in scheduling you, which allows them to give you lower rates for the convenience. You can often double the number of commercials you would otherwise be able to run. Don't think you must rotate your schedule on cable, though. You can select your station and then go in and choose specific programs that relate to your product or service, and still get a nice rate.

Why can't you do this on Network Television? Because if your customers watch news and sports, you don't want some of your commercials falling into soap operas or cartoon shows, which they would do on a rotator or total audience plan. Those dollars would be wasted. If, however, your customers fall into more than one demographic group, you may be able to use rotators and pay a lower rate. 

Print: Newspapers, direct mail, Yellow Pages, coupons, print takes in a lot. Specific publications reach specific audiences just like radio and television. Most markets will have a daily and weekly paper, shoppers, and the free publications known as alternative newspapers. Print is the only form of advertising (I am speaking of newspapers, magazines, and Yellow Page ads specifically) where someone can look at your advertising and tell whether you are a large or a small company. If your 1/8 page ad runs across from a full page newspaper ad, or your small Yellow Page ad runs on the same page with a huge competitor ad, a customer will look at the ads and say "Here is a small company, and here is a big company."  This is not true in any other form of advertising. No matter what the size of a company, they all have the same choice of using a :30 second or :60 second radio or television ad, or one of three sizes available on outdoor billboards.

Like all advertising, the number of  newspaper ads you run and the size of those ads will be largely determined by your budget. You can start small and target specific zip codes with weekly papers, or with the "neighborhood specific" sections of your daily paper, giving your budget a break while reaching your most important customers. Always start advertising close to your locations and work outward geographically. 

These complex topics cannot be fully explained in this space. But they are covered, and easy to understand, in my book Advertising Without an Agency. I not only tell you where to advertise, but how to go about it.  The book also contains worksheets for radio, television, print, direct mail, and outdoor billboards that your media reps fill out, and forms for tracking your advertising, copy writing, release forms, and many valuable tips.

Gebbie.com gives you access to listings of every radio and television station, every daily newspaper, including addresses and phone numbers, in the country. Purchase lists separately or all-in-one.

Internet: If you don't have a web site for your business, you need to get one as soon as possible. Even if you're not interested in reaching people around the globe, and only operate locally, your customers, or clients, likely surf the Net, and you want them to see you there. It's a credibility builder, and it lets them know you're on top of things. You can lead people to your site with inexpensive two or three-line classified ads in daily or weekly newspapers. Once they're at your site you have the space to give them all the information you want them to have. The Internet is a great investment, and a necessary one. If you can't afford a web design company, use a computer-savvy teen. They're all around. If you don't know one, call the local high school and ask for recommendations. My 16-year old son is my Web Master. I pay him, but it cost a whole lot less than it would have if I had hired a company. And I've learned it's not brain surgery. You can make changes to your site yourself so that once the site is up and running, you don't always need to pay an hourly rate to someone else to do it for you. Are there pitfalls to having a professional person or company make your web site? Absolutely. Are they avoidable? Yes - if you know what to watch for. 

When I wrote this book, there was not as much meaningful information on the Internet for small business as there is today. The second edition of this book, which contains a great deal about the Internet,  is due out in June, 2001. 


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