by Kathy J. Kobliski, Author & Owner of Silent Partner Advertising
Every small business owner spends time trying to figure out how to get more bang for no bucks. I’m always asked, when teaching an advertising and media buying class, if I know of a way to advertise without spending any money. "What can I do to get lots of results without spending anything?" Most people would say "word-of-mouth" advertising. And I agree - referrals are wonderful. But you (and your business) could die of old age before that kind of advertising generates enough traffic for you to grow and sustain a business. So, what kind of media should you use?
Literally every form of advertising will work if it is used properly. The best evidence of this is that radio stations promote their call letters on outdoor billboards and on bus signs. Newspapers promote themselves on television, and television stations list their program schedules in newspapers. In other words, they all use each other. In this 4-part series I will discuss Radio Advertising, Radio, Television, and Print.
If you listen to the radio for school closings, weather, or traffic reports, then you know that radio works. You just have to know which of the 30-50 radio stations in your area (there may be only 4 or 5 you can effectively use for your particular business) reach your desired audience.
There’s an old bit of advertising humor I heard years ago. Opening a business without advertising is like winking at someone in the dark. You’re the only one who knows what you’re doing, and you’ll never get any results.
It takes guts to watch your advertising money roll out month after month while you wait and hope for a return. Understand from the outset that there is no such thing as "let there be light" when it comes to building name and product/service awareness for your business or increasing traffic to your location.
Radio is the fastest and most flexible forms of all advertising. A good radio rep can have a great commercial written and produced and a schedule placed within hours -- something you can’t get from television or print, or outdoor. Radio is also the most flexible in letting you cancel a schedule if you have a good reason. For example: I received a call from a client just this week who is using radio to advertise her self-storage units. She called to say she needed to cancel the remainder of her schedule because her storage units are at full capacity. That’s reasonable. No problem canceling her radio. Try that on an outdoor company. It would never happen.
You could even cancel a radio schedule just because you haven’t seen results and you’re nervous that continuing the rest of the schedule would be throwing good money after bad. That happens frequently with new advertisers and it’s a bad idea. One of the realities of any advertising schedule, no matter what the medium, is "let it ride itself out." The success of any schedule is based on the frequency of the schedule. The audience has to be exposed to the message 2.5 times to move on it. That requires time. Halting a schedule in the middle because you haven’t seen results is like pulling a pan of batter out of the oven halfway into the required baking time and wondering why it hasn’t turned to cake. Make your advertising plan and stick with it. The results will be better in the end.
Most importantly, you must place your advertising dollars correctly, that is, where the right people will be exposed to your message. To advertise on a radio station because it’s your personal favorite, or because you like a particular sales rep, is deadly. Make all advertising decisions based on a firm grasp of who your customers are, and where you can find them.
FINDING THE RIGHT STATION(S)
Each radio station in your market has a very specific audience to deliver. You should ignore all reports in your newspaper that give radio station ratings based on listeners who are (in what they consider to be an age group) 12+. That is so ridiculous and it makes me furious every time I see it. There is no such age group. No station will have an audience composed of everyone over the age of 12. 12-24? Yes. 18-34? Yes. 18-49? Sure. 25-49? Absolutely. 25-54? Yep. 45+? Yes. 12+ No way! And before the population is divided into these age groups, they are divided into three gender groups: Men, Women, Adults (both men and women).
Go after your specific radio audience the way hunters go after their quarry. Hunters, for instance, know specifically where to look for deer and specifically where to look for ducks. (If they were hunting deer they wouldn’t sit in a boat in flooded timber. If they were hunting ducks, they would). But that’s only the beginning because all ducks, for instance, aren’t the same. Very specific ducks are found in very specific places.
Your customers are like that. Your dream-come-true duck -- I mean, customer, may be a woman. Great! Half of the radio stations in your area may cater to women. Get more specific. Is your dream-come-true woman customer 18 years old? 45? 75? If she’s 45, you won’t find her listening to a radio station that caters to 18-year-old women. Or watching a teen sitcom or reading the local weekly alternative paper, for that matter. You must be just as specific as the hunter. Worksheets in Advertising Without an Agency will let you be absolutely sure that your radio advertising dollars are spent on the right stations every single time. Once you have all the information, rely on your own judgment. Don’t be too trusting and believe your friendly media sales reps when they each tell you that their radio station was just made for you (and they will all tell you that). Find out the skinny on your own, or you may find yourself sitting in some swamp wondering why the deer you’re hunting aren’t swimming toward your boat.
With radio, it’s fast and easy. A creative radio rep can have a script produced and ready for you to hear on a cassette within hours if necessary. If you’re going to use more than one radio station, ask for a produced commercial from both and use the one you like best. You may be charged a nominal fee for talent (the person who voices the commercial) and the "dub," or copy of the commercial for the second station, but you will have a commercial you like. If you use a commercial that’s produced independently at each station, there should be no charge to you at all. Many stations employ copywriters who do the work, others let their sales reps do the work.
You can have a :10 second spot, a :30 second spot or a :60 second spot produced for radio. The cost of running the commercials on the air will be the same for a :30 and a :60, which are the two most popular lengths. Always listen to your commercial before it airs. Do not hesitate to have the music or the voice or the pronunciation of a word changed so that you are completely happy with the spot ahead of time.
In my May article, I wrote about your message and whether you should use image or motivational commercials. Reread that article and use that information no matter what kind of advertising you are doing.
Every radio station’s audience has a different listening threshold. Imagine that you’re watching people go into and out of a building through a revolving door. Some people go in through the door and stay in the building for hours. Some only stay in for minutes. Some will go into the revolving door and just keep going around till they come back out. Listeners are like that. The older segments of the population will listen to the same station for hours -- these are the people that go through the revolving door and stay inside the building. Talk radio and country music listeners rarely leave their stations. But by the time you get down to the younger listeners who "channel surf," you’ve reached the population that stays within the confines of the revolving door. If you think about it, you will see that you need fewer commercials per week on the stations that hold listeners for long periods of time. And it will make an equal amount of sense that if listeners come and go quickly, you need to put a lot more commercials on those stations to have any hope of catching them with your message.
Worksheets in Advertising Without an Agency show a variety of standard
schedules for increasing business in the early part of the week, midweek, or
on the weekends. Radio rate sheet will give you different prices for running
your commercials during different part of the day. There are four "dayparts"
in the world of radio. Morning Drive (5am-10am), Midday (10am-3pm), Afternoon
Drive (3pm-7pm) and Evening (7pm-midnight). Morning Drive is the most expensive, then Afternoon Drive, then Midday, with Evening coming in at the lowest-priced time slot. Feel free to tighten up those times to fit better with your business schedules or event hours. Tell your rep you don’t want to start before 6am or that you want nothing running after 10pm. Push a little, push a lot, and you’ll get your way. You can always say, "OK, thanks -- I think I’ll go somewhere else with my money." You’ll be surprised at how flexible they can get.
CO-OP MONEY (Be not afraid!)
If you are a retail store, some of the brands you carry may offer co-op
dollars on their products, which can make a big difference in how much advertising you can afford to do. Since the amount of co-op you will have to use is based on a percentage of merchandise you order, look to your largest suppliers for the most money. There will be guidelines and regulations to follow that may sound confusing at first, and some retailers let the money go because co-op can be such a hassle. But let your media reps handle it -- give them copies of the guidelines, and let them do the rest. They can do everything from contacting the co-op people, to making sure the copy is approved, to insuring that the invoices are turned in on time with copies of the notarized scripts. They’re used to it and work with co-op all the time. Let them do the work for you and take advantage of the extra advertising dollars.
FINALLY...you don’t always have to have #1. Radio is wonderful. But the top stations can be expensive. Once you’ve identified the stations that target your dream audience, choose the #2 or even the #3 station if you can’t afford a good schedule on the #1 station. You’ll still be hitting the right audience, even if it’s a slightly smaller
Next article: Television
© by Kathy J. Kobliski. All rights reserved.
- Author of You Can’t Grow a Business Without Advertising - so where do you start? Radio Advertising (PSI-Research/Oasis Press, editions 1 & 2, 1998, 2001).
- Monthly columnist for entrepreneur.com for two years (2000 & 2001).
- Written articles for Sales Masterminds, Canadian Women’s Business Network, HomeOfficeMag.com, and StartupJournal.com, and others.
- Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Independent Business, Golf World Business, Switchboard.com, BankRate.com, SkyRadioNet.com, General Motors, The Money Room and The Ron Thomas Business Forum, and others.
- Owner and President of Silent Partner Advertising in Syracuse, NY since 1984.
- Taught advertising and media-buying within the New York State Small Business Development Program for three years.
Kathy J. Kobliski