How To Choose The Right Advertising Medium For Your Small Business, Product
Or Service

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom Egelhoff

Advertising is by far the most difficult and most costly part of any small business operation.

So before I discuss how to choose the right media for you, I have to tell you my two iron clad rules for any advertising effort.

1.) Advertising can never be an expense, it must always be an investment. There must be at least a 75% expectation that the advertising will reach and produce more in sales than it will cost to place. If you don't have that 75% expectation then you should not place the advertising.

2.) When emotion and logic come into conflict, emotion will always win. If you don't believe that -- you can take me down to your local grocery store and show me the mouse or sparrow flavored cat food. That would be logical.

Instead what I'll see is turkey giblets with gravy sauce. We have a lot of wild turkeys here in Montana but I've never seen my cats lick their lips in anticipation when one walks by.

Small birds yes. Mice yes.

The marketing effort isn't to the cats — it's to the humans.

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What Forms Of Advertising Are Available?

There are many differences between advertising options in small towns as opposed to large cities. Your small town may not have a newspaper, TV station or even radio.

So your options to choose the media of advertising that will reach your target market may be limited in many respects because it has to come from outside sources.

In spite of these restrictions here are some amazing facts. In America today there are:

  • Six major television networks
  • Over 12,000 magazines
  • 15,000 newsletters
  • 2,000 newspapers
  • 6,000 radio stations
  • Over 7,000 cable systems
  • Your fax machine receives 10 ads a week
  • 5,000 prime web sites (Fortune 500 & others) and millions more being added each day.
  • If you aren't already, you will be receiving about 100-120 advertising emails each week.
  • Your dinner will be interrupted at least twice a week by a telemarketer.
  • And, the average American will receive about 3 pieces of "junk mail" every day of the year.

With all of the above sources the average person receives about 3-5,000 advertising messages per day. That translates into about $3,500 for every man, woman and child.

As you can see, even though the various medias may not be available to you locally your customers are still receiving these messages from all sorts of competing products and services.

All you have to do is make yours stand out from all the rest.

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What To Know Before You Buy?

In order to determine the right media to purchase there are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

What is your true message? -

What exactly do you want customers to know and how is your advertising going to make them react? Is your advertising designed to promote your business name or is it designed to bring customers to your place of business?

Remember point two in the first section above. Is your message emotional or logical? Are you selling a car with four doors? (A logical feature)

Or are you selling the convenience of getting the kids and dogs in and out of the car easier? (An emotional benefit.)
Who and where is your target market? -

If you are selling farm equipment are your customers in town or on the farm? Right. On the farm.

So why waste advertising dollars that reach towns people who are not your target market even though that media may also reach your target market? See the next point for more on this.

Cost per thousand? -

Remember point one from above? Advertising must always be an investment never an expense. Media sales people are going to talk to you in terms of cost per thousand.

This is the per person cost it takes to reach their audience.

Notice I said "their audience" not your target market. So how does my farm analogy from above fit in here? What you should be concerned with is cost per customer.

How much does advertising cost to bring a target market customer into your place of business?

Cost per thousand is immaterial if most of the audience is not your target market. The cost per customer would probably make this advertising too costly for a satisfactory return on your advertising investment.

Are you beginning to see why it's easy to waste money by advertising in the wrong place? It's easy to place a newspaper ad, TV commercial or radio ad and hope it reaches the right people.

In most cases if you haven't done your homework it won't.

This isn't rocket science but it does require some thought and study to work effectively.

For more on this, See: "How To Plan Your Advertising Strategy" and "How To Create A Small Town Advertising Plan."

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Which Forms Of Media Are Best In Small Towns?

These will of course vary depending on the size of the town and media that are available to you. It will also vary depending on the size of your target market within your sales area.

In many cases the size of your town will have a lot to do with the forms of media you choose.

For example, if we use the farm equipment analogy from above, you don't want to advertise to the people of the town who are not your customers.

You want to reach rural customers who farm for a living. So in this case I would recommend direct mail. I can target rural routes with fliers or postcard mailers just for that market for much less than a newspaper ad or radio spots. See: "Direct Mail: Why It Works And How To Use It."

If I had a restaurant or retail store where both the rural and local community are my customer base then I'm going to have to go with media that reaches the most people at the lowest cost per customer.

With newspaper or radio there is still going to be a percentage of their audience who are not my customers. But, the number is usually small enough that it still makes economic sense to use them.

The most important part of media selections comes down to the percentage of your target market in the total population of your town. Any funds you spend to reach non-customers is money wasted.

Identify your target market and then use the most effective medium(s) that reaches the majority of that target market.

For more on this: See: "How To Do Market Research In A Small Town" and "How To Use Niche Marketing In A Small Town."

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The Last Word On Choosing The Right Advertising Media

Remember that no media sales person knows your business as well as you do. In order for your advertising to be successful the most important part will be the message.

Don't blame your media sales person for poor response to your advertising if your message is off target.

Return to the "Low Cost Advertising" Directory

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