Small Town Radio Advertising:
How To Make It Work For Your Small Business

by Tom Egelhoff

Author Tom EgelhoffIn small and medium sized towns radio can be a real bargain.

Even so that doesn't mean being on radio will generate instant sales for your business.

Like any other form of advertising and marketing there are do's and don'ts that apply.

Here are a few tips to consider before making the plunge into radio advertising.

How to Make Small Town Radio Formats Work For Your Small Business

Radio formats are all over the board. Talk radio, easy listening, rock, country, new age, rap -- the list goes on and on.

Which should you be on? Look at yourself. What stations do you listen to? Why? There's a specific sound you like and that's what you listen to. Follow me here for this is very important.

The sound of your commercial should not deviate from the sound of the station.

What do I mean by that? Would you try and sell season tickets to the symphony on a country western station?

Would the sounds be contradictory? Would the listeners tune out the symphony?

The point to keep in mind is you may have to create different ads for different stations. If your budget won't allow the expense, consider using the local DJ to read your copy live during the show.

The listeners will be used to the voice and it will give your spot a certain credibility.

This will not work with stations that are run by computers and have no live DJ's.

If that's the case you may have to make a custom spot for these stations.

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Reach Your Ideal Customer with Small Town Radio Ads

The bottom line in any advertising is not how many people you reach but how many buyers you reach. There's a difference.

Radio stations work in demographics. Nothing wrong with that. Each station has a profile of their average listener.

An audience may be males, 24-50, college educated, etc. That may be the people you want to reach but are they active buyers?

Stations also rely on ratings. Ratings are studies taken at various times of the year and stations base their advertising rates on numbers of listeners during these "rating periods."

You may have heard of the "May Sweeps" that TV does. Stations also do their heaviest promotions during these "sweeps" to inflate the listenership.

In Bozeman, MT, my home town, we have 16 stations that reach around 80,000 listeners. The most popular are the talk radio station and the modern country station.

If I'm selling Cadillacs which should I choose? Ratings and demographics aren't much help here are they?

But what if the talk radio audience has a yearly income in excess of $60,000 and the modern country is only $20,000.

Now which station would you choose? See, it really doesn't matter whose number one but who reaches the target audience you want to reach and who have the bucks to buy your product.

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Cost Per Thousand? Cost Per Customer? How to Save

Radio cost are based on cost per 1,000 listeners to a particular show. What we are more interested in is the cost per customer.

How many customers will our spots bring in and how much will they buy? Three spots at $10.00 each ($30.00) produce one customer who spends $20.00 at our store. What's that worth?

A $10.00 loss is what it's worth. It really doesn't matter how many we reach only how many buy, and can we profit from the advertising.

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Don't Do It Yourself

How many times have you heard some car dealer or store owner trying to do their own commercials?

Usually it's something they think is really funny but turns out to be just plain dumb. Or it's obvious they are just reading copy.

It's not their own words and it sounds robotic. Why people do this is beyond me. You run a professional organization have a professional radio image.

Have the experts do it. They don't try and do your job, don't do theirs.

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Small Town Radio Advertising Can Be A Real Bargain

What should it cost to be on the radio?

Here in Bozeman, MT spots can go for as little as $10.00. In large cities the costs are out of reach for the average small business.

Most stations will base costs on where they are in the ratings versus other stations. Top stations usually command the most.

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Small Town Radio: A Public Relations Tool?

The talk radio station here in Bozeman, gives 20 minutes of free time weekly for a business to promote their product or service. It's call the "Business Spotlight."

If your town doesn't do it you might suggest it to your local station. Stations may read copy of news items about your company during their newscasts.

Many will not accept PSA's (Public Service Announcements) for a for-profit business but if you buy airtime they sometimes miraculously show up.

Send the station news director or public affairs director "sound bites" (short one liners that Ross Perot made famous).

They aren't going to use a fifteen minute tape of anything you have to say. If you're doing something in public, let them know, they may want to cover it and report on it later.

Edit tapes of speeches to highlight the points you want to cover.

Provide hard copy (paper) transcripts which they may read on the air instead of your tape. Cover all bases. If you can set up a weekly call-in show do it.

Most listeners are loyal to their stations and your business will have instant credibility. Perhaps you can open and close something like a market report show.

CPA's, medical, attorney's, all are naturals for call-ins. The idea is create customers. People will feel they already know you from your show.

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Last But Not Least, Low Cost Radio Money Savers

Compare the costs of a 30 second spot against a 60 second spot. One 60 second spot is usually only 20 to 30% more than a 30 second spot.

Use 60's whenever possible. It may be possible to trade product for advertising time.

Stations are always looking for promo items and giveaways. They may trade for all or part of your time.

Radio is one of the best values for the small business person to get the word out. Do your homework and make it work for you.

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