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Radio's New Wave

It's not just for local advertisers anymore--with online radio and simulcasting, you can now broadcast your message to millions.

Can you name the single medium that consistently reaches nearly 95 percent of all Americans over the age of 12? If you guessed radio, you're on the right track. No matter your target audience--whether it's college grads, ethnic Americans or working moms--radio is a smart way to reach it.

The average radio consumer listens more than 19 hours every week, according to Arbitron's 2006 report, "Radio Today." And while a massive amount of radio listening takes place in the home every weekday morning, nearly three-quarters of workday radio listening occurs away from home-whether in the car, at work or at the gym.

With the arrival of online radio, one of the oldest advertising mediums is brand-new again. Any computer with internet access can be used to listen to traditional radio stations simulcasting their signals or to original stations broadcasting exclusively on the web. Arbitron and Edison Media Research estimate the monthly audience for internet radio is 52 million Ameri-cans, a 50 percent increase over last year spurred by the growth of broadband internet access.

You can choose from among the thousands of terrestrial stations that simulcast, or select stations by musical genre to reach virtually any type of marketing prospect using one of the large networks of internet-only radio stations. And because the majority of internet radio listening occurs during regular working hours, potential customers who hear your spots are just a click away from your website.

Whether you'd like to advertise on local stations or through an online radio network, here are five important tips for success.

1. Write a target audience profile. All radio buys should be made based on a station or network's ability to deliver your unique target audience. Take the time to write a profile of your best prospects based on demographics, including age, gender and other specifics such as household income and location. Then match this profile with the listenership of the programming under consideration to make sure your buy will pinpoint the right people.

2. Look beyond demographics. Quantitative data is only part of the story. How and where your prospects shop, their entertainment consumption and even their travel plans may impact their desire to buy what you sell. Ask the stations or networks you're considering for Scarborough Research to confirm that their listeners match the unique characteristics of your prospect group.

3. Consider geography vs. programming. With radio, you can reach an audience in a single city or nationwide. The key is to choose stations or networks that reach your audience with the least amount of waste. A network or station will either have strong numbers within a specific geographic market area or programming with special appeal, such as the kind available on internet-only stations that broadcast a particular type of music or political viewpoint.

4. Beware of sales traps. When it comes to broadcast buying, the number of spots in your rotation is less important than when they'll air and who will actually hear them. Beware of anyone who promises a large number of spots at a low cost per spot. Chances are most will be ROS, or run-of-station, spots, which means they could air during the middle of the night or when fewer of your best prospects are listening.

5. Reach a core of prospects. If you have the choice between running a limited schedule on numerous stations and concentrating your budget with a buy on one or two stations-or even during a single program-which should you choose? The answer is to advertise frequently to a small, core group of your most well-qualified prospects. Then, as your business grows and your budget increases, you can expand your radio reach with additional stations and prospects.

Contact marketing expert Kim T. Gordon, author of Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business at www.smallbusinessnow.com. Her new e-book, Big Marketing Ideas for Small Budgets, is available exclusively from Entrepreneur atwww.smallbizbooks.com.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.

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This article was originally published in the November 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Radio's New Wave.

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