Every entrepreneur from New York to Los Angeles faces the same daily dilemma--a finite marketing budget and an infinite number of advertising options. After all, your customers are bombarded with hundreds of advertising messages each day. From the moment they wake up, they're exposed to advertising on television and the radio, in the morning newspaper, their favorite magazines and their e-mail inboxes, and on websites, outdoor billboards and subway signage. There are even ads on fruit in the supermarket, corporate signage on secluded nature trails and marketing pamphlets promoting products in dental and medical offices.

This flood of marketing messages will only continue to increase, and that leaves you with critical choices to make about how you'll reach your prospects and hold their attention. Since every business is different, there aren't pat answers regarding what'll work for everyone. What I can provide are four great questions. Answer these, and they'll point you toward the right media.

Question 1: Where do your prospects look first?
People who already know they want to buy what you market are your top-qualified prospects. They need what you offer and are actively shopping in what are called "marketing search corridors." Will your prospects use search engines, the Yellow Pages or both? Are they looking for you in trade magazines or in a particular section of the newspaper? Identify exactly where your best prospects look first when shopping for what you sell, and place your ads there.

Question 2: Which media touch your prospects most often?
Each of us is touched by media at various points throughout the day. The key is to discover the media with which your prospects have meaningful interactions. Find out which TV programs they watch and which radio stations they listen to, and at what time of day. If your customers read a newspaper, which one is it? And if you're targeting B2B prospects, identify the industry publications they rely on for information. Then construct an integrated marketing campaign using a mix of media that will consistently reach them during their daily routines.

Question 3: Where will your message be best remembered?
Putting your advertising message in the right context is critical to success. In fact, your prospects are probably touched by all kinds of media that would be completely inappropriate for you. When evaluating your media advertising options, look for opportunities to communicate with your prospects when they're in the right frame of mind.

For example, your customers may often dine in restaurants where they're exposed to the posters on the bathroom walls. But while this particular advertising form may reach your best prospects, if it's inappropriate for your message, you should discard it as a marketing option. On the flip side, a website your prospects turn to for information on a subject related to a product or service you market would reach them when they're in exactly the right frame of mind, making advertising on that site a good choice for you.

Question 4: Can you stick with it?
Effective advertising requires frequency for your message to be remembered and acted on. As you construct your list of advertising options, choose a mix of media you can stick with for the long haul. It's preferable to choose media in which you can afford to advertise frequently, rather than to advertise just a few times in a larger range of media. Start small with sufficient advertising frequency in a cohesive group of marketing vehicles. Then, as your company grows, you can expand into additional media.