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Selecting the Best Media for Your Ad

Don't waste time and money. Here's how to choose the best place for your ads the first time.
September 2, 2002
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/54954

Q: I can't decide where to advertise my business. How can I choose the right media without going broke?

A: With so many media choices, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Fortunately, over the years I've defined a few simple guidelines any entrepreneur can use to select the best media for an advertising program. It's a matter of following three rules:

Rule 1: Eliminate Waste
Most media are priced based on their number of viewers, listeners or readers. So if a newspaper claims to have a circulation of 1 million, its advertising rates will be higher than those of another paper that is read by a similar, though smaller, audience. The key to selecting the right one is to choose the newspaper that reaches the largest percentage of your particular target audience with the least amount of "waste." That way, you avoid paying to reach readers who don't fit your customer or client profile. Suppose you're a retailer, for example, whose customer base comes predominantly from a five-mile radius surrounding your location. Advertising in a newspaper that reaches a wide metropolitan area may simply be too wasteful for you, making a local newspaper whose readers reside in your market area a better choice.

Rule 2: Follow the Customer
This is where things get a bit tricky, because the second guideline can sometimes negate the first. You should run your ads in the media your target audience looks to for information on your type of product or service.

Advertising in "search corridor" media--such as the Yellow Pages and other directories--is often a cost-efficient solution. They're the media customers turn to when they've made a decision to buy something. So whether you sell cakes or plumbing services, customers who are ready to buy your products or services will reach for a comprehensive directory filled with ads and listings, then go through it to decide where to make their purchases.

By creating special sections, such as automotive and entertainment, large daily newspapers have also devised search corridors in which certain types of ads and editorial are clustered. So even if your neighborhood paper is a "less wasteful" buy, if your customers don't read it for information on what you sell, then you may have to pay for the additional circulation of the metropolitan daily.

It's vital to run your ads in the right environment--generally where your customers expect to see information on what you sell. This principle holds true for all media, including television and radio. Following rule No. 1, for example, you could place an advertising schedule on a cable channel that reaches your target audience with little waste. Then following rule No. 2, you'd select appropriate programming during which your message would be run in the proper context. In other words, you wouldn't advertise a product for men during shows predominantly watched by women or vice versa.

Rule 3: Buy Enough Frequency
For your advertising campaign to succeed, your message must reach the target audience with enough frequency to penetrate. "Frequency" is the term used to represent the number of times your customer actually hears or sees your ad. And since even people who pay for subscriptions to magazines, for instance, don't see every ad in each issue, it's essential to advertise consistently over a protracted period of time to achieve enough frequency to drive your message home.

As you construct your campaign, look for a group of complementary media in which you can advertise with sufficient frequency to build sales. For best results, narrowly focus on a core group of prospects, and buy as much frequency in your chosen media as you can afford. This will ensure your best prospects will be exposed to your message over time and successfully motivated to buy.