Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Choosing the Best Ad Methods for Your Business

The pros and cons of different types of advertising

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q:Do some kinds of advertising work better than others?

A:All types will work if they're used properly and not just "tried." The fact that the various forms of media utilize each other illustrates that no one kind of advertising is superior. Radio stations promote themselves on television and bus cards, TV stations list their programs in the newspaper, and newspapers use outdoor billboards to increase circulation. You've probably also noticed the large number of ads by companies in these traditional forms of media. To use advertising correctly, the following four requirements must be met:

1. Demographics.You must know what segments of the population comprise your customer base and be able to define them according to the standard age and gender groups used by the media to define their audiences.

  • Gender:Male, female or adults (includes a balance of male and female).
  • Age range:Depending on your business, you may choose more than one of these: 12-24, 18-34, 18-49, 25-54, or 50+

Your customer base can shift with the opening and closing of other local businesses, universities, military bases, the influx or departure of university students, or just the natural aging of people in your community, and you need to keep track of these changes. This step is critical because it's the basis of every advertising decision you make. If you're not absolutely sure who your customers are, you can waste money advertising in the wrong places. Once you've identified your customers, you have to know where they hang out. Your reps can provide specific demographics regarding their audiences. Which leads us to...

2. Location.Use only radio stations, TV programs or publications that can deliver your message to the right demographic groups. Ask your media reps to define the primary audiences they reach, and spend money only with those that match the demographic groups you've identified as your customers. Never buy advertising according to your own personal taste or because you like a particular rep!

3. Message.You have precious few seconds to tell your story, so squeeze the language. You wouldn't say "Send assistance as soon as possible" when you could yell "Help!" You also need a hook--a reason for someone to come to your location instead of a competitor's. Ask your media reps for copywriting help. Many stations and publications employ copywriters, but a creative media rep can do a great job. Your newspaper, magazine, and direct-mail reps will also be happy to lay out your entire ad.

4. Frequency.Without enough frequency your customers won't see or hear your message. Radio, television and print are three distinct critters and require detailed explanations regarding schedule placement. It's better to place a substantial schedule on one station or in one publication than to spread a small budget out and not achieve effective frequency anywhere.

Whatever you decide to do, don't just try advertising. Use it to get results.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks