Advertising in Slow Times

Don't react rashly to falling sales by cutting your ad budget. See what deals you can get first.

By Kathy J. Kobliski

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: If my sales start to fall off, should I cut back on myadvertising?

A: No! It's the link to your customers! The answerlies in getting tougher with media negotiations and changing yourmessage.

Getting tougher won't be all that difficult to do ifbusiness falls off, because when sales slide for companies likeyours, it also slides for the media. You need each other tosurvive. Radio and TV reps will be looking to sell chunks of timeto ensure your business, because it will free them up to look forfresh meat to fill the gaps in their budgets. They will be inclinedto get creative and do what they can to keep you as a client, be itwith special-value packages, deeper discounts for long-term or bulkcontracts, or providing you with "free spins" when theycan.

  • Special-value packages: creatively arranged blocks oftime that give you the most commercials for your dollar, sometimesbundled with an on-air promotion. (See my column "NegotiatingRadio Rates.") TV will do the same, and print will havespecial sections and programs to take advantage of.
  • Long-term contracts: You run your advertising for 26 or52 consecutive weeks and receive a discount for doing that on radioand TV. Standard discounts are 5 percent for 26 weeks and 10percent for 52 weeks. When times are tough, ask for that firstdiscount of 5 percent to kick in for signing a 13-week contract.With print, the per-column-inch cost drops off dramatically afteryour first ad. So they get even very small advertisers intocontracts right away. Ask your print or direct-mail reps for waysof saving in your production costs, choose to run in more specificZIP codes, or ask for early discounts.
  • Next Step
    Make consumers come to you with Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era ofKiller Competition by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin.
  • Bulk contracts: You receive a discount for the number ofcommercials you run during a specific period of time. The morecommercials you agree to run, the less each one costs you. You arenot required to run them within consecutive weeks, as long as youuse up the right number of commercials before the end date. Thesekinds of agreements are annual, but push to get your end date movedto perhaps 16 months instead of 12, and negotiate alower-than-normal, per-spot-rate-giving you a break in twoways.
  • Free spins: This means that the rep does not lower therate integrity of each commercial, but instead gives you apercentage of commercials "extra," at no charge. Thistactic is strictly for the paperwork and gives the rep the abilityto show that he/she sold the spots at the normal rate and at thesame time provided you with more commercials for your money.

What you may want to look at is a change in your message, toadvertise price breaks and special deals of your own or changes ininventory that are more appropriate for your customers who may alsobe tightening their belts. No matter what the economy does, youmust fill the needs of your customers, whether that means engagingin customer loyalty promotions or providing extra value and servicealong with looking at what you sell and how you deliver it.

Kathy Kobliski is the founder and president of Silent PartnerAdvertising, where she oversees multimedia advertising budgets forretail and service clients. Her book, Advertising Without an Agency, was written forbusiness owners who are working with small advertising budgets andcan't afford professional help. You can reach Kathy via herwebsite at

The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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