Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Best Media for Your Ads

Don't waste time and money. Here's how to choose the best place for your ads the first time.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With so many media choices, it's easy to become overwhelmedwhen choosing where to advertise. Fortunately, over the yearsI've defined a few simple guidelines any entrepreneur can useto select the best media for an advertising program. It's amatter of following three rules:

Rule 1: Eliminate Waste
Most media are priced based on their number of viewers, listenersor readers. So if a newspaper claims to have a circulation of 1million, its advertising rates will be higher than those of anotherpaper that is read by a similar, though smaller, audience. The keyto selecting the right one is to choose the newspaper that reachesthe largest percentage of your particular target audience with theleast amount of "waste." That way, you avoid paying toreach readers who don't fit your customer or client profile.Suppose you're a retailer, for example, whose customer basecomes predominantly from a five-mile radius surrounding yourlocation. Advertising in a newspaper that reaches a widemetropolitan area may simply be too wasteful for you, making alocal newspaper whose readers reside in your market area a betterchoice.

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

Advertising in "search corridor" media--such as theYellow Pages and other directories--is often a cost-efficientsolution. They're the media customers turn to when they'vemade a decision to buy something. So whether you sell cakes orplumbing services, customers who are ready to buy your products orservices will reach for a comprehensive directory filled with adsand listings, then go through it to decide where to make theirpurchases.

By creating special sections, such as automotive andentertainment, large daily newspapers have also devised searchcorridors in which certain types of ads and editorial areclustered. So even if your neighborhood paper is a "lesswasteful" buy, if your customers don't read it forinformation on what you sell, then you may have to pay for theadditional circulation of the metropolitan daily.

It's vital to run your ads in the rightenvironment--generally where your customers expect to seeinformation on what you sell. This principle holds true for allmedia, including television and radio. Following rule No. 1, forexample, you could place an advertising schedule on a cable channelthat reaches your target audience with little waste. Then followingrule No. 2, you'd select appropriate programming during whichyour message would be run in the proper context. In other words,you wouldn't advertise a product for men during showspredominantly watched by women or vice versa.

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

As you construct your campaign, look for a group ofcomplementary media in which you can advertise with sufficientfrequency to build sales. For best results, narrowly focus on acore group of prospects, and buy as much frequency in your chosenmedia as you can afford. This will ensure your best prospects willbe exposed to your message over time and successfully motivated tobuy.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks