How To Buy Radio Advertising Time

by Tom Egelhoff

When it comes to small town advertising one of the most effective is radio. Many small towns don't have newspapers or TV stations but many have radio stations. And local residents listen to those hometown stations and react to the advertising presented on them.

The good news is that most small town stations are a bargain when it comes to the cost of buying radio advertising versus larger cities. And like most things we talk about here, small town radio advertising must be done differently than large cities.

In order for any advertising medium to be successful it must follow basic advertising and marketing guidelines. It must be the right message, presented to the right people (your target market), at the right time. And of course the second rule: Your advertising must be an investment, not an expense. It must produce more business than it costs. Otherwise, why do it?



The Major Advantages Of Radio Advertising

The major advantage of radio is it's everywhere. Our cars, bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens and the workplace. Try to find a jogger without a radio and a headset. No other medium reaches so many people in so many different places.

Here are some advantages radio offers that you may be able to adapt to your business:

It's efficient: You can monitor the efficiency of your ad dollars and see the results of your efforts.

It's flexible: You can change your message and time schedules for ads with relative ease.

It has low production costs: Unlike TV or print ads the cost of producing a radio spot are much less.

It's listeners are loyal: If you have the right target listening to your station they are more likely to stay with that station. Few people listen to more than two or three radio stations. In small towns it may be just one.

It can be anywhere: It can sell you a product in the shower. What other medium can do that?
Each day radio reaches 77% of America. Every age bracket registers in the high 90's as weekly listeners. Keep in mind that your local stations numbers may vary depending on the size of your town.



Things To Think About When Buying
Small Town Radio Advertising Time

If I were advising you on buying time in L.A. or New York, one of the first things I might ask you to consider is something called "drive time." Most large cites have people commuting to work by car or public transportation and many carry radios with them to pass the time while stuck in traffic. For advertising this is a truly captive audience.

But, small towns rarely have traffic jams because their is no traffic to speak of. Unless you want to call four or five cars lined up at a stop sign a traffic jam. Chances are in a small town you have a small retail area and a large rural area of farmers and ranchers. Guess what... farmers and ranchers don't commute to work. When they wake up they are there.

Let's go back to "drive time" for just a second. Drive time is usually considered 7:00 am to 9:00 am in the morning. Some areas may also consider 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm as drive time. Small town people may not be in their cars during these hours but it doesn't mean they aren't listening. Many are reading the morning paper and listening to the radio at the same time before the long 10 minute commute (walk) to work.

On the other hand the "drive time" for farmers and ranchers may be as early as 4:00 am. Combining the two drive times we suddenly have a four hour block of time to reach both "townies" and farmers. That's a large block of time to place commercials. So how do you know how many ad spots to purchase?



How Many Radio Advertising Spots Should I Buy?

Most mistakes in radio advertising is buying too few spots and/or playing them at the wrong times. To some business people it comes down to a matter of cost. How can I get the MOST spots for the LEAST amount of money. This is flawed thinking. Cost shouldn't even be a consideration. Why? Because we expect our advertising to PAY for itself. Remember, it's an investment not an expense.

One ad rarely sparks a buying decision. Usually we must be exposed to several ads over a period of time unless we have an immediate need and we just happen to hear the commercial at the right time. Advertising build customers over periods of time.

Radio should not be purchased in spots. Instead buy blocks of time. Your commercial played several times over a short period of time is better than your commercial played fewer times over a long period of time.



SBA (Small Business Administration)
Radio Advertising Guidelines: I Agree To A Point

The SBA suggest the following. Buy a block of 42 commercials. These would be played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Three spots between 7:00 am to 9:00 am and four spots between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm for two weeks. (Seven spots per day x 6 days = 42 spots).

This is excellent advice for the larger cities and I agree fully. The only area that I would advise you to make adjustments is if your target market is the rural community or farmers or ranchers. If you are a feed store or implement company farmers are in different places at different times of the year. During planting season they are on the tractor from dawn to dust and even longer and the radio is their only companion. Same with harvesting season. You may want to vary your ad times to accommodate this group if they are your market.

Concentrated advertising gives you one other advantage. It makes your business appear larger than it really is. There is a perception among customers that companies that do a lot of advertising are successful or they couldn't afford to advertise. I can hear what your saying next. "Companies that do a lot of advertising are also overpriced to pay for that advertising." I won't deny that some of that thinking is true but I think if you ask people if Wal-Mart is over priced most would say no. High price talk comes more from word-of-mouth than from a perception of the cost of advertising.

I also feel that in rural areas people listen to the radio more in the morning and during the day than at night. Most people are TV people in the evening and radio people in the morning. Chances are you wake up to a clock radio rather than a TV on a timer.



My Budget Is Too Small, I Can't Afford 42 Spots

Many small businesses don't have a large advertising budget. For many it takes every cent just to purchase inventory and meet the payroll. The real purpose of advertising is not just to spend money but to grow your business. If this is the case then you can use that to some advantage.

The key is to be consistent. Most of us listen to radio at the same times each day. If you can only afford one spot per day play it at the same time on the same days week after week. At least you will be reaching the same customers who listen during that time. As your business grows try and add more spots.

Some stations will work with new customers by offering more spots than you pay for. Ask for "new advertisers specials." Also see if you can be placed at the end of PSA's. Such as "This message brought to you as a public service by.. your name." The production costs of PSA's are donated to the PSA by the station. There should be no production cost in adding a tag line for your business. This would give you one more exposure during the broadcast day and may actually show up during high rating hours and it shows potential customers your community evolvement.



The Last Word On Buying Radio Advertising

For more information on how to use radio (See: Radio: How To Make It Work For You). Some final thoughts to keep in mind regarding buying radio time:

1. Make sure you have identified your target market and are advertising to the right people. If you are advertising to the wrong people you are wasting your money.

2. Just because you like a particular station doesn't mean your target market does. You may love rock n' roll and they're listening to classical.

3. Ask for deals or guarantees. Most stations aren't going to guarantee that your advertising may work but they may offer you additional free spots if you get a small response from your initial ads. It's certainly worth asking for.

Radio can be a great media and can do wonders for your business. If you've been considering it but were afraid to commit the money to do it. Now's the time to go for it. In most cases I think you'll find it will pay off for you and your business.


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