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Should Small Businesses Advertise on Radio?

If your advertising strategy is focused on digital ads and social media, you might be missing out on a highly effective advertising option: radio.

Should You Advertise on Local Radio?

If your advertising strategy is focused on digital ads and social media, you might be missing out on a highly effective advertising option: radio.

If your advertising strategy is focused on digital ads and social media, you might be missing out on a highly effective advertising option: radio. Radio advertising has several benefits for small business:

  • It’s affordable. Radio advertising is less expensive than the cable television advertising but often has the same reach. Because repetition is important to radio advertising, the low cost enables you to run multiple ads, which gets better results.

  • It’s quick. Creating a radio ad is fast and easy if you use the services of the radio station to produce your ad. That means you can often purchase radio ads and get them on the air within days.

  • It’s easy to narrowly target listeners. Radio stations are constantly examining their listener profiles to see which demographic groups listen to specific shows, personalities and times of day.

Interested in trying radio advertising? Here’s what you need to know.

  1. What is your target market? You should have a profile of your ideal target customer as part of your marketing plan. Salespeople from the different radio stations can help you figure out if their listeners are a fit with your target customer. With politics on many Americans’ minds throughout the election season and continuing into the foreseeable future, talk radio’s popularity continues to rise, Nielsen reports. In fact, news/talk radio was the number-one radio format last year, followed by pop contemporary, adult contemporary and country. Classic rock and classic hits are also very popular formats.

  2. When should you advertise? The times when you can advertise are broken down into “dayparts.” There’s morning and afternoon drive times, as well as nighttime and late night (midnight to 6 a.m.). Radio salespeople will be able to help you hone in on the specific times that are best for reaching your target audience. Keep in mind that the radio stations may have different audiences at various times of the day. For example, a rock station might play music that appeals to younger listeners late at night, but more classic rock during drive time when older listeners are likely to be commuting to work.

  3. How often should you advertise? As with most types of advertising, frequency is important. It’s better to run short ads often than to run a couple of very long ads just a few times. Radio ads typically run in 15-, 30-, and 60-second increments. Even a very short ad can be very effective. For best results, run your ads during the same time slot every day, and multiple times per day and week so that your target listeners hear them over and over. It generally takes at least three exposures before someone will even notice your advertising message, and additional exposures for them to remember and act on it. The good news: You can generally negotiate discounts for purchasing a large number of ads at once.

  4. How long should you advertise? It takes time to get results from radio, so don’t expect to see an immediate bump in sales. Experts recommend that you allow at least three to six months before you expect to see an impact. After six months to one year, however, you should definitely see an increase in sales—if not, try adjusting your format, dayparts or frequency.

  5. What should your ad include? Remember, the goal is to get your ad to stick in customers’ minds. Repeating a tagline, phone number or offer helps make your ads memorable—so can being silly or even annoying. Make sure you include a clear call to action (“Call today for an appointment”) and repeat it several times.

  6. Who creates the ad? Most radio stations have everything needed to create an ad for you, including an announcer, stock music and sound effects. Radio stations know what types of ads are most effective, so having them handle it for you not only takes a load off you, but also generally gets better results. However, if you aren’t happy with your local station’s offerings, you can use an outside service to develop and record your ad.

  7. How can I track results? To assess how effective your ads are, implement a tracking system using a code for each ad campaign. For example, if you’re advertising on radio station KLOS, tell listeners to mention KLOS when they make their appointment or type KLOS in the offer field on your website. You can also create a specific website landing page with a URL you repeat in the ad: “Go to to get this special offer.”

Also make sure you have specific goals for each ad campaign. Do you want to get customers to call for a consultation, visit your store or go to your website to make an appointment? Know exactly what you want each ad to accomplish — that way you’ll be better able to track whether it succeeds or not.

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