Small Business Advertising: How to Choose Between the Different Types of Advertising Media

Choosing which types of advertising media to use to promote your business is often difficult for business owners. Every salesperson tells you how great their media company is, but how do you know for sure which will give you a return on your investment?

Business Coaching Insight:

Testing and measuring is the best way to determine which media are the most effective for your business. Make sure you build in a call-to-action mechanism so the response is easy to measure

There is a whole industry dedicated to the art and science of media planning and buying - big companies usually outsource to media buying agencies.

However, this is often an unaffordable option for small business owners so how do you make sure you don’t waste money?

Realistically, without the research and analytical tools that media buying agencies have, the only way to know if it works is to try the different types of advertising media and then test and measure.

Key points for successful advertising campaigns:

  • Make sure your creative work stands out, has a clear (singular) message and includes your address, telephone numbers and web address
  • Have a call-to-action ie. tell people what to do as a result of seeing your ad
  • Offer a promotional deal in the ad
  • Have a system set up to capture where customers heard about your business

List of strengths and weaknesses of different types of advertising media

Here’s a brief rundown of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different types of advertising media.

1. TV

TV is the ultimate advertising medium to use because pretty much everyone watches TV so it has the potential to reach lots of people. Also, because it has a mix of audio and visual it tends to be recalled more easily (unless your creative work is unmemorable).

Be aware that costs are determined both by viewing figures and demand from advertisers. Costs vary by channel, month, program and time of day. If you are given a schedule that only has late night spots it will be cheaper but only night owls will be watching so will it be effective for you?

  • Good for reaching large numbers of people
  • Good for most target audiences (less so for youth)
  • Relatively expensive – but it depends on the size of the population. A major city might be cost prohibitive but if you want to advertise in a small town or region it could be affordable
2. Newspapers

Print media are generally on the decline but newspapers still serve a purpose – especially in regional areas.

  • Works well for call-to-action advertising eg. if you’ve got a sale on over the weekend or some kind of special promotion
  • Relatively expensive so make sure you’re driving people to a special deal or promotion
  • It reaches a broad demographic. One of the better ways to reach business people, not so good for housewives though
3. Magazines

Whilst broad print media are on the decline, niche magazines are holding their own and they are an affordable option for small businesses.

  • Magazines allow you to reach a tightly defined niche – can be very well targeted so you’re not wasting money advertising to people who aren’t in your target audience
  • Often have an intimate relationship with their readers – readers trust what they say and also seem to therefore trust the advertising in it
  • Opportunities for editorial & promotions (if you can’t afford to buy advertising space offer some free products in return for editorial mentions)
  • Longer lead times – not so good for date/time specific advertising
4. Radio

Cost-wise radio advertising is one of the more affordable types of advertising media for small businesses. It works well for some small businesses but be choosy about which stations you use.

  • The major benefit of radio is that listeners will hear your ad lots of times. It doesn’t reach as many people as TV necessarily but they will have more opportunities to hear it.
  • Doesn’t usually have the same impact creatively but depends on the creative work
  • Short turnaround – you can be on-air tomorrow if you want
  • Relatively cheap/easy to get creative work produced and the stations can often do it for you
  • Great for creative opportunities like promotions – can be very flexible
  • Has a more personal community feel which can be useful

5. Outdoor (Out of Home/Posters)

Outdoor media are rarely viable options for small businesses – they are costly both for the media space and print costs.

Only consider it if there’s a really good deal being offered or if there’s a tactical opportunity to buy a site close to your business location as signage.

6. Cinema

Unless your target audience is youth, cinema advertising should probably not be one of your first choices when determining which types of advertising media to use. It does tend to be effective when people see your ad but it’s a slow-burn.

  • Captive audience and the mix of visual/audio means there is often a strong recall of cinema advertising
  • Relatively low reach – most people watch some TV everyday but how often do you go to the cinema?
  • Strong against young audiences, less so for older age groups

Yellow Pages: Do you need it?

Does it work for you or not?

Advertising in directories like the Yellow Pages can be costly and because people are beginning to search more and more online, many small businesses are rightly questioning whether they really need to use them.

There is a trend towards small businesses cutting their spend and running smaller space sizes.

The answer will be different for every business and very much depends on the type of business and category you’re in. It also depends on how good your online presence is and whether you're operating in a city or regional area (people in major cities are more likely to search online).

The future for search is online and so Yellow Pages are developing more digital world opportunities.

Business Coaching Questions:

  • Who exactly is your target audience?
  • What types of advertising media do you think they like to watch, read and listen to?
  • How will you know if your advertising has been successful?

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