There are several ways to buy advertising at cheap rates. Even TV advertising is affordable for a small business market. Here are a few ideas that have worked well for my small and medium-sized business clients:
1. Target your clients well to reach specific niches
People tend to buy ads on the most popular radio or TV station in their market. The bigger the reach, the better the outcome, right? Not always. Take some time to understand your specific target market and learn where they get their news and entertainment. That means you know the age range within 10 years, what percentage are male vs. female, whether they’re professionals or stay at home parents and so on. Get as specific as you can.
Some people feel this approach means they may miss someone who wants their product or service. If you target too narrowly, it's true you may leave out some customers. But a wide reach with strong frequency simply isn't affordable. A narrower, less expensive buy helps you fine-tune the messages that really work. Then, if your advertising is doing well, slowly expand the demographics of your buy.
2. Advertise on cable shows?they're cheaper than you think
I have a client that only advertises on MSNBC here in Minneapolis. His spots only cost $50, so he’s able to buy a much greater frequency. High frequency, narrow niche—it’s working well for him. Again, you may not reach as many people, but your messages get to the clients in your sweet spot, and that’s what you’re after.
3. Find a business partner to pair up with you on an advertising campaign
If there's a business with a product or service that complements yours, team up with them to buy advertising. I’ve seen this work well for grocery stores and local breweries, for example. Or perhaps you’re holding a sale at your retail location and one of the brands you carry would like some extra advertising. You’ll sometimes find that larger brands have extra money in their budget for this type of advertising.
4. Learn about buying remnant advertising
Sales reps often have empty space to fill at the last minute. Make sure you have a salesperson at each radio, TV and print publication you’re interested in. Call them and let them know you’re willing to listen to any remnant deals they might have. Remember, you need to have ads ready to go if you’re going to engage this way.
There are advertising agencies that specialize in finding remnants. I wouldn’t suggest these for a local ad buy, they’ll only add cost and you can do this yourself. If you’re looking to get into a national market, it might be something to try.
5. Build a strong relationship with your ad sales representatives
I’ve found the more I send leads their way, engage them, ask questions and offer to participate in promotions, the better rates I’m offered and the more willing they are to get me on board. This isn’t always the case with the top dogs in town, but if you’re getting specific with your desired demographic, those No. 2 and No. 3 guys are often very helpful.
You’ll find radio stations often have a Valentine’s Day promotion or some kind of summer backyard barbecue, for example, that has a main sponsor but still needs smaller products to giveaway. You’ll get a mention just for providing a product for free. A good salesperson lets you know of these opportunities, since you may decide to buy advertising later.
6. Consider a bulletin board
Billboards are what people ask me about the most, but with the cost of production they don’t always stack up as a good buy. A bulletin board is a lower cost alternative and can still give you the enormous presence of a billboard...just only during the day, since they don't have lights.
Remember, know what you’re buying. Understand reach, frequency and other terms if you’re buying broadcast ads. And don’t buy a ton of "rotaters" unless you really trust your sales rep. Although they are cheap, they're buried in off-hours way too often and become a total waste of money.
Every city has a different DMA (Designated Market Area) ranking and the larger your area, the more expensive advertising becomes. But no matter where your business is located, I guarantee you there are ways to buy advertising much cheaper than the prices you’ve likely been quoted.
Ideas? Add yours in the comments.
OPEN Cardmember Bonnie Harris is an integrated marketing and communications specialist and the founder of Wax Marketing, Inc. She writes regularly about marketing, public relations and social media for small and growing businesses on her own blog.