Radio Advertising Facts
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Still spending money on ads in the yellow pages? Really?  It’s not 1982 any more.





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What’s the best medium for local advertising? According to Michael Corbett, author of “The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising”, it’s NOT the newspaper. According to Corbett, “the readers of most newspapers are middle aged and older. If you are looking for buyers under the age of forty, you’ll find fewer of them in the newspaper than in any other media.” Corbett says that newspapers are “a place for shoppers to compare prices and information after they’ve already been motivated to buy.”

Why then do many local business continue to spend the bulk of their advertising budget in the newspaper? According to Corbett, “he newspaper has been the traditional medium for many local businesses. For centuries, it was the only medium. But most consumers don’t rely on the newspaper as much as they once did. They get their motivation and information from many sources. The readership ages have changed; buying habits and priorities have changed; media choices have changed. The only thing that hasn’t seem to change is the tradition of thinking that the newspaper is still the motivation source for most consumers. It clearly is not. That role has been taken over by TV and radio, either of which consumers spend more time with than they do newspapers.”

Corbett concluded by saying, “newspapers, in my experience, are neither appropriate nor affordable as your primary vehicle for domination or impact.”

So, where do you advertise to get the most impact? Corbett suggests one of the two “motivational mediums”, radio or broadcast TV (not cable). Corbett also suggests you “dominate” a medium in order to achieve maximum effectiveness. Since most local advertisers cannot afford to dominate TV, the logical choice is radio.

Quoted from “The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising”
by Michael Corbett
Pinnacle Books, Inc

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Even though competitors like to portray radio as an aging technology, the reality is radio advertising remains an effective tool for reaching consumers in today’s fragmented media landscape. Extensive research by the Radio Advertising Bureau reveals a robust weekly audience of radio listeners.

Who’s Listening?
Over 92 percent of Americans age 12 and up listen to radio each week, creating an audience of over 235 million listeners. Among 12- to 17-year-olds, who are perceived as not listening to the radio, nearly 90 percent listen weekly.

Where Do They Listen?
The majority of radio listening occurs in cars, with 73 percent of adults age 18 and up listening while driving on a typical weekday. The second most popular location for listening is at home. The number of people listening to commercial radio online now includes nearly 20 percent of the people who listen each week.

What Are They Listening To?
There are over 10,000 commercial radio stations in the United States. There are more country music stations in America than any other type with over 2,000 outlets. News/talk is second with 1,375 stations.

Who’s Advertising?
Major brands such as Verizon, Home Depot, Walt Disney and Burger King are among the top 20 largest radio advertisers. The largest advertising categories for radio include retail, automotive, insurance, restaurants and financial institutions.

How Much Do They Spend?
Radio advertising revenue exceeded $19 billion in 2008, and over $13 billion came from local businesses.

Article written by Mike Stern.

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Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you plan your Radio advertising:

  • Feature one item, or a limited number, per commercial to insure listener remembrance. You can’t sell ten items in thirty seconds.
  • If you must use price, use one or a few only. This way you won’t confuse the listener.
  • Is a phone number necessary? If it can’t get an order or sell a customer, and if you can’t make it the centerpiece of the ad, don’t use it.
  • Spend a reasonable amount of money. Don’t expect good results unless you invest appropriately.
  • Use saturation for hard-hitting impact. You can’t get the job done with one spot. Repetition – frequency – is one of radio’s biggest persuaders.
  • Distinction is an effective tool for attracting people. That sound effect, theme music or “sound signature” will help your ads make an impression.
  • Don’t select radio programs or formats for your own personal likes or dislikes, but rather for the audience you want to reach.
  • The best use of radio advertising is day in, day out, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The results from radio advertising build over time, and they are lasting results.
  • Don’t try to reach too many people all at once. It is better to reach 10% of your prospects 100% of the way than to reach 100% of your prospects only 10% of the way.

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Build it and they will come… a motto which is the downfall of many new, small businesses.

The problem is, “they” often don’t know you exist! Ideally, you have figured out that you will need to advertise your business in order to attract customers.

That leads to the question, how much money should be spent on advertising?

The U.S. Small Business Administration has a lot of wonderful resources for the small business. There is a very helpful section on their website that addresses this:  Click here.

In creating an advertising and marketing budget, the SBA says: “Because marketing needs and costs vary widely, there are no simple rules for determining what you marketing budget should be. A popular method with small business owners is to allocate a small percentage of gross sales for the most recent year. This usually amounts to about two percent for an existing business. However, if you are planning on launching a new product or business, you may want to increase your marketing budget figure, to as much as 10 percent of your expected gross sales. Another method used by small business owners is to analyze and estimate the competition’s budget and either match or exceed it.”

That information is also available from the SBA: Click here.

So how much will advertising cost you? Perhaps a better question to ask yourself; “How much is NOT advertising costing you?”

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Have you ever said the following: “I tried radio but it didn’t work”? Many business owners have that complaint. The fact is radio is just as effective (if not more effective) as any other advertising medium. The reason a spot (commercial) fails is more often due to one or more of these five mistakes given below.

Mistake One: Phone Numbers.
Especially if more than one are given. Now I understand that if your phone number is the ONLY WAY a customer can possibly do business with you then you must have a phone number in your commercial. But for everyone else – phone numbers are a waste of time, which is something you can’t afford to do with just 30 or 60 seconds of commercial time.

Why? Because most people are listening to their radio in their cars or at work. In both cases trying to remember or even write down a phone number is expecting way too much from the listener. And if, as some advertisers do, you have more than one phone number the listener just isn’t going to bother at all.

The best solution is to not give out your phone number at all, but instead offer a very compelling reason why people should seek your business. They’ll find it if they’re interested. Remember there are many ways to find a business’ phone number… phone books, the internet, even calling the radio station (many stations keep lists of current advertisers handy with contact info).

Mistake Two: Price points.
If you think it’s hard for a radio listener to remember a phone number just try adding a bunch of other numbers. I’ve heard many business owners tell me, “Well so what if they don’t remember the prices? This way they’ll know we have a lot of items on sale!”

The problem here is you are again assuming that the listener cares enough to not totally tune out all those price points. That’s a very dangerous assumption. Do you ever hear the radio personalities reciting lots of numbers or price points when they’re talking (outside of reading commercials)? No. Why? Because they know that the typical radio listener expects to hear clear and concise information. Not a lot of numbers that don’t relate to anything.

You’re better off keeping price points in your print advertising where people can take the time to look over all the information. For radio spend your time giving people compelling reasons to do business with you instead of sale prices.

Mistake Three: Confusing locators (the way you describe where your business is located).
“We’re located just a half mile off Interstate 512 in the Gas-Lamp Strip Mall, 2899 West 333rd Street, with convenient free parking four days a week.”

Again, you’re expecting a lot from your listener.

Don’t do lengthy directions. State your location as simply as possible:
“Downtown at the corner of State and Lake.”
“Just off I-512 at the Big Town Exit”

What about street address numbers?

Unless your address can be seen perfectly from at least a half a block away, don’t use it. Most businesses don’t have street numbers on their doors anyhow or if they do it’s so small you can’t read it until you’re right in front of it.

The best solution for a locator? Direct people to your website. You can insert a Google Map or Yahoo Map locator that can give anyone precise details on how to get from where they are to where you are.

Mistake Four: Too many advertising cliches = Major turnoff.
“Friendly Professional Staff”
“Storewide Savings”
“Number One In Customer Service”
“Dependable and Trustworthy”
“The Best Prices”
“We Will Not Be Undersold”

There are dozens more of these tired cliches. Why are they tired? Because you can hear them in radio commercials right now, and if you were to get in a time machine and go back 50, 60, 70 years you’d hear them in commercials from then. They’re worn out because everyone uses them and to most consumers they’re pretty much meaningless.

If everyone is using them then what makes them special? Nothing. If every business is using them then what sets you apart and helps a listener remember who you are? Nothing.

The old adage from Lenny Bruce says it best: “If you have to tell them you’re hip, you’re not.” That holds true for all of those advertising cliches. There is a basic expectation of service from all businesses that includes most of those above cliches. You can’t be in business without meeting those basics, and everyone knows it.

So why waste your advertising time with it?

Instead give people meaningful (personal) compelling reasons to do business with you. And by personal I mean your customer. What are your best customer’s personal reasons for doing business with you? Find that out and talk about that in your commercials. You’ll be amazed at the difference in response.

Mistake Five: Not being convenient.
I don’t mean in terms of hours or location, though those are definitely factors. But more important, does your radio commercial (or any of your advertising) make it hard for people to get what they want?

“Mention this ad for a free can of cheese whiz”.
“Bring in the coupon from last Sunday’s newspaper”.
“The first 12 people to call in the next five minutes get a five percent discount”.

Making people do extra work to get something is only worthwhile if the payoff is incredible (i.e. “The first caller right now gets one million dollars!”). Very few customers will actually care enough to jump through hoops to get a five percent discount or even a 15 percent discount. But more importantly you’re telling the vast majority of potential customers that they have to do something extra besides just showing up at your store. And most people don’t want that extra hassle. What you should be doing is rewarding them equally for showing up. Remember, your customer is doing you a favor by showing up – not the other way around.

Just offer great values and great service to everyone all the time. Also remember, value doesn’t mean low prices. It means CONVENIENCE. All your customers really care about is how fast you can give them what they want and how nice you are about it. As pointed out in Mistake Four – let your best customers tell your story. Nothing compels people to act more than hearing why other people prefer your business over everyone else.

Article courtesy of John Pellegrini.

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The successful Philadelphia retailer John Wannamaker once said, “I know that half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.”

That feeling of uncertainty about advertising plagues many business people. They know they should advertise, but they don’t really understand the process … so most of them simply end up doing, as one local businessman said recently, “what my father did.”

Regardless of what medium or media you choose – they all have their strengths and weaknesses – there are certain principles that always apply.

Effectiveness is a Combination of Reach and Frequency
“Reach” can be defined as the number of people who hear or see your message over time. “Frequency” is how many times the average person hears or sees your message. Your advertising needs to reach as many people as possible, as often as possible.

Those million-dollar ads you see on the Super Bowl have great reach but lousy frequency. An ad run on the front page of every edition of the Left-Handed Accountants’ Daily (if there were such a thing) would have lousy reach but good frequency.

Research shows that your prospect has to hear or see your message more than three times before they’ll act on it. So you need to make sure that the advertising medium you select has a wide enough audience for your needs, but more importantly, is designed and priced for frequency.

Keep Your Message Simple and Consistent
Many people don’t realize that if they run two or more ads in their schedule, they are reducing their effective frequency. So the best plan, for maximum results, is to run one and only one ad at a time. If you absolutely need to run different copy, have your advertising consultant construct a “shell” that remains the same, with the different copy inserted into that shell. That way the first thing your listener hears or your reader sees is that consistent impression, even though the middle or your ad may vary.

If you are running in more than one medium, you’ll get the maximum impact if your message is the same in all media. You should coordinate the efforts of all your media representatives to make sure that your message is consistent everywhere.

Concentrate Your Advertising
A common advertising mistake is to do too little in too many media. It is better to dominate one medium than to water down results by spreading out your ads.

On the other hand, a “media mix” is a powerful way to get your message to as many people as possible. There is research that shows how you can reduce your investment in one medium without significantly affecting effectiveness – which frees up budget that can be used in another medium. (Our radio marketing consultants have the details on this.)

Test Your Advertising
Most of the time you don’t just throw money down a hole and expect it to work for you … and you shouldn’t do that with advertising, either! Advertising should be an investment, not an expense.

If a friend of yours told you about an investment that produced a guaranteed 50% return – and you could verify it absolutely – you’d scramble to find as much money as you could to put into it. Similarly, if you are getting measurable results from your advertising program and you know how and why, you’ll advertise more!

Smart business people test their ads, their schedules, and their media – but not all at the same time! You need to test only one variable at a time.

How do you test? Well, you don’t test a medium by asking customers to “Mention you heard about it from …” People don’t do that! The best way to test is to run one ad, one schedule, one medium at a time – and see what happens to your traffic and your cash register. (Be sure you understand how much time you need to give the medium and the schedule to work; your advertising representative can help you with this.)

Keep Testing
Once you’ve found the ideal medium or media for your business, understand that things can change over time. Here are some reasons to reopen the issue:

The competitive situation among media has changed (more media competitors, new opportunities, different rates, etc.).
Your “share of voice” on your medium or media has changed (your competitors are advertising more, so your message is cutting through less).

You have saturated the prospects of a given medium (declining traffic is one indicator of this)

Keep Advertising!
There’s an old saying: “A funny thing happens when you don’t advertise – nothing.” If you want your business to grow, you have to get your name and your products or services in front of your customers and prospects – and keep them there.

Even if you just want your business to stay where it is, you need to advertise – because it’s a proven fact that you will lose up to 25% of your customers each year to relocation, competitors or death.

A Brief Commercial
As we’ve said elsewhere, our Radio stations and website are not in the business of “selling ads.” We sincerely want to help you achieve the greatest possible success, and advertising is an important part of that success. We want to work with you in a marketing partnership to suggest proven, creative ways to achieve greater success through advertising. If we mutually determine that we can help you, nobody will work harder to earn and keep your business – and we’ll even suggest complementary media when appropriate.

But if our exploration shows that one or more of our stations are not right for you at this time, we’ll suggest media that are more on target. We’d rather part friends than rope you into something that doesn’t work!

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Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetfulness

In 1885, researcher Thomas Ebbinghaus did a study on people’s ability to retain information. He called the results the “Curve of Forgetfulness.”

Ebbinghaus found that a person forgets 75% of what he or she has learned in the previous week. After three weeks, he/she forgets 90%. After four weeks, he/she forgets 95%.

The Ebbinghaus study is an illustration of retentiveness; the brain retains information it considers important to the individual and “forgets” information not deemed relevant.

In terms of advertising, it is crucial for the advertiser to make the message important enough for the individual to want to retain it and act on it.

—The Arbitron Company, Beyond The Ratings

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One of most stupid, insipid, lame and ineffective phrases you can use in any ad, whether it be Radio, TV or print, is “for all your _______ needs.”  Yet, you hear this phrase everyday in a myriad of ads.  Why?  Because people who write ads are incredibly lazy.  Rather than thinking of something compelling to include in the copy, they just throw in “for all your insurance needs”, “for all your hardware needs”, “for all your concrete repair needs”, or something equally banal.  If you see or hear this phrase in any ad, be aware that the person who wrote it had no idea how to write a proper ad.

Here are some examples of really poorly-written ad copy:

“For all your birth control needs.”
An radio ad for Women’s Health Associates of Southern Nevada, as heard on KSNE-FM in Las Vegas.

“For all your lawn watering needs.”
Radio commercial heard in Oklahoma.

“For all your air conditioning needs.”
An AC contractor in the midwest.  When asked “can you fix the AC on my car?”, he said “No, we don’t work on cars.”  But you said “all my air conditioning needs.”

Stupid Cliche Needs

“Backyard Needs” Anyone?

“For all your sewer and drain cleaning needs.”
Somewhere in Illinois

“Schedule an appointment with GI Associates for all your gastrointestinal needs.”
Print ad for GI Associates & Endosopy Center – Jackson, MS

Stupid Cliche Needs

Seen on a truck in suburban St. Louis

“For all your tobacco needs.”
Sign on tobacco shop at Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

Stupid Cliche Needs

Sign at the pool shop at Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

“For your banking needs.”
Radio ad for Bancorp South in Mississippi

“For all your asphalt needs.”
Sign for M&K Asphalt Sealing in Kentucky

“For all of your commercial kitchen needs.”
Radio ad in Las Vegas.  (How many of us have commercial kitchen needs?)

Stupid Cliche Needs

Just last week, I was asking my neighbor “who can I call for all my farm needs?”  And what the hell is “poroceesing?”

“Your one stop stop for your printing and marketing needs.”
National radio ad for Staples.  Obviously written by an ad agency that doesn’t know how to write compelling copy.  “One stop shop” is also meaningless drivel).

“For all your scrap metal recycling needs.”
TV commercial for Longhorn Recycling – San Antonio, TX

“We can handle all your appliance needs.”
Radio ad for appliance store in Greenville, MS

Stupid Cliche Needs

“For all your storage needs.”
Radio ad for a storage facility in Las Vegas

“For all your eye care needs.”
Sign at Delta Eye Care – Indianola, MS

“The UPS store has all your moving needs.”
Radio ad for UPS Store in Las Vegas.

“Visit to learn how Duke Medicine can meet all of yourhealthcare needs.”
Letter to patient from Duke Medical Center

Stupid Cliche Needs

“For all your advertising needs.”  OK, but what if your “advertising needs” include Radio, TV, or billboards.  Can she handle that too?

Stupid Cliche Needs

Have any irrigation needs?  Don’t we all?  If so, this is the place to call…

If you run across any others, feel free to send them to us at

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There are plenty of reasons to not advertise. Here are some of our “favorite” excuses for not engaging in an effective, consistent marketing campaign. If you’ve ever found yourself using any of these excuses to avoid promoting your business, you’re missing out on the opportunity for increased traffic, increased sales and increased profits.

Everybody knows me. I don’t need to advertise.
Really? There are new people moving to town every week, plus plenty of visitors. Just because you’ve been on the same corner since 1972 is meaningless to newcomers. A successful business reaches out to new customers on an ongoing basis. Without new customers, even long-established businesses eventually die.

I don’t advertise. Word-of-mouth is all I need.
Word-of-mouth is one of the most ineffective forms of advertising there is. First of all, you can’t control it. You don’t know what’s being said and to whom. Plus, word-of-mouth is usually negative. People who have an acceptable business transaction with you likely tell few, if any, other people. Those who have a bad experience tell everyone they know. Relying solely on word-of-mouth is a serious marketing mistake!

Business is great. I don’t need to advertise.
That’s great, for now. But why wait until things slow down to seek out new customers. Effective advertising keeps potential new customers “in the pipeline.”

Business is too slow. I can’t afford to advertise.
And business will stay slow if you don’t. Advertising is nothing more than inviting people to do business with you. If things are slow, you need to be inviting more people to your store.

I tried Radio before and it didn’t work.
If your offer was weak, chances are your results were too. People respond to the need, not the ad. Or perhaps you advertised on a station that didn’t reach your target demographic or you didn’t have enough frequency to be effective. Radio works!

I don’t listen to your station.
But many of your customers and potential customers do. Advertising is like going fishing – do you bait your hook with what you like, or with what the fish like?

I don’t do Radio advertising.
It’s foolish to overlook an entire medium because of some silly preconceived notion. Radio works! And with the right offer and enough frequency, Radio can produce results unmatchedby any other media. If you exclude Radio from your marketing plans, you’re missing out.

Nobody ever tells me they hear my Radio ads.
Because people respond to the need, not the ad. If they need a new refrigerator and they hear an ad for an appliance store, they respond by checking out your refrigerator selection. They DON’T come in and say “hey, I heard your ad for refrigerators.”

Your rates are too high.
Radio stations charge different rates, based on many factors. But a 30-second ad on Station A is not equivalent to a 30-second Station B. You can buy a $1 hamburger at Burger King or an $8.00 hamburger at an expensive restaurant. Both hamburgers, but there is a difference.

I have to talk it over with my wife/partner/CPA/psychic/grandmother.
Every day you’re not advertising is a missed opportunity for more business. While you procrastinate, your competitors are going after your customers.

I don’t have any competition.
Wrong! No matter what you’re selling, you’re competing with every cash register in town, plus online competitors and competitors in nearby towns. Effective advertising motivates customers to come to your store.