Advertising a Small Business

by Edmond A. Bruneau

Table of Contents

Buy My
Book Too


A wise man once said, "The person who saves money by not advertising is like the man who stops the clock to save time." In today's fast-paced, high-tech age, businesses have to use some form of advertising to make prospects aware of their products and services.

Even a famous company like Coca-Cola continually spends money on advertising to support recognition of their products. In 1993, Coca-Cola spent more than $150 million to keep its name in the forefront of the public's eye. So the question isn't whether or not you can afford to advertise, you simply must if you want your business to succeed.

Some questions you should consider before buying ads are:

1. What media is the best to use?

2. How important is creativity?

3. Is there a way to buy space and time that will stretch my advertising budget?

When it comes to advertising, a lot of people really don't know what they want, where to get it or what to do with it after they have it. This publication will help you learn to determine what type of advertising media is best for you, and learn to identify guidelines you can use to obtain the advertising exposure you need. It will help you identify ways to make your advertising more cost efficient.

Advertising is an investment in your business's future. And like any investment, it's important to find out as much as you can before you make a decision. You'll be able to use this publication as a reliable reference tool often in the months and years to come.


Every advertising medium has characteristics that give it natural advantages and limitations. As you look through your newspaper(s), you'll notice some businesses that advertise regularly. Observe who they are and how they advertise their products and services. More than likely, their advertising investment is working if it's selling!

Some Advantages in Newspaper Advertising

Almost every home in the United States receives a newspaper, either by newsstand or home delivery. Reading the newspaper is a habit for most families. And, there is something for everybody-- sports, comics, crosswords, news, classifieds, etc. You can reach certain types of people by placing your ad in different sections of the paper. People expect advertising in the newspaper. In fact, many people buy the paper just to read the ads from the supermarket, movies or department stores.

Unlike advertising on TV and radio, advertising in the newspaper can be examined at your leisure. A newspaper ad can contain details, such as prices and telephone numbers or coupons.

There are many advantages to advertising in the newspaper. From the advertiser's point-of-view, newspaper advertising can be convenient because production changes can be made quickly, if necessary, and you can often insert a new advertisement on short notice. Another advantage is the large variety of ad sizes newspaper advertising offers. Even though you may not have a lot of money in your budget, you can still place a series of small ads, without making a sacrifice.

Some Disadvantages with Newspaper Advertising

Advertising in the newspaper offers many advantages, but it is not without its inherent disadvantages, such as:

  1. Newspapers usually are read once and stay in the house for just a day.
  2. The print quality of newspapers isn't always the best, especially for photographs. So use simple artwork and line drawings for best results.
  3. The page size of a newspaper is fairly large and small ads can look minuscule.
  4. Your ad has to compete with other ads for the reader's attention.
  5. You're not assured that every person who gets the newspaper will read your ad. They may not read the section you advertised in, or they may simply have skipped the page because there wasn't any interesting news on it.

How Should I Work with my Newspaper Representative?

Every newspaper has its own sales staff, and you're normally appointed your personal newspaper "Sales Representative." A newspaper sales rep can be very helpful. He or she can keep you posted on special sections or promotions that may apply to your business, but always keep in mind it is the sales rep's job to sell you advertising.

Your sales rep might say that the newspaper can layout any of your ads, pre-prepared or not. But these ads are assembly line products and are not often very creative or eye-catching. Consider using an artist or agency for your ads.

In addition, your sales rep can sometimes be instrumental in making sure your story or upcoming announcement "finds" the right reporter because the relationship between the advertising and editorial staff is chummier than most people think, even though they claim total anonymity.

Buying Newspaper Advertising Space

Since the Expanded Standard Advertising Unit System was adopted back in 1984, it is now easier to buy advertising space in newspapers. Advertising is sold by column and inch, instead of just line rates. You can determine the size ad you want just by looking in the newspaper in which you want to advertise. If you can't locate an ad that's the size you want, just measure the columns across and the inches down. For example, an ad that measures 3 columns across and 7 inches down would be a 21 inch ad. If the inch rate is $45.67, your ad would cost $959.07. In case your newspaper is still on the line rate system, remember there are 14 lines to an inch. So, if the line rate is $3.75, multiply it by 14 and you will have the cost of an inch rate. (the rate would be $45.50 an inch.)

Here are some other things to remember:

  1. Newspaper circulation drops on Saturdays and increases on Sundays, which is also the day a newspaper is read most thoroughly.
  2. Position is important, so specify in what section you want your ad to appear. Sometimes there's a surcharge for exact position...but don't be afraid to pay for it if you need it.
  3. Request an outside position for ads that have coupons. That makes them easier to cut out.
  4. If a newspaper is delivered twice daily (morning/evening), it often offers "combination" rates or discounts for advertising in both papers, You usually can reach more readers, so this kind of advertising may be something to consider.

Other important tips to remember are:

Always make sure you are satisfied with what your advertising says and how it looks before it goes to print.


Many of the same "print" type principles which apply to newspaper advertising also apply to magazine advertising. The biggest differences are:

The general rule that you can run the same ad 3-5 times within a campaign period before its appeal lessens applies to magazine advertising as well, even with a monthly publication. So it makes sense to spend extra time and money to prepare a worthwhile ad that can be successfully repeated.

Over long terms such as these, however, be aware that the client (you) often tire of the ad before the audience does.

Because ads in magazines are not immediate, they take more planning. Often, an ad for a monthly magazine must be prepared at least a month in advance of publication, so ads detailing prices and items have to be carefully crafted to insure accuracy.

Since the quality of the magazines are superior, the advertising that you generate must be superior as well. Negatives are usually required instead of prints or "PMTs" (photo-mechanical transfers). Consider getting assistance from a graphic artist or an advertising agency.

There are two categories of magazines: trade magazines and consumer magazines. Trade magazines are publications that go to certain types of businesses, services and industries. Consumer magazines are generally the kind you find on the average news stand. Investigate which type would do your business the most good.

An agency can also purchase the magazine space for you, often at no charge, because the magazine pays the agency a commission directly. If you wish to purchase the advertising yourself, contact the magazine directly and ask for an "Ad Kit" or "Media Package." They will send you a folder that includes demographic information, reach information, a current rate card and a sample of the publication.

Although most magazines are national in nature, many have regional advertising sections that allow your business to look like it purchased a national ad when it only went to a certain geographical area. This can be especially useful if your product or service is regional in nature as well and could not benefit from the magazines complete readership. Each magazine does this differently, so contact the one(s) you are interested in and ask them about their geographic editions. Some sophisticated magazines even have demographic editions available, which might also be advantageous.


Since its inception, radio has become an integral part of American culture. In some way, it touches the lives of almost everyone, every day. Radio, as a medium, offers a form of entertainment that attracts listeners while they are working, traveling, relaxing or doing almost anything. A farmer, for example, may listen to the radio while he is having breakfast or plowing his field. People driving to work often listen to the radio. Radio offers information such as: news, weather reports, traffic conditions, advertising and music for your listening pleasure.

What Are Some of the Good Things About Radio?

Radio is a relatively inexpensive way of reaching people. It has often been called the "theater of the mind" because voices or sounds can be used to create moods or images that if crested by visual effects would be impossible to afford.

You can also negotiate rates for your commercials, or even barter. Stations are often looking for prizes they can give away to listeners, so it's possible to get full commercial credit for the product or service you offer. Advantages to radio advertising include:

What are Some Limitations to Radio Advertising?

Radio advertising is not without its disadvantages too, such as:

One of the most popular times to reach people is during Drive Times (from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) It's called that because most people are going to or from work during this period, and because most people listen to their radio when they drive. Unfortunately, radio stations know that this is a favorite time to advertise, so commercial costs are much higher during this time.

How Should I Buy Time on the Radio?

Like a newspaper, each radio station has its own advertising staff. Each wants you to believe that their station is the absolute best buy for your money...and many will go to great lengths to prove it. But if you've done your research, or you are using an advertising agency, you probably have a good idea of the station you want to buy time on and when. If you don't know which stations you want to use, ask each station for its own research, that is, the type of programming, musical format, geographic reach, number of listeners and station ratings.

By getting the station ratings and the number of people it reaches, you can figure out the cost-per-thousand people (CPM) by simply dividing the cost of a commercial by the thousands of people you are reaching.


Example Cost of commercial = $35.00 Audience reached = 45,000 people Cost of commercial per 1000 people = 35/45 = $0.78 per 1000

Without getting complicated, here are two cardinal rules for radio advertising:

1. It's better to advertise when people are listening than when they are not.

2. It's better to bunch your commercials together than to spread them apart.

A lot of radio sales reps will try to talk you out of advertising during specific times. They'll offer you a reduced rate called TAP (Total Audience Plan) that splits your advertising time into 1/3 drive, 1/3 mid-day and 1/3 night. This may sound like a good deal, but airing commercials during times when your audience isn't listening is bad advertising. If however, you are sponsoring a show such as Paul Harvey or the Morning Farm Report, it makes sense to advertise once or twice a day on a regular basis, since those programs have regular listenership. Frequency is a vital element for effective radio advertising.

Since you can't automatically recall the radio commercial and hear it again, you may have to hear the same commercial two, four, or maybe six times before the message sinks in. If you missed the address the first time, you consciously or subconsciously are hoping the commercial will be aired again so you can get the information you need. That's the way radio advertising works. And that's also the way you buy it.

Most of the time, radio advertising should be bought in chunks. High frequency over a short period of time is much more effective than low frequency over a longer period of time. It's important for your audience to hear your spot again to get more information out of it. For example, if you wanted to advertise a two week campaign and you could afford 42 radio commercials, the following buy would serve you well: On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, place three spots between 7-9 a.m. and four spots between 3-6 p.m. for two weeks. Notice that both day and hour periods are concentrated.

By advertising in concentrated areas in tight day groups, you seem larger than you really are. And people hearing your concentrated campaign for two or three days will think you're on all the time. The radio sales reps may try to sell you three spots everyday on the station for 14 days (a total of 42 spots). But your campaign won't be nearly as effective.

Here are a few tips to help you plan your commercials:

  1. If you're including your address in the commercial, simplify it. Instead of "134525 East Pines," say "at the corner of First & Pines, next to Gumbies." It's easier to remember.
  2. Don't use phone numbers in your commercial. If you have to mention your phone number, refer to the Yellow Pages in the local phone book.
  3. Radio works better when you combine it with other advertising media.
  4. Check out the price differences between 60-second and 30-second commercials. Normally, 30-second commercials are only 1/3 less than 60's, which makes a 60-second commercial a better buy.
  5. Be creative with your radio advertising, too. If it sounds like all the rest of the commercials, it won't stand out. Your message won't be heard nearly as well. Advertising agencies are usually quite good at producing creative radio commercials.

If you decide to write your own radio scripts, remember these basic copy writing rules:


Television is often called "king" of the advertising media, since a majority of people spend more hours watching TV per day than any other medium. It combines the use of sight, color, sound and motion...and it works. TV has proven its persuasive power in influencing human behavior time and time again. But it's also the "king" of advertising costs.

Advantages in Television Advertising

Television reaches very large audiences-audiences that are usually larger than the audience your city's newspaper reaches. The area that a television station's broadcast signal covers is called A.D.I., which stands for "Area of Dominant Influence."

Some advantages of television advertising include the following:

  1. Advertising on television can give a product or service instant validity and prominence.
  2. You can easily reach the audiences you have targeted by advertising on TV. Children can be reached during cartoon programming, farmers during the morning agricultural reports and housewives during the afternoon soap operas. A special documentary on energy sources for heating homes and business will also attract viewers interested in heating alternatives.
  3. TV offers the greatest possibility for creative advertising. With a camera, you can take your audience anywhere and show them almost anything.
  4. Since there are fewer television stations than radio stations in a given area, each TV audience is divided into much larger segments, which enables you to reach a larger, yet, more diverse audience.

Disadvantages in Television Advertising

Because TV has such a larger A.D.I., the stations can charge more for commercials based on the larger number of viewers reached. The cost of television commercial time is based on two variables:

  1. The number of viewers who watch the program.
  2. The time during the day the program airs.

One 30 second television commercial during prime time viewing (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) can cost 10 to 30 times more than one radio spot during drive time (which is considered prime listening time).

While the newspaper may cover the city's general metropolitan area, TV may cover a good portion of the state where you live. If such a coverage blankets most of your sales territory, TV advertising may be the best advertising alternative for your business.

Producing a commercial is also an important variable to consider. On the whole, television audiences have become more sophisticated and have come to expect quality commercials. A poorly produced commercial could severely limit the effectiveness of your message, and may even create a bad image in your customer's mind.

Advertising agencies or TV commercial production facilities are the best organizations for creating a commercial that will be effective for the goods or service you are offering. But the cost of a well-produced commercial is often more expensive than people think. Some TV stations will claim they can put together commercials for "almost nothing." Before agreeing to this, find out what "almost nothing" means. Then, determine if the commercial quality and content they are proposing will represent your firm's image.

Many companies use the station's commercial production facilities for creating "tag lines" on pre-produced commercials. Often, the station will help you personalize the spot for little or no cost...if you advertise with them. Remember, more than anything else, when it comes to making a TV commercial, you get what you pay for. And when you're buying commercial time for one 30-second TV spot costing from $600 to $1,200, it makes sense to have the best sales presentation possible.

Remember, like radio, the message comes and goes...and that's it. The viewer doesn't see your commercial again unless you buy more placements.

Creativity: A Vital Element

When you advertise on TV, your commercial is not only competing with other commercials, it's also competing with the other elements in the viewer's environment as well.

The viewer may choose to get a snack during the commercial break, go to the bathroom or have a conversation about what they just saw on the show they were viewing. Even if your commercial is being aired, viewers may never see it unless it is creative enough to capture their attention. That's why it's so important to consider the kind of commercial you are going to create...and how you want your audience to be affected. Spending money on a good commercial in the beginning will pay dividends in the end.

Don't Use TV Unless Your Budget Allows

Attempting to use TV advertising by using a poorly-produced commercial; buying inexpensive late night commercial time that few people watch; or just placing your commercial a couple times on the air will guarantee disappointing results. To obtain positive results from TV advertising you must have enough money in your budget to:

  1. Pay for the cost of producing a good TV commercial (today costs range from $2,500 to $20,000 and above).
  2. Pay for effective commercial time that will reach your viewer at least 5-7 times.

Properly done, television advertising is the most effective medium there is. But it is big league advertising...and you shouldn't attempt it unless you have enough money in your budget to do it right.

If you're still attracted to TV, it's a good idea to call in an advertising agency for production and media buying estimates. Then, figure out what sales results you can expect. With such data, you should be able to reach a logical advertising decision.

Buying Television Advertising Time

There are many things to know and consider before buying a TV programming schedule. That's why, in most cases, using an advertising agency or a media buying service is recommended when advertising on TV. If these services are unavailable, find a TV representative that you can trust. Your agency or representative can help you select the programs you should advertise on in order to reach your market. Also, ask about "fringe" time, adjacencies and package plans.

When you are engineering your schedule, remember that repetition (or frequency) is a very important ingredient to use. Make sure your audience sees your commercial with the context of the programs you're buying. Ask for a commercial affidavit. Normally, it doesn't cost any more and the station will provide you with a list of the exact times your commercial was run.

Other Considerations

For an effective and inexpensive way to get your message on the TV screen, consider using pre-prepared TV commercials that may be available to you through a manufacture or distributor you deal with. You can add your name and logo to the end of the commercial for little or no cost. Look at cooperative advertising too. Many companies offer prepared advertising materials you can use and at the same time may pay for a portion of the advertising schedule.


Cable advertising is a lower cost alternative to advertising on broadcast television. It has many of the same qualities as broadcast television, and in fact, since it offers more programming, it's even easier to reach a designated audience.

The trouble with cable is it doesn't reach everyone in the market area, since the signal has to be wired instead of broadcast, and also because not everyone subscribes to cable.

If cable does reach a large part of your market, have an advertising agency investigate its cost or call the cable company's advertising sales department. Chances are the commercial time will be 10 to 20 percent of the costs of regular broadcast time.


Telephone book advertising is another way to reach your market area. It allows you to place your business listing or ad in selected classifications within the book, with the theory being that when people need your product or service, they look up the classification and contact you.

Much of the "sell" copy for a product or service, therefore, does not have to be in your ad content, since the people who have looked up your classification are already in the market to buy. The thing to be aware of when you write the ad is the other firms' ads within your classification. In other words, why should the reader select your firm over your competition? That is the crucial question -- and your ad should provide the answer.

Telephone Yellow Pages salespeople often employ the technique of selling as large of ad as they can to one company, then showing the other companies in the same classification what the one company is doing so that they can match it or beat it. This is not the best criteria for determining ad size, but is definitely good for the ad salesperson.

To determine the size you should use, consider the following:

Do something unique or different. If no one else is using color, use color. Even shades of gray can make an ad look better and more appealing.

Advantages of Yellow Pages Advertising

Disadvantages of Yellow Pages Advertising

If you require more than one classification, your Yellow Pages representative often has packages and programs that can save you some money. In addition, the same is often true if you need to be advertising in more than one city or market.

Yellow Pages advertising is an important medium to consider in our fast-paced, information-hungry society. People really do let their "fingers do the walking" instead of driving around blindly. Make sure your Yellow Pages ad is attractive and informative enough to be the one or two businesses the prospect actually does select to call. And then make sure you have the resources to deal with the inquiry. After all, there is nothing more annoying than being put "on-hold" by a busy checker or being served by an uninterested or unknowledgeable employee.


When people think of Outdoor Advertising, they usually think of the colorful billboards along our streets and highways. Included in the "outdoor" classification, however, are benches, posters, signs and transit advertising (the advertising on buses, subways, taxicabs and trains). They are all share similar advertising rules and methods.

Outdoor advertising reaches its audience as an element of the environment. Unlike newspaper, radio or TV, it doesn't have to be invited into the home. And it doesn't provide entertainment to sustain its audience.

Some Outdoor Advantages

Some Outdoor Disadvantages

When you buy outdoor advertising, remember that location is everything. High traffic areas are ideal. A billboard in an undesirable area will do you little good. Keep your message concise (use only five to seven words) and make it creatively appealing to attract readership. Few words, large illustrations (or photos), bold colors and simple backgrounds will create the most effective outdoor advertising messages.


What makes "direct" mail different than regular mail? Nothing. It's just a way the advertising world describes a promotional message that circumvents traditional media (newspaper, radio, TV) and appeals directly to an individual consumer. Usually through the mail, but other carriers also participate.

Direct mail may be used more than you think. Studies indicate that it is the third largest media expenditure behind television and newspaper.

Rules to Remember

The blessing (or curse) of direct mail is that there are no set rules for form or content. The task of deciding what your mailing should have as content, its design and its message(s) is up to you. However, remember to attract the reader's attention with color and creativity. Use clear, comfortable writing and make your appeal easy to respond.

And of course, coordinate the mailing with other advertising media if you are also using them in the same campaign. It can significantly increase the potential return.


"Giveaways" -- the pencils, pens, buttons, calendars and refrigerator magnets you see everyday -- are called "Specialty Advertising" in the advertising business.

Chances are, you have some specialty advertising items right at your desk. Businesses imprint their name on items and give them away (or sometimes sell them at very low cost) in order that:

These are both long-term advertising investments that can take months or years to turn into actual sales.

First, select the best item that would tell your story most effectively. While an accountant can give away an inexpensive calculator, the same item may not be ideal for a hairdresser. A comb or brush might be more appropriate in that case.

Second, decide what you are going to say on the item. A company slogan? Address directions? Since you have a relatively small area, you must be very concise and direct.

Third, figure out your method of distribution. Are you going to send them to each customer through the mail? If so, how much will that cost? Will you have them in a big bowl that says "take one"? Distribution is just as important to consider as buying the item.

Just as there are many reputable specialty advertising professionals in your area, the industry is notorious with a lot of high-pressure telephone and mail solicitors who often give specialty advertising a bad name. Don't buy specialty advertising through the mail without checking the quality and prices with trusted local representatives first. And, buying specialty advertising over the telephone is not recommended at all.

Specialty advertising is a unique way to generate goodwill and put your name on items that people remember. But don't do it unless you have an item and distribution plan that will benefit your business.


There is no one -- sure-fire -- best way to advertise your product or service. It is important to explore the various advertising media and select those which will most effectively convey your message to your customers in a cost-efficient manner.

Always remember, advertising is an investment in the future of your business.

About the Author

Edmond A. Bruneau is the owner of Creative Consultants in Spokane, Washington, and author of the book, Prescription for Advertising.

Tell others about
this page:

facebook twitter reddit google+

Comments? Questions? Email Here


How to Advice .com
  1. Uncensored Trump
  2. Addiction Recovery
  3. Hospice Foundation
  4. Flat Earth Awareness
  5. Oil Painting Prints
Send us Feedback about