Small Business Tips: How To Put Your Advertisement On Television (With Cost Estimates)

Information and tips on placing your company's advertisement on television.

You own a small business and you've finally decided that money spent on marketing isn't necessarily money wasted. After all, you might have the best widgets or wedding cakes in the world, but it doesn't matter if nobody besides you and your family knows about them. After some research, you have decided that the power of television is the right advertising medium for your business. Now what?

Simply deciding on a marketing vehicle isn't enough to insure that your hard-earned dollars are well spent and will grow your business ten-fold. Now you've got to be sure that you're buying the best television advertising for your company's needs. You've also got to be sure that the message that you send out will interest people and compel them to buy your product or services, instead of your competitor's.

The cost to produce your advertisement can vary greatly. In a small TV market, a simple spot can cost a few hundred dollars, while companies in major metropolitan areas spend tens of thousands on one 30 second commercial. Each is decided by their market and by the audience they're trying to reach.

Here are a few points to consider for your commercial. You've got about 3-5 seconds until a viewer decides if they'll watch your ad or change the channel. Keep it interesting. Don't try to put too much in the spot. Typically, the commercial's job is just to get them in the store or on the phone. From there, it's up to you. You don't have to have amazing special effects or highly paid celebrities for an effective spot. Information people want, presented in a non-boring manner will suffice. Lastly, in considering how much to spend for the production, remember that the spot is actually you in the eyes of the public. If it looks weak, you'll look weak. Watch the commercials on the advertising medium you've chosen and judge honestly how your spot will stack up against the other ads. If you think it'll look cheap, spend a few more dollars to upgrade the spot. This might be the only chance you have to get your message to these viewers.

Where to place your advertisement is the next thing to decide. There's national network advertising, local broadcast television stations, cable companies that insert local commercials on some of their networks, and other marketing options. Let's look at some of the choices.

The cost associated with major network television advertising makes it impossible to consider. After all, you're a small business and a million-plus dollar spot during the Super Bowl doesn't seem realistic. Let's focus on local and regional media outlets to place your ad on.

Broadcast television stations either in your town or in the neighboring vicinity offer a great way to reach many people at one time. A spot can be run during the evening news, while Jeopardy's on, or during the prime-time hours. You need to determine whom you want to reach and where they live. For example, most broadcast TV station's signals will reach houses 35 to 50 miles away. If you own the only Toyota dealership within a hundred miles, you'd probably be interested in having the people living in even the farthest corners of the signal's reach see your ad. But if you ran one of the 50 pizza shops in the area, you might not be willing to pay extra money to have people 30 miles away see your commercial. If people typically won't drive that far to buy your pizza, don't spend money trying to sell pizza to them. This concept refers to a station's REACH. In advertising terms, reach means how many different people will see your ad, whether they're potential customers or not. In other words, if the spot broadcasts out further, more new people have a chance to see it. Reach is one of broadcast television's biggest strengths.

Two additional benefits that broadcast TV brings to your ad are popularity and credibility. The programs that NBC, CBS, ABC & Fox make available for their affiliates are still the most watched shows on any given week. While cable, DVD's and the computer have eroded the audience substantially, the numbers of people who tune into the top major network programs every week are staggering. In addition, a spot seen on the local TV station still carries some additional status with it, and that sometimes carries through to your business.

Most cable companies also sell local advertising on the cable networks, like ESPN, CNN, Lifetime, Discovery, etc. Most cable systems, however, don't serve the sparsely populated portions of a region, and cable penetration rates (Homes served out of homes passed) are still only between 60-70%. This means your ad gets into fewer homes and less people have a chance to see it. This is still OK, if the cable goes where most of your customers are going to come from, because it also means that the cost per commercial is usually a good bit less expensive. Less money per spot means you can afford to buy more spots with the same money. This increases your ad's FREQUENCY. Frequency is the number of times that a commercial will be played. This is cable's biggest advertising strength.



Another advertising vehicle to consider would be special programming of strong local interest. If the town is rallying around the local high school football team on its march to the state playoffs and the cable company is going to televise the game, this might be a great place to buy advertising. With enough interest, lots of people will be watching, and the people that see the ad will feel very positive about your company, as you support the local community. Just be sure not to put all of your eggs in this basket, though, as this strategy seldom gets you large numbers of new clients.

There are two very important words in the preceding paragraphs. They are reach and frequency. As you attempt to purchase the time for your commercial, the advertising salespeople might use these terms, and several others, a great deal. Reach and frequency are the terms most to be considered when buying television time. Simply stated, they tell you who and how many people will see your ad, and how often. The other key thought to keep in mind would be to TARGET your audience. For example, if you run an interior design shop, you should consider placing your ad in some of the home re-decorating programs instead of on a more popular sports program. More people might see your spot in the sports program, but if they're not likely to utilize your services, who cares?

In order to get your commercial on television, you'll have to deal with an Account Executive at the station or cable company. This is a salesperson with specialized skills and insight into the numbers that tell us who is watching what. A good account executive can help you a great deal in placing your spot properly, as they will have information that you might not. A word of caution, however. They are paid on commission and sometimes have specific inventory (advertising time) that they need to push. A good salesperson will see you not just as some money now, but will try to forge a relationship with you so that you'll place advertising with them for years to come. They will learn about you, your business, and your competitors. Be suspicious of a salesperson who knows what you need before they know you. Also, use common sense. You watch TV, your friends watch TV, and most importantly, your customers watch TV. Ask them what they watch and use this common sense information when reaching your final decision.

It will be in your best interest to contact more than one company for your advertising. This will help you understand your market's price scale and will give you some negotiating strength. Yes, you should negotiate the rate you pay for your advertising. Rarely will the first price be the lowest possible rate for the spots. Also, if your budget allows, you should try to get your commercial placed with more than one company.

To summarize: Determine who you're trying to reach and how far your ad needs to realistically go, and know how much you can afford to put towards this marketing effort. Call as many different outlets for your commercial as you can, and use their expertise. Find out whom you feel you can trust, and use your own common sense in your final decision.

The cost for television advertising varies greatly and depends upon factors such as market size, ratings, time of day, and available inventory. Some spots can cost as little as ten dollars, while others cost thousands. Don't let this scare you, though. You can get bargains if you're willing to do a little legwork and not just buy what the first salesperson puts together because you don't have the time.

In a small market, you'll need to spend at least a few hundred dollars a month on the commercial time in order to have any real impact. Also, don't think of this as an "I'll try it once and see if it works" proposition. You should try at least two or three months of advertising before you assess its impact. Your message needs to be seen time and again to settle into people's brains.

For a medium-sized market (TV market 100 and smaller) you should use six or seven hundred dollars a month as a minimum number. In a larger market, you'll need at least a thousand dollars per month to even consider getting your ad on television, and that would probably be very low rated programming.

These figures are based upon buying enough advertising to get a small impact. Spend less and you're probably just wasting your money. Realistically, you should double the above figures for each market size for a real starting point. Of course, there are exceptions to this, so don't be shy about asking if can't afford more. You just might fall into the most perfect, inexpensive and effective advertising vehicle ever.

The average household has the TV on about eight hours a day. People tend to believe what they see on television, and with sight, sound and motion, it is a very powerful medium to bring your message to potential customers. With some work, enough money, a little help, and a lot of common sense, your business can take advantage of this opportunity and seize the chance for growth.

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