10/22/2012 06:58 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2012

Music, News and Talk = Money

"Mommy, you know this guy?" asked my 7 year-old daughter Delanie as she heard me comment on Tony Robbin's new radio commercial.

"I sure do," was my response as I went back to telling my husband the story of a recent speaking engagement in Los Angeles. I was explaining how eclectic the presenter line-up was that day. I went on stage right after Tony and somewhere in the middle of the day was Paula Abdul.

But before I could finish my story, my son, Connor, chimed in with, "Well, why don't you do a radio commercial for Working Moms Only?"

That one small statement turned our three-hour drive up to Disney into a brainstorming session on wheels.

An Oldie but Goodie

After all, many companies have used radio ads to transform their businesses. Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs and marketing professionals don't try it because they think it is beyond their reach.

Or they try it once... and if it doesn't produce the expected results that first time, they give up on the entire channel.

That's too bad. Radio advertising can be a great marketing tool. It is especially useful in helping entrepreneurs reach specific demographic segments of the general population.

The cost of advertising on the radio varies, depending on the region, the reach and popularity of the radio station (its market share), the time of day, the length of the ad, how many times a day the ad is run, and other factors. But remember that cost isn't everything. Like every other marketing channel, what matters most is return on investment -- your ROI.

Therefore, you have to do your research and keep track of all the testing you do with radio advertising. Only then will you know if it is a cost-effective way to bring in customers. You also need to determine how radio fits in with your product and the other marketing channels you are using.

But before you do anything, review the checklist below to make sure you get the most out of your radio campaigns and give yourself the greatest chance of success.

Step 1. Determine Your Target Market: Figure out exactly who buys your product. What are your customers' interests and spending habits? What do they like about your product? Through which marketing channels can you reach them? This is a no-brainer, but many companies forget this step.

Step 2. Ask Your Fellow Businesspeople About Their Experiences: If you are thinking about getting involved in radio advertising, talk to some of your friends in the business about the experiences they've had. Seek out their advice. Learn from their mistakes. Build on their successes.

Step 3. Hire a Pro: If you aren't experienced in radio advertising, hire a consultant (or consultants) to walk you through the process of creating and producing an ad that will resonate with your customers. Consultants will help you write scripts, record in a professional setting, choose a proper format, and so on. Besides being money down the drain, a badly produced ad could do a lot of harm to your company image.

Step 4. The Voice of Your Product: Many times, a business owner or entrepreneur will lend their own talent and voice to their radio commercials. If the thought of being in an ad alarms you, don't worry. Just hire someone. Voice talent is easy to find. Your consultant or the radio station will be able to help you.

Step 5. Get Bids From Different Radio Stations: Once you've created an ad, don't just run it on the first radio station that pops into your head. Check out all the stations that serve your target market. Let them know you are interested in buying airtime -- and then make them work to get your business. Ask for proof of their effectiveness in reaching your potential customers, a recommendation for how often your ad should run (this varies depending on your demographic), and proposed costs. All this information should help you make an informed decision.

Step 6. Check Out Sponsorships: Consider sponsoring news reports or the weather -- perhaps with a short intro like this: "This Storm Tracker report brought to you by [Your Company]," followed by a quick mention of your website or 800 number.

Step 7. Remnant Space -- a Low-Cost Opportunity: Remnant space is airtime that hasn't yet been sold to advertisers. The closer they get to the air date without advertising, the more nervous radio stations get that they won't make any money on that time. So they start offering discounts -- as high as 75 percent -- to advertisers willing to step in. That's your chance to save a lot of money.


It may be hard for today's "electronic generation" -- accustomed to iPhones, iPads, big-screen TVs, VHS/DVD players, computers, MP3 music players, PDAs, digital cameras, camcorders, and the like to imagine it, but when radio was introduced to the world, it had as profound an impact as the Internet did in the 1990s.

Communication changed. The relationships between countries and cultures changed. People and places were linked. The spread of information was not limited by the speed of a boat or train. News traveled at the speed of sound. Physical barriers and large distances no longer posed an obstacle.

And don't forget, many places in the world still don't have regular access to the Internet or even television. But radio is a constant presence, even in remote areas. For many people, it is their lifeline to the world and, thus, radio advertisers have a captive audience.

That's why, even today, radio is a vital part of many companies' multi-channel marketing approach, as viable as any other format or channel. With radio, you will reach those customers who may never turn on a computer and who don't read newspapers or magazines. That said, radio is not appropriate for every business, just as email marketing or direct mail might not work for everyone.

But that's the beauty of multi-channel marketing. You do your research and testing... find the mix of advertising formats that works for you... and go with it!