Radio Advertising Strategies that WORK FAST!

  • Comments: 11
  • Written on: January 29th, 2009

I have had a ton of success using radio (AM and FM) and I prefer it over all other mediums for dominating a local marketplace.

Over the past 10 years I have learned what works, what doesn’t work, and what you can do to leverage your relationship with a radio station to gain the maximum exposure for the least expenditure.

If you do things right, you can penetrate a market quickly and effectively.  If you don’t, you can always blame the bad economy for your failure 🙂

Here are some surefire radio advertising strategies that can transform the fate of your business in weeks – not months and leave your competition wondering how you do it.

Define Your Campaign Goals

Before you start a radio campaign, you need to have simple, straightforward, and measurable goal. It is not enough to say “I want a commercial that will bring in customers.”

Before you write your commercial, tune in and listen to some other commercials.  Notice how they all ask you to take a specific action?  To have a successful commercial you need to know what SPECIFIC action you want your customer to take.  Do you want a phone call, a visit, a hit on your website – be specific.

Have a Simple Message

Keep your message simple.  You don’t have time to be complicated, cute, or tricky.  Your commercial should:

  • Talk about Benefits – not Features
  • Show Undeniable Value
  • Ask the listener to take an action

If you think you can do more than that and still have a good commercial you are kidding yourself.  These three things are a LOT to get done in :30 seconds.  Here’s an example of a radio commercial campaign.

No Such Thing as a Home-Run Radio Ad

The average person will need to hear your ad 11 times before they LISTEN to it.

If the listener doesn’t process your ad, they won’t react to it.  The number of times a radio station listener hears your ad is called the frequency of your commercial, and it is more important than any other factor.

You might need to air your commercial as many as 30-50 times to get a frequency that convinces listeners to take the action you are asking them to take.

If you can’t afford the frequency you need, try cutting your ad shorter or ask your sales representative to bonus you unsold inventory.  If you can’t get a good frequency, your ad won’t work – period.

How Long Should Your Commercial Run?

One of the biggest myths about radio advertising is that you need to constantly run a commercial.

I have found that running 2 weeks on and then 2 weeks off is a good compromise that gets the frequency you need without busting the bank.

If you have the budget to do more, consider expanding your campaign to a second station and doing 2 weeks on one and then 2 weeks on the other.  You can then measure the results to see which station is doing better.

Measure and Compare Results

If your sales representative is any good he or she will make an excellent case why their station is better than all of the others in town.  Sometimes they are right, but often ignoring other stations, or even station groups, is a huge opportunity loss.

If you have ever heard a Dell radio commercial you might notice how they ask listeners to go to for special price discounts.  This is how Dell measures their radio campaigns against their other marketing efforts (like

Ask your listeners to call a different telephone number, go to a different website, or identify where they heard about you so you can see what works and then refine your marketing to make it more effective.

Never Pay the List Price

In almost every instance the numbers that your advertising representative gives you are negotiable.  You can get additional discounts by:

  • Just asking for them
  • Agreeing to a multi-month contract
  • Asking about special promotions
  • Joining local business associations (there are often special advertising discounts to members)
  • Creating a mutually beneficial trade agreement
  • Buy through an advertising agency (the rates agencies pay are lower in many cases)

What is a Mutually Beneficial Trade Agreement?

This is best explained through an example.  I own a computer repair company in Lincoln, NE.  A few years back we partnered with a radio station to give away a new computer every day on the air.  We gave the station about $20,000 in computers to give away.

That sounds like a lot at first, but look at how we benefited:

  1. Every 15 minutes the radio station said our name for a full month – Top of Mind Awareness!
  2. The radio station gave us $20,000 in commercials we could spend any time we wanted
  3. We received 20 new customers for our customer database
  4. We had the opportunity to upsell extended warranties and accessories to the new customers (earning $7,000 back that same month)

Anytime you can align your interests with the interests of the radio station, that is a recipie for success!

What if You Can’t Afford Frequency

If you can’t afford a frequency that gets results, don’t spend the money.  You can spend smaller amounts on guerilla marketing techniques that will generate smaller, but less expensive results.

  1. Kimberly said on January 30th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    I definitely second the option of buying ads on a second or even third station at the same time. If a potential customer is driving and hears your ad in the car, then gets into a store and hears it on a different station in the store, it gives the impression that you are everywhere, and therefore must be THE place to go.

  2. Kate said on February 2nd, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    My company didn’t really have the money for radio ads, so we did the next better for this small community: we set up a theater ad. Before the movies start at the theater, they run a series of ads for local businesses and we got our little 15 second, colorful spot for about a third of what we would pay for radio ads. It runs before every movie in our theater, and for a year. It is really a great alternative for getting your business out there, but on a budget.

  3. Thor said on February 3rd, 2009 at 8:42 am


    That is market penetration, which is a combination of frequency and vehicle (station, newspaper, TV, etc…) In Lincoln especially its pretty easy to track what medium people will select by demographic and then target those mediums.

  4. Thor said on February 3rd, 2009 at 8:44 am


    Thanks for the comment! How did the theater commercials work for your company? We can buy them in Nebraska too, but every time I go to a movie and there are four people in the auditorium and there is a big ad on the screen it makes me shudder.

    Then again, maybe I am just going to bad movies…

  5. ROGERS MUGISHA said on May 3rd, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    I agree with the frequency strategy but i manage radio advertisement in a telecom company and find it tricky to deal with radio presenters on how to do mentions and talk about company products.
    Any ideas on how to get presenters ticking and talking about your products? of course not by give aways because i have already tried that….

  6. family counseling upland said on March 7th, 2011 at 12:19 am

    @Kate – Thank you very much for the in-genius idea. I spent a week’s worth our our monthly advertising budget on theater ads & they have already paid for them selves times ten. I found that if you offer a sort of incentive for bringing in your ticket stub you can properly track where the clients are seeing your ad.

  7. London Advertising Agency said on April 19th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I agree that radio advertisements have to be simple and concise but in comparison to visual adverts, they tend to be at a disadvantage.

  8. SEO Expert Perth said on August 26th, 2011 at 12:49 am

    We’re considering radio advertising too and been given the advise that reach might be more important than frequency. Does anyone agree with this statement? Regarding the last post, over what period would somebody have to listen to the message 11 times before they act on it?

  9. said on February 18th, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Wonderful post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this
    subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.

  10. […] While looking through my Google alerts, I came across a blog post from the Peanuts to Profits blog. See the summary below. You can read the full article here. […]

  11. […] People hear background noise, but listening is focused and active. The average person needs to hear your radio ad 11 times before they will actually listen to it. Once they do listen to it, are your customers remembering […]

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