Where Should I Advertise? Q & A's

Article by: Doug Perry

I am constantly prodded by my curious clients about several advertising issues - most of all questions like "Which is the best media to advertise in?", and "Which advertising media will give me the best return on my investment?", or more importantly, "How do I advertise in the newspaper, on the radio or on TV and what do I need to know?", or, "what questions should I ask?"

In this article I will attempt to answer some of these questions and highlight the basics that everyone who plans to market anything on or off of the internet needs to know.

So now you have a web site and business will come rolling in? - It's not over yet!

After your site has been created and been published on the World Wide Web, how is anyone going to be able to find you?  This is one of the most important aspects of advertising or promoting your site.

This is why having your URL (your web site address) on all your company literature, brochures, catalogs, flyers, mailers, invoices, and stationery is like free advertising (It doesn't cost you any more to have your URL printed on your business card).  However, your site must also be registered with the proper indexes and search engines, (like Google, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos and Infoseek, etc.). Your web site designer or ISP can help with resources to accomplish this.

There are many different forms of advertising that will help you promote your web site and your brick-and-mortar business.  We have included 8 different forms of media and communication below with, hopefully, some new ideas for you to use that will increase your sales, and help promote your business and your site at the same time.


Ask the newspaper you want to advertise in to send you a media kit.  It will include lots of helpful information, not only about their rates, but other useful information about the demographics of your target area.

Find out what the readership of the paper is, versus how many newspapers they actually distribute (like the free weeklies you can pick up at your grocery store). Often weekly newspapers or "freebies" claim to have a readership of 60,000 when the actual readership (subscriptions) are only 1,600 and the rest are dropped off at some of the local gas stations and convenience stores.

Figure out your cost-per-thousand (CPM) based on a projection of "X" number of responses to your ad in relation to the size of their readership. 

For instance: If your selected newspaper claims to have a readership of 50,000, and it costs you $550.00 for your small ad, you divide the $550.00 by 50.  This will give you a CPM of $11.00, or 1.1 cents to reach each of your potential customers.  However, this is an unrealistic figure because most of the newspaper's customers will not even see your ad.  It is much more realistic to get an average over time of your response rate and use this figure. 

For example: if only 320 responses or inquiries come from those 50,000 readers, then your real cost per response would be a little over $0.58 to reach each customer.  ($320.00 divided by $550.00 = $0.5818 cents per response or inquiry. 

Use their readership (or subscribership) figure instead of their distribution figure to get a more accurate count.  You will need to do some experimentation in this area.  For some publications, about 1/10th of one percent is a good response rate.  Other publications or distribution areas will yield a much higher response rate. 

Do they want camera ready work?, and if so, what do they require?  Check out the difference in prices if you supply the ad to the newspaper as opposed to if they do it for you - you can save some money here.

Is it better to advertise during the week or on the weekend?  Would your product or service pull just as much response from a mid-week ad than from a weekend ad?  Read the information in your media kit and compare prices and subscriptions for midweek and weekend newspapers.

Classified ads: With most newspapers listing their ads in alphabetical order, its not as easy to be the first one in a category, but if the paper you are dealing with doesn't have that feature, ask to have your ad placed at the top of the heading.

When you are placing a display ad, ask to have your placed at the top right hand side toward the front of the section your ad will appear.  One thing you should learn early is that it never hurts to ask!  You may be surprised what can happen.

Headlines: When writing your own ads, learn by reading related subject ads in your paper.  Typically, 2-3 word headlines will attract more attention than a 7 or 8 word headline. Which headlines grab your attention? Why? Use similar headlines that you think are most effective.

Keying your ads: If you are running an ad in more than one newspaper at the same time, or even two different ads in the same paper, you need to "key" your ads.  You've seen these yourself and may not have realized what they were.  You see as part of an address "P.O. Box 1234, Dept. B".  The " Dept. B" is how they are keying the ad.  When the customer calls you, ask for the address of the ad and you will know immediately which of your ads pulled that particular potential customer.  Make sure to include your web site address in every ad.


Almost all the same rules apply for magazines as it does for newspapers.  The 2 major differences are that the deadline for a magazine ad will usually be about six weeks to two months before the publication hits the newsstands, and the costs are quite expensive.

In a half way decent magazine, a one page ad will probably cost you no less than $3000.00.  If you are looking for an immediate return on your advertising dollar, a newspaper ad is probably the better choice.  If you can wait for a return on your investment, almost nothing can compete with the readership magazines offer. However, be prepared to continually advertise in a magazine for several months to get the maximum results.

If you are planning to run an ad for two issues or more, talk to the advertising manager about a discount on the rate.  The savings can be substantial, but the advertiser usually wants the payment for all ads up front.

You can also ask about remnant space (especially a week or so before the magazine goes to print, to allow yourself enough time to overnight mail your ad).  Some publications will sell remnant space at a cheaper rate, just to fill up space in that issue.  Again, make sure your web site address is on every ad.  This is especially important with magazines because, typically, a magazine will not be discarded for several months, and that means a longer exposure for your ad, and your web site address.

Trade Journals:

Nearly all the rules are the same for trade journals as for magazines and newspapers.  Since this is most likely where your competition will be advertising, study their ads to see which one really gets your attention, and which ones don't.  Try to determine what makes the good ones work, and duplicate their efforts.

This doesn't mean you should copy their ads, it means try to use the good ideas, and just make yours better.

Some trade journals are printed bi-monthly; some quarterly, some only twice a year, so the deadlines for submitting your ad will vary greatly depending on their deadline for the next issue.  You may want to be especially aware of deadlines if you have a "holiday sensitive" ad.  It won't do a lot of good to run a terrific ad for a "Special 4th of July Week Special" if the issue comes out in August.

Don't be afraid to ask for a discount for running several ads - or even two or three different ads in the same issue.  You won't know if you don't try.   Be sure to key your ads, like the examples listed above.

TV Commercials:

Back in the '50's, we only had 3 stations to choose from - ABC, CBS and NBC.  Before long we'll have over 500.  Having so many choices sounds wonderful, but from an advertising standpoint, it's a little less exciting.  It means all those couch potatoes will be dividing their time between hundreds of stations, so there will be less viewers on any one station at a particular time.  Less viewers watching your television ad means less response for your ad. 

What about the cost to produce a quality TV commercial?  Your smaller, local cable stations will usually have the best rates, and be willing to negotiate.  Don't be afraid to ask for discounts.  Ask if they will allow "per inquiry advertising".  This means your commercial runs at no charge to you, but you pay the station a set amount for each inquiry you receive.  The more inquiries you receive, the more money for the station.

Should you produce your own TV commercial?  In a word, NO!  Certainly not in the beginning.  Contact local production companies and ask to see their work.  See if they will take a percentage of each of your inquiries or business generated from the commercial (until you reach the dollar amount you would have paid them), and then a small percentage of any additional gross sales (1-5%).

Many TV stations also produce commercials.  You can negotiate prices with them; such as, you'll buy additional space for your commercial if they throw in the production at no charge.

How do you know if your TV ad is paying for itself?  Ask your TV station how many people are watching during the time your ad is running.  Just for simplicity sake, if there 100,000 viewers, and your commercial was $4500.00, it's costing you $45.00 per 1000 people ($4500.00 divided by 100 = $45.00).  That's four and one half cents to reach each viewer (45.00 divided by 1000 = $0.045).

The most difficult part about a TV commercial is not having enough time to present your case to the viewing audience.  It's nearly impossible to attract borrowers in 30 seconds.

A 60 second commercial, if it is a good one, will give you enough time to "set up" your special offer or service, offer a reason your potential borrowers need to take advantage of your offer, provide an easy solution to get the benefits you are offering, what to do and where to go to cash in on this great offer (with easy directions to your location and a toll free 800 number in an easy-to-read format).

If you don't have time to mention your URL (your internet address), at least show it on the bottom of the screen throughout your ad.  Often times your URL will be easier to remember than your phone number and this will give them time to write it down.

Radio Ads:

Radio is probably the most difficult media to get a good return on your advertising dollar. They can be expensive to produce, and unless you are running the same ad for a long period of time, chances are you just won't get the results you want.

If you decide to give radio a shot, run your ad on a talk show format station rather than a music oriented program.  Music listeners will usually flip from one station to another to find one that's not airing a commercial. 

Once you decide on a particular station, ask the sales representative about running a ROS schedule.  ROS means Run of Schedule.  As an example, ROS time slots can range from, say, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and will air your ad 5 or 6 times during that 12 hour period - but you won't know when.  The advantage to ROS is that it's much cheaper.  You can ask that your ad be played first in any time slot it runs in.  More listeners will at least hear the first of a series of ads before they change stations.

Having a DJ from the station you are advertising on do your commercial may bring the best return.  Regular listeners to that station will recognize the voice, and be more apt to listen to what he or she has to say.

Radio ads can be good back-up support for newspaper ads.  Use the short amount of time you have to inform the listener that they can get more information from an ad coming out in a particular newspaper on a certain day.  Make sure the radio station has a copy of the print advertisement, so if they receive calls from listeners they will be able to give them more information, including your phone number.

Business Cards and Stationery:

You wouldn't give out a business card without your phone or fax number, and your URL (web site address) is yet another great form of communication between you and your customers.  Make sure any literature that goes out of your company has your URL on it, and we think you'll be surprised and pleased at the response you get from the visitors to your web site.

Word of Mouth:

Word of mouth is always your best advertisement!  Or your worst!  Treat each and every customer with honesty and respect, making sure they are completely pleased with your product or service.  If, on those rare occasions where there is a problem, always handle it promptly and with courtesy.  People appreciate doing business with a company that cares about them, and will "spread the word".

I recently had a situation involving a customer service issue with Hewlett-Packard.  One of our scanners "died" after only five months of use.  We put in a call to the manufacturer and were told to box up the scanner and it would be picked up the next morning, to be shipped at their expense.. 

About a half hour later, we received a phone call from the company's Quality Control department asking if the Customer Service department had handled our complaint to our satisfaction, and if there was anything else they could do to help us.  Of course, we replied that everything was handled very fast and courteously.

The repair was suppose to take 7-10 days.  Six days later, our scanner arrived back at our office, working perfectly.  Will we recommend Hewlett-Packard products?  Absolutely!

Take care of each and every customer to their complete satisfaction, and you will reap the rewards in the form of repeat business and referrals for years to come.

Press Releases:

You will never get a better value for your advertising dollar than the response you can get for just pennies when you fax or email a press release.  Sending a press release (with a great hook) to the editor of a newspaper, magazine or trade journal can earn you free advertising if the editor believes it will enhance his or her readership.

Your topic must have a great general appeal that will pull emotion out of your reader (like a compassionate client or customer story about how your company was able to save them from a costly mistake, or save them time and money) that most people can identify with.

You should have a professional writer write your story or use your own creative writing skills to accomplish this. Editors will not even read the copy if the headline doesn't have a compelling hook and the story doesn't really grab them. The bottom line in writing to editors is: If the editor thinks that your story will enhance their readership, solve a common problem or attract customers, they will most likely print it - and it will be free advertising for you.


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Doug Perry is the developer of a large number of mortgage lending web sites and is currently President of Click1003 where he develops Interactive Online Mortgage Application Software that integrates into all major loan origination systems for the mortgage industry. Doug is also President and Managing Editor of Mortgage Marketing Online, a web site devoted to helping the lending industry learn and apply marketing techniques to their online and offline lending businesses. As a loan consultant and California Mortgage Broker, Doug served eight years originating loans in California.

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