How to advertise your business on the radio

How to advertise your business on the radio


For small businesses, radio represents an opportunity to project a creative presence for less cost than a television spot of the same length. Unlike its TV counterparts, a 30 or 60-second promo on the radio is also less likely to be switched off or walked away from, primarily because unless its pre-set it’s more work for most people to relocate the station they were listening to if they start channel-surfing just to get away from the advertising segments.

The following tips will help you decide whether radio is an effective method of promoting your product or services.


Unlike free public service announcements (PSA) which can be run at any time per the station manager discretion, a professional commercial represents a paid slot in the program hierarchy. This slot, which can be as broad as a.m. versus p.m. or during specific 2-4 hour broadcast windows, is based on the demographics and needs of the population you want your particular sales message to reach. For instance, if your product or service would appeal to daily commuters, you’d want the 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. slots. Why? Because this is when most commuters are in their cars and listening to the radio to keep them entertained, informed, or enlightened during their drive.

On the flip side, you’d want to avoid hyping a family-oriented venue between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 since this is when a lot of families have turned off the radio and TV to sit down to dinner. On Sunday mornings, the likelihood of that same family all being in the same car for a ride to church would be a good slot for advertising a restaurant that serves brunch or lunch, whetting their appetites for a meal together after that day’s sermon.


Too much information compressed into too small a timeframe can be as unhelpful as no advertising at all. The reason is that most people don’t listen to the radio with the expectation of having to write anything down. (Unless, of course, it involves winning great gobs of money just by being the 9th caller after a certain song plays.) Accordingly, they may not have a pen and paper handy to jot down your business name, business address, phone number, fax number, hours of operation, and the fact you’re offering a 35% discount for any purchases over $100 between April 2nd and 23rd.

For commuters, in particular, the likelihood of them being able to remember any details long enough to get somewhere that they can pull over and write it down is pretty slim. An analogy can be made to billboard advertising; when you’re traveling at 60+ miles an hour, your eyes just don’t have time to absorb a lot of information; with radio, it’s your ears that can only grab so much.


Have you been paying attention to the kinds of ads currently playing on the radio (especially the ads of your competitors)? What successful radio ads all have in common is that their message is simple, straightforward, and repeated three times so that it sinks in with the listener. If, for example, you announce your automotive shop’s name at the beginning of the commercial but then don’t mention it again for the rest of it, you will have jogged a listener’s memory that his or her car is about due for a tune-up but then forced them to troll through the phone book and try to remember whose shop offers such fabulous service as your ad promised.

Consumers are notoriously fickle, especially if you put the burden on them to try to remember who you are. If you want them to come through your doors, it’s imperative that you make it as easy for them as possible. This includes such things as catchy jingles (that they won’t be able to get out of their heads) and easy to recall telephone numbers. If you weren’t lucky enough on the latter to acquire a number at the outset that spells your company name, you can still be creative and find something service or product-related that can be spelled from what you have already.

Let’s say that you’re in the catering business and your phone number is 249-8669. With the double 6s and double 9s, that could be a tricky one for potential customers to try to remember. How hard would it be, though, if all you asked them to do was remember 24 Yummy? If you’re a whiz at playing Scrabble or deciphering cryptograms in the newspaper, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a clever combination that will work.


Some people just don’t have the right voice for radio. As enthusiastic as you are to be the spokesperson for your own company, the reality is that this commercial is your virtual calling card to the listening community and needs to be as professional and polished a recording as possible. That means excellent diction, a pleasing pace, and tonal quality that doesn’t people turn off (i.e., Lauren Bacall versus Fran Drescher).

The type of product or service you offer may also dictate the need for a celebrity endorsement to stir public curiosity and facilitate instant trust. If, for instance, you were selling rifles, do you think a prospective buyer would be more likely to take your word for their superiority or the word of spokespeople such as Charlton Heston, former president of the National Rifle Association, and Sam Elliott, the star of numerous cowboy films? While your own business and budget may not as yet be on the grand scale to attract superstars to make commercials for you, there are probably enough local celebs or experts whose endorsement would help bring in new customers.

If it’s just a good voice you’re looking for, don’t overlook the communications departments of area colleges and universities where you’ll find plenty of young men and women who are planning to make a career of broadcast journalism and would be happy to add your commercial to their demo reel. The same holds true of college drama departments or local community theaters, especially if you opt for serialized commercials in which recurring characters not only keep your name fresh in people’s minds but also provide an entertaining diversion from ads that are amateurish and dull.

If it’s just a good voice

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