You've defined your store's message and its audience. How can you reach your audience with your message? Through the media. Media is the plural of medium, which is something in the middle position—such as between you and potential customers. (The term media in business typically refers to news and advertising mediums such as print and broadcast as a whole.)
The primary business goal of the media is to make a profit by delivering advertising messages to prospective buyers. Secondarily, the media does so by offering these buyers something that they want: news, information, data, music, entertainment, or other benefits.
How much should I spend on store advertising?
As much as is profitable to your store. Chapter 6 recommended spending 2 to 3 percent of annual sales on advertising, depending on the type of store you have. Some need more promotion than others. In addition, consider doubling your ad budget for the first year of operation to get the word out about your new store. For example, a new store projecting $200,000 a year in retail sales should consider a budget of $8,000 to $12,000 the first year, then reduce it to half that amount for the second and subsequent years.
What types of media are there? The list is extensive, but many are not appropriate to small retailing, such as skywriting and magazine ads. Small, independent, one-store retailers instead rely on local advertising mediums such as newspapers, shoppers, radio, television, and other resources. Because advertising can be expensive, making smart media decisions can be profitable.
The task of a newspaper is to make money for its publisher. It does so by developing a relationship of information and trust with its target readers. In fact, it will have numerous target groups, each developed in order to sell advertising to retailers and others who want to reach them. The paper's sports section offers one target group, the classifieds another.
Newspaper advertising is sold by the column inch or other space measurement. Take a look at your local newspaper. Most have between four and eight columns of text to a page. An advertisement that is one column wide and one inch long is one column-inch (1 c.i.).
The more space you buy at a time, the lower the advertising rate. That is, the column-inch rate for a quarter-page ad is lower than the rate for a 1 c.i. ad. In addition, buying a specific number of column-inches in advance, for use over a month, a quarter, or a year, earns your store an even lower rate.
Once you've identified the local newspaper and section of the newspaper that best reaches your target customers, contact the paper's advertising department and meet with an ad rep to get a rate card and discuss campaigns. Remember that ad reps typically are commissioned salespeople who get paid more when they sell more. Make sure that your ad rep is willing to develop a long-term relationship with you rather than sell whatever is hot this week.
A shopper is primarily an advertising publication. Most don't attempt to be objective news sources. Their function is to bring as many buyers as possible together with sellers. Regionally, shoppers may also be called pennysavers.
One of the big differences between newspapers and shoppers is how they are distributed. Though most newspapers are delivered by carriers, they must limit advertising to qualify for cost-effective U.S. Postal Service second-class postal rates. Shoppers, because they primarily contain ads, don't get this low distribution rate and are distributed either at retail stores or by more expensive third-class postal rates.
Because newspapers are purchased by consumers and shoppers are not, newspapers are considered more desirable media for advertising. People are willing to pay for them. Shoppers simply come in the mail or are handed out free. However, the advertising rate for shoppers (also measured in column-inches) typically is much lower than that of area newspapers. As with newspapers, contact your local shopper publications and ask for a rate card and sales rep to learn more about their market and their advantages. Be aware that, in many markets, newspapers and shoppers may be owned by the same publisher. This may limit your advertising options, but you also may get combined rates that are lower than buying space in them individually.
Radio and television have revolutionized advertising, bringing sound and moving images to the sales pitch. Each type of broadcast media has its advantage. Radio is more portable, found in cars, stores, homes, and places. Television is more visual, offering additional sensory messages to the advertising process. However, in most markets, television advertising is too expensive for small, independent retail stores. A thirty-second advertisement (called a “spot”) can cost thousands of dollars to produce and require thousands more in advertising fees to make a significant impression on viewers. For that reason, most small retailers stick to radio.
The point to remember about radio advertising—and as mentioned earlier, in running your own retail store—is to select what your customers want rather than what you want. You can be a big fan of PBS, talk shows, or classic rock, but if these local stations don't focus on delivering your message to your prospects, don't advertise on them. Spend your money where it will bring you more money. Advertising must be an investment. Your advertising representative can help you write your store's ads and advise you on whether “talent” (announcers) or you should read them.
You've probably already noticed that advertising permeates modern lives. It's everywhere. Why? Because it works. Advertisers wouldn't spend thousands, even millions, of dollars on something that doesn't work.
If you are required to join a tenant association, you may not have much say in how and where you advertise your retail store. Some associations require that tenants contribute a significant amount into a common advertising fund. The association also may have limits on what types of additional ads you can run and how you can identify your location within their mall. Make sure you know the rights and limitations that you are agreeing to in a lease.
Once you open the doors, your store will be inundated with media sales reps offering everything from yellow pages advertising to vanity ads. You will hear pitches for placement ads in regional directories, bus bench ads, ads in shopping carts, direct mail campaigns, and many others. Which should you consider? Any that will profitably bring you new customers. How can you know if the medium is profitable for your store? You can't.
The easiest way to determine where you can profitably advertise is to carefully study your best competitors. They know. In their early days they probably spent many thousands of dollars on advertising that didn't return a profit. Now that they obviously have found what works, follow their lead. Eventually, you will discover profitable media that they are missing, but don't try to reinvent retail advertising just yet. Follow the leaders.