Targeted advertising is the process of directing advertising messages to audiences having greatest likelihood for buying a product or service. Refinements in target audience profiling help marketers direct advertising messages to target audiences not just by demographic characteristics such as age and income, but also by the behavioral, emotional and lifestyle characteristics that influence buying decisions.

Traditional vs. New Media

With the advent of the Internet, marketers frequently differentiate between "traditional media" and "new media." Traditional media includes television, radio, print publications, outdoor billboards and sometimes direct mail. New media generally refers to the Internet and its associated online advertising venues including blogs, online variations of print and broadcast media and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Targeting with Television

The proliferation of cable television channels and special-interest television programming in recent years has created plentiful targeting opportunities for business owners with niche products and services to target local shoppers based on special interests. You can reach your local target audiences on cable TV by using popular channels such as ESPN, Discovery, TNT, CNN and HGN, to name just a few. Most local cable companies reserve low-price advertising slots to sell to local advertisers. For instance, if you owned a sporting goods store, ESPN would be an ideal cable channel on which to place your commercials. Moreover, most cable companies will actually produce the commercials for you.

Targeting with Radio

Local radio remains an excellent value for small businesses to target local audiences. The key is to match stations with your target audience demographic profile, such as age, gender, income and education. Contact your local station sales reps to obtain copies of station media kits that provide listener profiles, including buying habits and demographics. Another key to success with radio is repetition. It's not necessary to blast the airwaves with your message, but your audience needs multiple exposures for effect. It's best to test different levels of airing frequency in different day-parts -- time slots in a 24 hour day -- to discover what works for you.

Targeting with Print and Direct Mail

Most major newspapers offer "zone advertising," which allows you to target specific geographic areas of your city. Many cities and towns also have community-oriented newspapers that are published on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. Some are better than others. Check the quality of advertisers that advertise in your community paper for an indication of the paper's popularity. Be aware that most community papers do not have audited circulation figures. Whether your community paper is good for your business is a matter of judgment and what you can learn through your own inquiries. Direct mail is the ultimate offline targeting vehicle, because it allows for narrow targeting. It is expensive, however. But if you sell high-ticket items, such as home improvement services or swimming pools, direct mail may be an ideal targeting vehicle for you.

A Shift to Online Targeting

Growing numbers of advertisers use the Internet for targeted advertising. In a 2010 research study published by the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale University titled "Targeting in Advertising Markets: Implications for Offline vs. Online Media," researchers revealed that as consumer exposure to online targeted advertising increases, advertising revenue of offline media companies decreases. In support of this finding, A.C. Nielsen Company, for example, cites a refrigerated-meat manufacturer client that used online targeting technology and techniques to identify teenage boys as its core customers. Upon this discovery, the company shifted its mass-media advertising to Internet venues such as online Major League gaming. Despite the growth in online advertising because of targeting capabilities, traditional media remains a valuable resource for small businesses when you fully exploit the various targeting capabilities.