For an advertising campaign to be effective, it needs to reach your target audience in a manner likely to create awareness and positive feelings about your brand. Evaluate available media sources based on audience preferences, your message, and campaign goals. In addition to looking at options individually, consider how to use multiple forms of media for a coordinated campaign.

Audience Preferences

Look at your target audience, and research their media usage habits. You’ll have a better chance of reaching them if you’re advertising in places where they are likely to be. Be as specific as possible. “TV” and “online” are general enough to waste resources if that’s all you have. “The Cartoon Network” and “Facebook and Pinterest” are more focused, and allow you to conduct a more targeted campaign that doesn't waste money on users unlikely to be converted into customers.


Each media platform comes with both opportunities and constraints that will determine how effectively you’ll be able to get your message across. Billboards, for example, have a high ratio of views per dollar spent, but lack the space for complicated messages. If you need more than eight words and an image to state your case, it’s not going to be effective. Magazine advertisements have a highly targeted readership, but one that comes out monthly means you won’t get the repetition you might need. Radio reaches a wide audience but offers no visuals, while newspapers offer the opportunity for pictures but readers who are unlikely to notice your ad if they’re not already in the market.


Media buying decisions also depend on the objectives you have for your campaign. If the goal is to get people to purchase, it’s important to focus on the most likely customers. This means targeted media likely will be more effective, and you’ll want a source that gives you the largest percentage of your target audience with the least waste. If you’re looking to build brand awareness, a wider audience is better. If you own a pest removal service, for example, you may not be looking for people to call tomorrow, but you want to reach home owners who will remember your name and number when they need you.


Because different media are effective at doing different things, focus on the campaign at a holistic level along with the individual components. For example, a pest removal service might use radio to build brand awareness and a direct-mail campaign to give its audience a call-to-action to buy. A restaurant might use a spot on local television to build brand awareness -- and urge viewers to go to its website and download a coupon. Ads on social media can be relatively easy to compose, and can drive people from their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to your own website.


Marketing is critical for small businesses, and allocating enough to advertising is necessary to help customers find out about what you sell. Many small businesses spend between 7 and 8 percent of revenues on marketing, with advertising expenses fitting this category. How much you’re willing and able to spend influences media effectiveness as well. If your budget is small, a TV advertisement may be flashy, but you won’t be able to run it frequently enough to benefit from repetition.


For each media outlet you select, create a plan that will measure its effectiveness and will tell you what's working and what isn't. This should link your original objectives with measurable data. Look at how many customers redeemed your coupon from a direct-mail campaign, or how well a series of radio advertisements has increased your brand awareness. That will allow you to make changes if your media picks turn out to be less effective than planned, and to direct resources at more likely prospects for success.