Magazine advertising rates and newspaper advertising costs blaze right through your operating capital, eating profit margins as they go. However, allowing costs to control the effort to spread a consistent company message can result in no targeted advertising at all. Instead of launching another barely-aimed, underfunded barrage, determine your average cost per customer before the campaign begins.

Local advertising venues usually cost less, at least on the surface. Doing a little research into the price of reaching each customer helps small business owners to decide which methods of generating excitement and engagement to implement. In order to provide a true picture of average local advertising costs, however, you must first determine their potential return on investment. Since reach and visibility affect returns, factor them into the equation before creating the next campaign.

When compared to any newspaper ad cost, newer forms of advertising — such as selfie walls inside or outside your store — cost far less than expected. The photos and live video feeds posted by curious tourists and pleased patrons posing in front of your selfie wall will lead directly to higher rankings in local voice search results. Also consider autoresponder-generated text messages and notifications monitored by live human beings to provide personalized points of contact between the company and its customers.

Local Magazine Advertising Rates

Look at any magazine ad rate sheet and the cost for national reach might give a small business owner a sticker-shock stroke. Men's Health magazine, for example, charges $257,715 for a full-page ad in a single issue. Flex, one of many magazines directed at bodybuilders, charges $15,260 for a full-color, full-page ad.

Even with that huge price difference, that still falls out of the reach of most small business owners. No need to panic, however, because that same ad in Southern Mississippi Living, headquartered in Gulfport, Mississippi, runs at a fraction of the cost: $1,350 for a single month.

Costs Examples Per Magazine Customer

Men's Health reaches 11.2 million readers, according to its media kit, which means each reader costs a little more than $0.02 to reach. If you sell sportswear, diving gear or surfboards, that seems cheap, but a six-figure advertising budget might not fit your company's current cash flow. Flex has a long reach as well: 1.2 million readers, 94% are male with five-figure incomes. Each Flex reader costs a little more than a single penny to reach, for about one-sixth of the cost of each Men's Health reader.

Of the three choices, Southern Mississippi Living provides the most impressive cost per customer, however: one ten-thousandth of a penny apiece. Better yet, Southern Mississippi Living has contributed $675,000 to local charities, a vital economic boost in a state that ranks last on many quality-of-life issues.

Newspaper Advertising Costs

The Asheville Citizen-Times Media Group, distributed in Asheville, North Carolina, belongs to the USA Today Network. USA Today charges $3,776 for every four column inches of advertising copy, resulting in a cost of $118,944 to run a full-page ad in the weekend edition. According to their media kit, the newspaper reaches more than 225,690 adults every week. As a result, every potential reader costs you a sliver more than $0.05 apiece.

Local Radio Advertising Costs

According to Radio-Locator, the city of San Diego, California, boasts 72 radio stations. Their locations range between less than a mile and a half from the city center for religious station KDSW to 149 miles away in Port Hueneme, California, for the closest hip hop station, KKZZ. In addition to its geographical reach, the San Diego area boasts listeners who speak multiple languages and have numerous radio format options.

The non-commercial religious station KDSW does not sell advertising, but they do have sponsors, so join at the highest level your budget will allow or offer to match listener donations if you wish to reach the religious market. Hip-hop radio station KKZZ or Q95.9 belongs to Gold Coast Broadcasting. Public service announcements run for free, but the station does not guarantee when they will run, if at all.

Contrast that with the cost of a 30-second radio spot or live remote produced by Columbus, Ohio, radio producers at Talktainment Radio. The station promises a $100-per-hour consultation with "seasoned, radio industry veterans," who will help you create, record, edit and air your radio ad, podcast or live stream. Once produced, business owners have their choice of package deals: priced from $100 per month to host your own show to $200 to air 50 commercials lasting 30 seconds each. For $375, you can even host a two-hour live remote with four station break-ins and 30 commercials lasting 30 seconds apiece.

Break It Down: Formats, Languages and Audience Size

Format and language matter when selecting a radio station in the San Diego, California, listening area. For San Diego listeners who prefer their own language, available formats include a single Asian music station in Rosarito in the Mexican state of Baja California. Four stations play Banda, Corridos, Mariachi, Norteña, Ranchera and Tejano music, while 15 additional stations have Spanish-language and Spanish-pop music formats. Additionally, news coverage includes five Spanish news stations, including a fifth station devoted entirely to covering Spanish-format sports.

Surveys of close to 3 million San Diego area respondents ages 13 and older include 158,500 listeners who identified themselves as black and 900,500 who identified as Hispanic, so inclusive advertising matters a great deal in this market. Unfortunately, however, if the advertising department plays up stereotypes or relies on hackneyed attempts at relevance, the radio spot may do more harm than good to your brand. Make sure that your creative team resembles a cross-section of all members of the listening audience to help you avoid this embarrassment.

Producers of Talktainment Radio boast 110,000 listeners in an average month. These listeners tuned in on purpose, making them far more receptive to call-to-action advertising. The listeners tend to be more mature than those in the San Diego metro: 67% fall between ages 25 through 54, with slightly more female listeners than male. A little more than half of the Columbus metro population call themselves white, while a little more than 28% consider themselves to be black. Listeners with Hispanic and Asian ancestry compose just over 5% of the potential audience, and those calling themselves other, Native American or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander make up a little over 1%.

Less Common Advertising Media

You can plug the data from your local area into any radio station, magazine or newspaper advertiser's ad submission tools or media kit to get more accurate pricing, but the upshot of it all is this: Once you do so, you can reach hundreds of people for pennies on the dollar no matter which media you decide to use. Branch out and try these additional, less traditional advertising options:

  • Roadside signs.
  • Billboards.
  • Adopt-a-highway programs.
  • Transit shelters and bus benches.
  • Vehicle wraps.
  • Neighborhood canvas.
  • Bulletin boards.
  • Church bulletins.

Promotional Items and Giveaways

Contact local churches and community organizations and offer them such things as handheld fans, keychains, T-shirts or coloring books imprinted with your company logo and contact information. Replace shabby, torn fans often and you can even use these items to perform A/B testing of your message. Companies such as Kole Imports and Oriental Trading Company offer hundreds of possibilities for inexpensive fans and other items under a dollar apiece.

Targeted Direct Mail 

Send postcards and letters, welcome packets and newsletters, but spare the trees and target your customers. Junk mail that goes straight to the trash helps no one. Give customers an incentive to act on your appeal right away: Include expiration dates and a discount of at least 10%. In addition to the United States Postal Service, try using UPS and FedEx. All have competitive rates for business customers, allowing you to target neighborhoods and track response rates in real-time.