7 Keys to Radio Advertising Success

Recording a commercial with a radio station microphone
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Radio advertising: two words that are barely spoken about anymore. At the 2016 Advertising Week event, there was no time at all devoted to radio ads because they are considered "yesterday." They're not hip, and to be fair, have always been thought of like the red-headed stepchild of the industry. 

There are still effective ways to reach a large number of people. While millennials may be dumping radio, there are millions of consumers who find this free resource invaluable. And even then, there are ways to get into ad-supported free versions of the latest apps like Spotify and Pandora.

What's more, radio gives you the chance to get very creative on a small budget, as you a relying on the customer's imagination to create the visuals. Want someone on the top of a mountain, on Mars, surrounded by killer sheep and an army of alien clowns? No problem.

So, if you're ready to dive in, here are seven ways you can grab success through the radio. 

Know Your Target Audience

Just like with every ad you create, you must know your target audience. Advertising your western gear store on a country station makes a lot of sense. Advertising a teen clothing store on the same station doesn't.

Make a list of the radio stations in your market. Listen to each one to help identify your target audience. What kind of listeners will be tuning in, and are they a potential customer for your product or service?

Radio stations also offer programs you'll want to know more about before you buy. You won't want to advertise your religious bookstore during a program that has a raunchy sense of humor. Be appropriate. 

Request a High Frequency of Ads

A radio commercial needs to air multiple times before it sinks in with the listener. Running your commercial once a week for a month isn't going to be enough.

Frequency refers to how many times your ad airs in a short amount of time. A commercial that airs multiple times in a day has a better chance of reaching the listener than a commercial that only airs a few times in a week. However, if you are going to create an ad that runs many times a day, be wary of the "nag" factor. If it's too annoying, you will alienate potential customers.

Write a Great Script

Without a truly great script, everything else on this list is just window dressing. You can have the best production, talent, time-slot, and have your target audience nailed, but a poor script will make it all worthless. So, the pressure is really on to make that script shine.

Ideally, you'll want to hire a professional copywriter or creative advertising agency to do this for you. However, money can be tight when you're running a small business, and you may have to settle for your writing skills to make this work.

First, listen to a lot of radio. You need to pay attention to what catches your ear, and what passes you by. Which ads speak to you? Which ones are memorable, hours, or even days later? Which ads are OK on the first listen, but incredibly annoying after a few more plays? Then, dig into the archives of radio advertisements by doing an internet search.

Most important, remember that you can paint any picture you want in the minds of the listeners. You don't have to rely on special visual effects; this can all be done with voice talent and some sound effects. And the results can be incredible. 

Take Casting Very Seriously

So, you have a great script. Now you need to bring it to life. And the first step in that process is to hire the perfect voice talent for the job. You may be tempted to do it yourself (which rarely works, unless it's ideally suited to the product or service, think Dave from Wendy's). Don't do it. You don't have the required skills, timing, or vocal presence to pull this off. 

You can find voice talent in every city in America. And because of the Internet, you don't even have to stay local. You can find great talent in a city thousands of miles away, and get them to record the audio and send it to you via an FTP or cloud-based storage service. 

Ideally, you'll want to be there when they are recording the audio though. You want to give them some direction before and after each take, to ensure you are getting just what you want. Don't be afraid to redirect the talent, or ask for different approaches. Voice actors are consummate professionals and want to give you just what you pay for. 

Good Production Is Essential

Unlike television commercials, production is more simple for a radio commercial. You need a good, imaginative script, voice talent, music, and sound effects. 

However, that doesn't mean you should slap something together. Your copy isn't relying on any visuals, so it's vital you capture the listener's attention from the start. The copy needs to be crystal clear and not muddied by trying to be too cutesy in your pitch.

Find The Most Affordable Rates

Take advantage of the low ad rates for radio. Ad rates are always on the rise, but the costs are still more affordable than visual mediums like television.

Use your negotiating skills to get a good deal on an ad bundle. The more ads you buy, the better rates you'll be able to get.

Get Your Timing Right

Ad rates are generally less expensive in the first and third quarters. Radio commercials in these time frames are easier to negotiate and cheaper for you to advertise. What's more, the seasonality of the ad buy can influence your creative approach, making the selling message even more powerful. For instance, in the first quarter, customers are recovering from a heavy spend/shop cycle during November and December's big holidays. Is this a good time to talk about savings that can be had? Or, better yet, is this a good time to talk about ways to make extra money?

Before you take the plunge into radio advertising, find out if you're Ready for Radio. And if you're ready to hit the airwaves, this radio commercial script can show you how to deliver strong copy that will reach your listeners every time.