How to Make Radio Advertising Pay Off for Your Small Business

If your business serves a broad, local audience, consider taking your brand's message to the airwaves.
Consumers trust ads on the radio more than ads that they see on billboards and social media. (Photo: LDWYTN/Shutterstock)

You may think that social media and television have great reach when advertising to consumer audiences, but according to a 2017 Nielsen study, radio is the best platform for getting the word out about your small business’s product or service, with an impressive 93 percent of adults tuning in each week.

“Radio ads are the best fit for local small businesses that cater to a wide audience,” said Maggie Aland, review section editor for “Many stations only play for a specific geographic location, so your local business advertisement will only be heard by potential customers in your area.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how to promote your small business on the air, keep reading.

Radio ROI

When it comes to getting a return on your advertising investment, radio is a great place to put your marketing dollars to work. In the Nielsen study, consumers reported being more likely to trust an advertisement heard on the radio than ads on billboards, search engines, social media, website banners and mobile.

Consumers were also more likely to take action after hearing an ad on the radio. Radio network Westwood One recently reported ads for packaged goods see a return of $12 on every $1 spent. And for one major retailer, Nielsen’s study found that radio ads increased in-store traffic by 20 percent and website visits by 75 percent.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Free Advertising for Your Small Business

Select the right station

The first step to getting your business advertising on air is to find a station where your target audience is listening in, Aland said. For example, sports radio is great for getting your brand in front of a predominantly male audience, but if you want to focus more drawing in senior citizens, classical music stations may be a better avenue to pursue.

To see what your options are, reach out to a few local stations that you’re interested in for more information, she said. They can send you a media kit with stats on how many listeners the station has each week, their audience demographic and your ad cost per 1,000 listeners, which will help spend your marketing dollars wisely.

Choose your day and time

Once you’ve found the perfect station, you’ll need to decide what day and time you want your ad to run.

“Rush hour will be the most expensive time, while night and weekends will see a dip in cost,” Aland explained. “Your choice will depend on your budget, and how important it is for you to reach people as their coming home from work.”

You’ll also need to determine how often you want the ad to air. At minimum, run the same ad at least three times at the same date and time, she advised, so listeners are more likely to hear the ad multiple times.

“This increases recognition and the chance that someone who hears your ad will take an action and visit your store or website,” she said.

Related: How to Create a Call to Action that Won’t Be Ignored

Create a persuasive ad


If you are unsure of how to make a radio ad, some stations will offer to create ads for you to play on their station at no cost. If not, you can hire a freelancer or production company. (Photo: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock)

After you buy a spot — typically 30 or 60 seconds in length — you’ll need to create the content to fill that airtime.

“Sometimes the station will offer to create your ad for you at no cost,” Aland said. “These spots can range in quality from poor to excellent depending on the people working on the spot.”

You can also hire a freelancer or professional production company to create an ad for you or make the ad yourself. Whatever option you choose, Aland said there are three important elements that must be included if you want to your ad to be successful.

“A few key components that you should include are the name of your business (this should be repeated multiple times), a clear call to action that tells listeners what to do next after hearing your ad, and the phone number, website or address where people can find you.”

Measure the impact

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) for an ad spot is trickier than with online ads, but not impossible. It just takes a little more planning, said Aland.

“If you plan to mention your website in the ad, create a separate landing page for the radio ad to send users to. This way, you’ll be able to track how many people visited your site after hearing your ad. And if you set it up right, you can track conversions from the page as well.”

But what if you want listeners to call in after hearing your ad? Aland suggested using a call tracking service to create a special phone number to use in your ad. That way, you’ll be able to see how many calls the ad generated for your business.

If your ad is promoting a big sale, you could also track effectiveness by measuring sales during the time the radio ad ran, but this method is less precise, she said.

“This isn’t a perfect system, but it will at least give you a thumb-in-the-air estimate on whether or not your radio ad had a positive effect.”

Related: Mind Your Metrics: 4 Must-Track Analytics for Small Businesses

Niche markets, tread carefully

Finally, Aland said that while radio ads may have a big ROI for some companies, it isn’t a good fit for every small, local business.

“For small businesses in a niche market, it’s probably a better idea to spend your money elsewhere,” she explained. “For example, if you own a store that sells hamster food, your ad is not going to be relevant to the general public listening to the radio, as most people don’t own hamsters. However, it will be 100 percent relevant to people searching ‘hamster food’ online. This is why online ads can stretch your dollars much further than radio advertising for this type of market.”

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