Schedule Your Small Business Marketing Campaign

After creating a small business marketing message, you need to choose not only the best media to use but also when to advertise and how often. Scheduling the effective use of marketing media is almost as important as the message you are trying to convey.

When advertising on all mass media except digital media, the amount of money you spend and how you spend it depends on how you balance three scheduling considerations: reach, frequency, and timing.

Balance the reach and frequency of a small business marketing campaign

Your ad schedule needs to achieve enough reach (that is, your message needs to get into the heads of enough readers or viewers) to generate a sufficient number of prospects to meet your sales objective. It also needs to achieve enough frequency to adequately impress your message into those minds — and that rarely happens with a single ad exposure.

  • Reach is the number of individuals or homes exposed to your ad. In print media, reach is measured by circulation counts. In broadcast media, reach is measured by gross rating points.

  • Frequency is the number of times that an average person is exposed to your message.

If you have to choose between frequency and reach — and nearly every small business works with a budget that forces that choice — limit your reach to carefully selected target markets and then spend as much as you can on achieving frequency within that area.

The case for frequency in a small business marketing campaign

Ad recall studies prove that people remember ad messages in direct proportion to the number of times they encounter them. Here are some facts about frequency:

  • One-shot ads don’t work, unless you opt to spend more than 3 million dollars to air an ad during the Super Bowl. Even then, part of the audience will be away from the tube, replenishing the guacamole dish or grabbing a beer from the refrigerator.

  • On most broadcast channels, you need to place an ad as many as nine times to reach a prospect even once. That means you need to place it as many as 27 times in order to make contact three times — the number of exposures it takes before most ad messages sink in.

    If your ad airs during a program that people tune into with regular conviction, the placement requirement decreases, but especially in the case of radio ads, the 27-time schedule generally holds true. Why? Because each time your ad airs, a predictably large percentage of prospects aren’t present. They’re either tuned out or distracted, or maybe your creative approach or offer failed to grab their attention.

  • Multiple exposures to your ad results in higher advertising effectiveness. By achieving frequency, you increase the number of people who see your ad, resulting in increased recognition for your brand, increased consumer reaction to your message, and increased responsiveness to your call to action.

Reach creates awareness, but frequency changes minds.

Reverse the forgetting curve in a small business marketing campaign

Here’s some information to remember — if you can.

In the late 1880s, German researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus quantified the rate at which people forget. You may not need formal statistics to confirm that most people forget 90 percent of what they learn in class within 30 days.

Get this: Most of the forgetting takes place in the first hour after contact with new information, and by the time two days have passed, people retain only 30 percent of the information.

This forgetting curve is why ad repetition is so important to marketers. Through schedule frequency, prospects encounter your message and just when they’re about to forget it, they encounter the information again and again.

The case for concentrated ad campaigns for small business

Frequency and limited-reach, concentrated ad campaigns go hand in hand. A concentrated campaign gains exposure using only a few media outlets.

Instead of running an ad one time in each of six magazines that reach your target market, a concentrated campaign schedules your ad three times each in two of the publications. Or, instead of running a light radio schedule and a light newspaper schedule, a concentrated campaign bets the full budget on a strong schedule that builds frequency through one medium or the other.

A concentrated ad campaign offers several benefits:

  • It allows you to take advantage of media volume discounts.

  • It can give you dominance in a single medium, which achieves a perception of strength and clout in the prospect’s mind.

  • It allows you to limit ad production costs.

  • It ensures a higher level of frequency.

When to schedule your small business marketing campaign

No small business has enough money to sustain media exposure 52 weeks a year, 24/7. Instead, consider the following mass media scheduling concepts:

  • Flighting: Create and sustain awareness by running ads for a short period, then go dormant before reappearing with another flight of ads.

  • Front-loading: Announce openings, promote new products, and jump-start sales by running a heavy schedule of ads before pulling back to a more economical schedule that aims to maintain awareness.

  • Heavy-up scheduling: Synchronize ad schedules with seasonal business or market activity using schedules that include heavy buys several times a year during what’s called ad blitzes.

  • Pulsing: Maintain visibility with an on-and-off schedule that keeps your ad in media channels on an intermittent basis with no variations.

After setting your schedule, leverage your buy by using e-mail and social media to alert customers to watch for your ads, or post the ad on your website to make your investment go further.

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