Radio Ads vs. Internet Ads

As a small business owner or marketer, you work hard to attract new customers to your store, restaurant, or local organization. You've probably thought about advertising on the radio before, or even run a few test commercials. You're not getting the results you want, and you think that radio might be the perfect way to reach more people.

Of course, you’ve also heard great stories about online advertising options. You may have heard that Internet marketing is less expensive than radio advertising and has a lower cost per lead as a result. Or you may have heard about the multiple options available for those who market online.

Right now, you’re trying to find out which side is more beneficial to you. Is there any one answer in the radio vs. Internet advertising war, or does the right choice vary by company?

Let’s discuss the benefits of radio ads, followed by some of the online advertising options available to you, including Internet radio ads, pay-per-click advertising, and inbound marketing.

How radio ads grow your business

If you listen to the radio, you’re going to hear commercials. These commercials are your chance to get your brand in front of consumers, explaining who you are and why they should care… and all in the span of just a few seconds.

The biggest issue that small businesses have to tackle with radio advertising is its cost. The cost of radio advertising may range from a few hundred dollars per week in a small city to thousands in a larger one. Small businesses struggling to make ends meet or invest in profitable marketing methods might find it difficult to invest a few thousand dollars in a couple on-air commercials.

But what’s the ROI on radio? Surprisingly, radio advertising has proven to be very profitable in some markets and for certain companies. This AdAge article details how brands in a Clear Channel study averaged a $6 lift in sales for every $1 spent on radio advertising. So if you invest $1,000 in a week of ads, you could stand to get $6,000 back!

Of course, whether or not radio advertising is successful depends entirely on whether or not your ads are heard. Some markets are made up of people who do not own cars or regularly drive to work, so their exposure to radio is limited. Meanwhile, other areas are comprised of an audience that commutes to major cities, making them far more likely to hear your advertisements.

The verdict on radio is this: if your ads are heard, they can help you grow your business. But radio can still certainly be expensive, require resources that you may not have, and may not even help your cause if you are located in a city where exposure to car radios is low.

Pay-per-click (PPC) Internet advertising

One of the most prevalent forms of online advertising is pay-per-click, or PPC. PPC ads are small ads for websites that appear along with natural (typically called “organic”) search results on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!.

The way PPC ads work is very simple: you choose a keyword to target, create a short ad that focuses on it, and decide what you will bid to appear along with the search results for that keyword. You only pay for your ad when someone clicks on it — unlike radio, you don’t pay per impression.

PPC ads can range from very inexpensive to somewhat pricey, and their cost all depends on the keywords and phrases you choose to target for your ads. For example, a PPC ad for the phrase “car insurance” might cost upwards of $50 per click! But an ad for the phrase “car decals” might cost you only a few dollars. It all depends on the competition for that keyword.

The biggest advantage of PPC over radio is that you only pay for actions. With radio advertising, you pay the same rate no matter how many people are actively listening to your ad. But with PPC, your account is only charged if someone clicks on your ad and goes to your website.

Of course, PPC advertising is a completely different medium than radio, and it’s done online. Your website is involved, and your website is what will “sell” potential customers on your business — not your ad or commercial.

Let’s explore a little more. In this next section, you’ll learn about online marketing methods, and why radio vs. digital marketing isn’t a clear-cut argument even for Internet marketing companies like ours.

Inbound marketing and search engine optimization (SEO)

When it comes to attracting new customers, advertising and marketing are very similar… but they certainly have their differences. Advertising usually refers to one-way communication meant to invoke action, like radio or TV commercials. But marketing can refer to two-way communication, like discussions on social media or emails — anywhere a potential customer can respond, not just hear what you are saying.

A new subset of marketing, called inbound marketing, refers to marketing methods that are designed to reach customers already interested in your products, services, or even your company. Inbound relies on existing interest to open lines of communication and gently move potential customers through a sales funnel. A few inbound marketing methods include:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Social media
  • Email marketing

Inbound marketing has been shown to cost less than other marketing and advertising methods. It’s also a way to connect with potential customers who may be jaded by traditional marketing — for example, the ones who fast-forward through commercials or throw away their mail without looking at it.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a crucial component in any inbound marketing plan. SEO refers to improvements you make to your website that make it more likely to rank highly in search engines for the words or phrases most relevant to your business. There are many individual ranking elements that make up SEO, from your usage of keywords to the speed of your website, but it’s very important for website owners to address them all!

With SEO as part of an inbound marketing plan, you can ensure that your website ranks higher than your competitors when someone does a search. So for example, with SEO, you can rank highly when someone in your area looks for “coffee shop” or “sheet metal manufacturer” — whatever it is that your business actually does.

By combining all these methods and tactics, you can attract more potential customers to your website when they are looking for your business or a local provider of products or services.

Disruptive vs. enhancive marketing

This is another way of thinking about traditional advertising strategies (like radio advertising) vs Internet advertising strategies (like inbound marketing). Traditional strategies tend to be disruptive. Few people willingly seek out radio/TV advertisements, yet they must deal with them nonetheless. Their user experience is disrupted in the process.

Strategies like inbound marketing, on the other hand, aim to enhance the overall user experience. The goal of inbound marketing (via providing free resources and streamlining the search process for web users) is still to convert potential customers/clients. However, it functions by adding value to the process and by helping customers instead of selling to them.

Traditional methods often involve blasting out a commercial to an untargeted audience and hoping for conversions. The focus of inbound marketing is to be ready and waiting for the customers who are already seeking out the service or product you provide.

Radio advertisements definitely work well for certain businesses in certain industries. However, there are clear and consistent benefits to Internet marketing strategies that you may be missing out on by focusing exclusively on radio advertising.

Comparing radio and Internet ads

The biggest difference between radio and online advertising is the intent and interest involved. When you place an ad on the radio, only a fraction of the listeners who hear it may be interested enough to take action — that is, assuming they’re listening. But when you market online, you’re targeting your website directly to people who are actively seeking it out.

When someone searches for a business online, they are ready to visit it, buy something, or at least learn more about it. But when someone hears a radio ad, it’s hard to say if they are in your target audience, or if they even care about what you are advertising.

Additionally, radio advertisements only occur every now and then, as often as you pay for them. But when you pay for a website, it never goes away. Someone can seek out your business at all hours, and even bookmark it to come back later. You can’t bookmark a commercial!

Radio advertisements certainly have merit, and their ROI can be impressive! However, if you aren’t already incorporating some kind of Internet marketing into your overall marketing plan, you should start now: without the Internet, you aren’t reaching the people who are actually interested in you!

What about Internet radio?

Along with traditional radio advertising, online radio stations also offer businesses the opportunity to pay for commercials. These commercials may only be aired one at a time, in between otherwise free music, or may be clustered together like a traditional radio station.

The cost of online radio advertising may be reduced compared to traditional radio advertising. You may be offered more affordable rates like $10 to $50 per commercial. Additionally, many online radio stations participate in targeting, which ensures that your commercials aren’t heard by those outside of your intended area.

Given how many employees now listen to Internet radio while they work, this might be a more affordable form of radio advertising that is worth a look. However, you should take caution to only invest in location-targeted ads: otherwise, you’ll be wasting your money.

Let’s look at a few more Internet advertising options to see how they stack up to radio.

How to start Internet advertising

Does online marketing sound intriguing to you? Have we helped you settle your own radio vs. Internet marketing argument? If so, you’re probably wondering how to get started with these new marketing methods.

We recommend reading our free inbound marketing beginner’s guide to learn more about how you can start marketing your business online to local customers. The guide is free and can be read online without an email address or download. Just click the link and start reading now!

Worried you won’t be able to do this yourself? We completely understand! As a full-service Internet marketing company, we help local businesses just like yours with their advertising and marketing needs every day. If you’re looking for help, we’d be happy to put together a custom quote for you!

Interested? Just call or email us to find out how WebFX can give you the power to attract more customers to your local business.