There are two basic ways to ensure that you make good media buys: First, ask your customers which media they pay attention to. And second, do a little investigative work.

It”s really quite simple; all you have to do is ask your customers basic questions like …

– “What magazines do you read?”
– “What radio stations do you listen to?
– “Do you read the local newspaper, and if so, what sections interest you?”
– “Do you use the Internet?”
– “Do you read email newsletters, promotions, ads, etc.?”
– “Do you read books, and if so, what do you enjoy reading?
– “Are you likely to attend a seminar?”
– “Do you reference the Yellow Pages?”

…and anything else that would be helpful in your particular situation. The questions may sound simple, but many advertisers just don”t do it. Most would rather gamble their budget on their own personal opinion about what their customers will respond to instead of dealing with the facts. Don”t just assume your customers listen to a certain radio station or read a certain publication. Ad salespeople will always have plenty of data and statistics to back up their claims of rich people listening to their station or reading their publication. You want to find out more information about your target market. And how do you do that? JUST ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS. Sometimes you need to do further investigative work.

A great example to illustrate this point is that of a rubber stamp manufacturer. You know, like the kind you stamp on the back of a check or something. They wanted to be in the yellow pages, but they didn”t know what section they should put their ad in. Do you put them under R for “Rubber Stamps” or just S “Stamps” or O “Office Supplies”…or what? What do you think the right answer is? They had been in the “Rubber Stamp” section the previous year and didn”t get very good results. But this year, their marketing had been rewritten so they were excited to get more calls. So you play the consultant right now. How do you find out which yellow pages section to stick their ad in? Use your imagination a little bit. You can”t call their current clients because chances are they just call the company when they need a stamp. They don”t look in the yellow pages at all. So now what?

We”ll here”s what they did. Someone on their staff was assigned to randomly call 150 businesses out of the phone book and ask this simple question, with no introduction. As soon as the person answered, they asked, “If you needed to order a rubber stamp, what section of the yellow pages would you look in?” Knowing that the person answering the phone, the receptionist, was often the person who ordered the stamps anyway, made this a pretty fair survey. Guess what the results were? First of all, just about everyone they asked – answered. Then almost 75% said they would look under “office supplies.” Total time investment, about 4 hours. But those four hours made a big difference that next year. We can”t emphasize this enough: Take the time to ask and save yourself a lot of headaches.

Now, to investigate a medium, start by calling other businesses that are currently advertising in the medium you”re considering and ASK them how it”s going. If you”re planning to run radio ads on a certain station, call some of the advertisers currently on the station and ask them what kind of results they”re getting. Same thing for magazines, newspaper or yellow pages or anything else. Here are some questions you can ask them:

– “How long have you been advertising here?”
– “Does the investment pay for itself?”
– “How many inquires, leads or sales do you generate from your ads?”
– “How long do you plan on staying with this particular medium?”

You don”t need to talk to all of the advertisers. Some of them won”t want to give out any information. But if enough do, you”ll get the real scoop on the performance of the medium. Another investigative strategy is to check medium history; how long advertisers have been with a particular medium. This is easiest if it”s a printed medium such as magazines, newspaper or yellow pages. Just save the back issues or research them out – maybe at the library or at a university. If it”s TV or radio, you can still find out by ASKING the sales rep. If the sales rep knows that the true facts might cost him a sale, he may not be very willing to share this kind of information. Take this as a negative sign.

Researching the media you are thinking about buying probably seems pretty obvious. But the fact is that most people just don”t go through the effort to do it right. Then they wonder why it feels like they”re throwing their advertising money down the toilet. You”ll find that these little tips will tell you, with a great degree of certainty, what has worked and what hasn”t worked for others before you. So be a sleuth, and do a little investigative work before you plunk down your cash.