We get asked all the time, “What one form of advertising should I do?” Our usual answer is, “More than one.” In many cases, any combination of multiple mediums of advertising will help expose your brand and bring customers through your doors. No single form of advertising will be a catchall way to reach your potential customers. That would be nice, but who ever said life was full of easy choices?

To help you better understand your choices, below are your traditional and not-so-traditional forms of advertising along with their pros and cons and threats.

Magazines ‘ One of the greatest strengths for magazines is the ability to target your potential customers. If you have a niche market, one ad in the right magazine will bring in more business than a $3 million Super Bowl commercial. Magazine advertising allows your product to be visually displayed to a person wanting to know more about a certain topic or while entertaining themselves with a good article. Advertorials (advertising editorials) build credibility and a solid perception, and many publishers have a variety of similar magazines that allow you to cluster your ads in a similar market with a small discount.

Some of the downsides to magazines: Too many magazine titles fractionalize larger audiences, many magazines are thumbed through and not read diligently by all readers, and magazines are known for long lead times for artwork. A threat to magazine advertising is the increased costs of postage and our new green philosophies of living with less clutter and paper waste. Today’s Americans are also busier than ever before so magazines tend to pile up. I’m sure you have a pile of “When I have time, I’ll read them” magazines in the corner. If you don’t, I hate you.

Outdoor (Billboard, bus shelter, etc.) – Outdoor is visible. You can’t turn it off, mute it, or block it with a pop-up blocker. Billboards are visible every time you leave your house. Outdoor advertising is a great way to build your brand recognition to the masses for a low cost. Their size, color, and placement make billboards ideal for providing directions. Newer printing techniques have made production faster and cheaper. Today, it is easy for billboard companies to move your vinyl ad from location to location. Something they couldn’t do when they pasted paper onto the billboard not so many years ago. New digital billboards are eye-catching and can be remotely updated daily with a new message.

The downers: Limited time of exposure (gotta’ keep it short & sweet), lack of measuring effectiveness, and sometimes limited availability of locations for targeted market. Also, for smaller companies, it is sometimes hard to compete with the national companies that have extended contracts that tie up the best locations for years. Threats to the outdoor advertising include sound barriers covering key locations and communities limiting locations and height.

Internet ads – We’re talking about more than those annoying pop-up ads. Internet ads include banner and tile ads on the sides of news articles, sports scores, and search engines. Many times, the Internet is a great way to get in front of potential buyers looking and researching for your product/service. The Internet is not quite a commodity yet and not in every home like television, which means the web’s audience is more affluent than television and radio audiences. The Internet is extremely trackable and gives you a forum for your potential customer to interact with you, your products, and your current clientele. The Internet is not a passing fad and is growing in speed and popularity each year. More people today turn to the web to search for products and services before opening the phone book or newspaper.

The negative part of the Internet: It’s always changing style is a double-edged sword. The change keeps audiences interested, but can keep advertisers on their toes. Also, there are billions of websites out there, so how can you stand out? (Ask us, and we’ll tell you.) It’s hard to advertise anything but a dotcom web address and the dotcom addresses are sometimes hard to come by. Don’t forget a big weakness – spam filters, pop-up blockers, and frustrated users block the good and the bad. The web is for more than information gathering like it was in the beginning; the web is for entertainment and connectivity to friends and family. Many times, users do not want to see advertisements when talking with friends or playing online games.

Direct Mail – Direct mail is a great way to touch customers and to cross-market your products and services. Building a database of client details can be a powerful tool and newer technologies have increased the power of direct mail. Mailings can now be printed with individual’s names, special deals, and a custom call to action. Also, you can send coupons with custom UPC codes that can track customers’ usage so you can offer them other related coupons.

One main drawback to direct mail is that it is lumped into the junk mail category and has a low response rate, especially with potential customers. Direct mail is best utilized with current and past clients.

Phone Book – An advertising powerhouse with potential customers looking for you. (Well, they’re looking at your competitors too, but we’ll ignore that for now.) The phone book builds credibility and many times is your first exposure to customers. For many, especially in older generations, the phone book is “old reliable” and a great place to store phone numbers. Who would have thought?

On the downside, the phone book is becoming obsolete. People use the Internet more and more and phone books are used for doorstops and foot rests, especially in younger generations. Also, the phone book is inconvenient to store and to use because of its size, and you usually need to place your ad six months to a year out because of the long printing and distribution times. Not to mention, you’re doomed if there is a typo in your phone number. (No, they will not reprint the entire book for you.)

Basic TV – Where else could you reach 95+% of the population? Most homes have more televisions than people. Nowadays, the television is not limited to the family room and bedrooms. TVs fill kitchens, bathrooms and even the refrigerator door. Many people watch more than 20 hours of television a week, and television has the unique ability to bring in motion and sound. HDTV has reinvigorated television watchers.

For many, cost is the largest obstacle in doing television. Television can be much cheaper and targeted on cable channels, but that’s the next paragraph. A $3 million commercial is scary, especially to small business owners. Luckily, most of the time, you can get a spot for a few hundred dollars depending on the program. With the rise of cable and satellite in recent years, the audience is being fractionalized and the internet is drawing viewers to websites like YouTube and MySpace.

Cable/Satellite TV – Cable & satellite TV maintains the power of television advertising, bringing motion and sound together, but is much cheaper and more targeted. Would a company that installs granite countertops benefit from a $3 million spot during the Super Bowl? Yes. Would that same granite countertop installer benefit from a $150 spot on a show on HGTV (Home & Garden Television)? Yes; probably more. Cable/satellite TV can be highly targeted, with channels for education, children, music, sports, and much more. Also, as I alluded to before, cable television can be much cheaper, with spots starting at $20. The number of viewers is lower than broadcast television, but the price and targeted audience can be an advantage to marketers.

Like magazines, cable television has fragmented the television audience. Also, some television channels clutter their programs with up to 28 ads per hour. Sometimes coordinating television advertising can be difficult with cable providers, satellite vendors, and independent studios. Many television advertisers have sister channels and other providers they work with many times. Another problem with television is the growing popularity of DVR (Digital Video Recorder) that allow viewers to skip commercials.

Radio – Radio, the old staple of advertising, can be fairly cheap to build frequency and brand recognition. Radio can reach consumers closer to buying situations with access to radio in vehicles, at work, and on the streets. Many stations offer remote promotions onsite to bring listeners to your store for a special sale or event. Many DJs have a loyal following that will listen to promotions by them and follow them to different venues.

Some drawbacks to radio are that it has a smaller reach than television and newspaper and it is easy for listeners to change stations when the ads come on. Radio has two audiences: listeners actively listening and listeners with the radio on in the background as ambient noise. Also, the volatility of formats on radio stations can make it difficult to keep loyal users of your service/product. Large conglomerates have edged out many of the independent stations and many airwaves are full of national companies. Satellite radio has made the radio market more fragmented (much like cable and satellite television). The popularity of cell phones, especially while driving, has removed many listeners from the radio.

Newspaper – The newspaper is one of the oldest and most respected media sources. Remember the old saying, “It was in the newspaper, so it must be true.” We only jokingly say that about the Internet’s credibility. Newspaper allows you to reach the masses with minimal exposure ‘ large newspapers are read by more than 60% of the population. Exposure in a newspaper can be extensive and detailed; it’s hard to miss a 2-page advertisement. Also, with coupons, it is fairly easy to track it effectiveness; something that is nearly impossible with radio and television. Promotional tie-ins are also available with newspaper and you can target your audience with different sections of the newspaper.

Newspaper’s largest drawback is the price, especially if you are not advertising to the masses. Also, a newspaper reader’s retention is poor because of the volume of new information. The decline of coupon usage and rising costs of paper and distribution are making newspaper a hard choice for small companies. Many times readers looking for your product are comparing price. If you are not the cheapest, it can be hard to sway readers toward your brand without compelling reasons.

The biggest scare with newspaper advertising is the future. Television and cable have been battling the newspaper for decades, trying to capture the audiences’ attention, and now the Internet is making a powerful impact. More and more readers actually read the newspaper on the web. (Don’t be so surprised, you’re reading this on the web.) The benefit of the Internet is that news is still around for weeks before being archived while a newspaper that is a day old is “yesterday’s news” and seen as trash.

Email – First off, we’re not talking about spam. I do not understand how spam is profitable because everyone I know hates it and spam can easily tarnish your brand. That aside, email marketing is powerful with current clients and customers, much like direct mail. A monthly newsletter or period announcement about your company’s new products and services is a great way to stay top-of-mind with your audience and build brand loyalty. Offering sales and coupons can make the results apparent and email is one of the most trackable advertising mediums. If you like statistics or Excel, you’ll love email marketing. With each email blast, you can track the number of emails opened, the people who clicked on your website, and who forwarded your email to a friend.

The downside of email marketing is the casual nature and ease of deleting emails. Some people do not check email regularly (hard to imagine), and some users view their email on their Blackberry and never get to see your real email.

Moving Billboards – This is a medium that is overlooked many times. Moving billboards can be powerful at conventions and conferences with a highly targeted audience. Also, festivals with large crowds can be a great place for a moving billboard. Imagine a billboard rolling down the parade route during Mardi Gras.

The downside is the opportunity to use a moving billboard. The small audience reach is limiting. Surprisingly, with fuel costs, the price is still fairly low, but the moving billboard is not environmentally friendly because of the unneeded gas usage.

Sponsorships – Sponsorships are a great way to build goodwill and credibility at a low cost. Many buyers want to buy from local businesses and companies that participate in the community. Also, a $500 sponsorship at a school fair that puts your logo on 500 t-shirts that are worn around town is cheap way to build brand awareness. Talk to your CPA about possible deductions for sponsorships.

The downside can be the small reach and the sheer number of sponsorships available. You can sponsor your child’s school, the local playground, a charity event, your trade’s association, a scout group, your church and many more. I would suggest choosing with your heart more than your head. Sponsorships can be a great feel-good advertising medium and money should not be what it is all about in the end.

Web 2.0 – What is the world is Web 2.0??? Web 2.0 is the next generation of the web. In the 90’s when the Internet went mainstream, the web was about talking to new people across the world and for companies to post brochure and entertainment websites. The Web 2.0 movement is about the interactivity of websites. You can now comment on a company’s website, giving a consumer-driven voice to the web opposed to the corporate voice of before. Giving the consumer a voice is giving them control, which is scary. Imagine, your clients and customers can write comments and provide information about your products and services. (Really scary now! Not really. As a consumer, who better to tell you about a product than another consumer?) For companies, this gives you a connection with your customers that you’ve never had before.

The drawback to the Web 2.0 movement for your company is that you are never done. Allowing customers to comment on your website is a valuable tool, but it can be dangerous if left alone. You need to monitor spam and inappropriate language and react to problems. Do not delete poor reviews, but respond to that person. This is not a mud slinging competition, but a chance to make an unhappy customer happy again.

Don’t worry, we’ll talk about this more in future articles, including why the movers and shakers of the 2.0 movement do not use the term, Web 2.0. Odd, but for good reasons.

Social Networking – Not a new concept, but social networking has taken a new form with the Internet with websites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. Each website has uniquely different advertising possibilities and has their individual pros and cons. For young, hip brands that target the twenties & thirties crowd, this is a great venue. Many politicians are going to the web trying to reach younger audiences. For them, one vote is one vote and reaching the younger generations is harder and harder without “plugging in” to the interest. Bands have found MySpace to be a great avenue to build a community and some have made it mainstream and signed record deals from their internet exposure.

Skeptism and credibility is the hardest part with social networking. You cannot just put up a MySpace page and expect your phone to ring off the hook. Also, this type of marketing is not for all companies and for all products.

Word-of-Mouth – This is hands down the best form of advertising and also the most volatile and hardest to achieve. Think about it, aren’t your best clients and customers actually referrals from other happy customers and clients. Don’t you just love these referrals? Building in a referral program or at least a nice thank you card can go a long way in extending your word-of-mouth marketing.

The downside of word-of-mouth marketing is negative word-of-mouth marketing. An old business saying is paraphrased as “If a customer is upset, he will tell 10 friends. If a customer is happy, he may tell 1.” Check this problem with superior products and service and always try to fix the customer’s complaint. Many times, giving away a 10¢ soft drink to a customer waiting in a long drive thru line can save your company thousands in advertising costs.

The Internet has also taken word-of-mouth marketing to a new high. Now friends can brag and gripe about any encounter they have with your company through chat rooms, e-mails, message boards, product reviews and more. This can go both ways – good and bad – so keep an eye out. It wouldn’t hurt to Google your company once and awhile to see what pops up. How else do you plan on finding out about that website called www.ihateYOURCOMPANY.com or www.antiYOURCOMPANY.com?

Guerilla Marketing – Guerrilla marketing is a great way to kick-start and continue a grass roots marketing plan. Guerilla marketing can be anything from standing in busy places passing out flyers, to plastering bumper stickers around town and flooding bulletin boards with flyers. Guerrilla marketing is a more aggressive form of word-of-mouth marketing and is extremely cost efficient. It works great with non-profits that use free volunteers who deeply believe in the organization. With knowledgeable marketers, the potential customer can interact with the company and become more attached than through other mediums.

The biggest downside to guerilla marketing is manpower. If you do not have volunteers, sometimes getting the right people that are passionate about your brand can make it hard to spread your message. Also, this medium has limited exposure based on the reach of the flyers and the marketers.

Like I said in the beginning, there is no one advertising medium that is best. We recommend multiple mediums to reach the maximum number of potential customers and for the maximum amount of exposure. Wouldn’t it be nice for your dream client to be sitting outside reading the newspaper with your ad in it when they hear your radio ad on their headphones and look up and see your company vehicle pass by your billboard? The power is in the multiplicity. It builds retention, credibility and brand recognition. Do you remember saying to yourself, “I’m not sure about using this company, I’ve never heard of them.”