Like most small-business owners, Bob Carriere, owner of Carriere Clothing in Westlake Village, Calif., relied mainly on word of mouth, print ads and direct mail to draw customers to his upscale men's clothing store.
But these techniques weren't bringing in enough new customers. A few months ago, Carriere approached advertising executive Robert Yallen to discuss the possibility of advertising on television. After studying Carriere's customer base and target market, Yallen's agency produced two slick, 30-second television commercials for broadcast on Ventura County Cable.
Since the commercials began airing last summer, Carriere's business has increased about 30 percent -- not a bad return for spending about $1,500 a month on air time.
"Every day, I hear from people who come in to the store because they've seen the television commercials," said Carriere, who still does some direct mail and print advertising. "We don't get this kind of response from customers who see our other ads."
Most small-business owners don't think about advertising on television because they believe that they can't afford it. But the increasing popularity of cable television has provided new, affordable options for business owners with products that have some kind of visual appeal.
Carriere's commercials, featuring a handsome male model, have increased awareness of the store by 69 percent, according to market research conducted by Yallen's firm, Encino, Calif.-based Inter/Media Advertising.
Frequency, consistency and duration are the keys to successful television advertising, according to Yallen.
"If I can reach 1,000 people for $10 a spot, or 10,000 people for $100, I'd rather buy 10 $10 spots because frequency is such an important part of the media mix," Yallen said. "For the smaller advertiser -- and not just the ones trying to reach isolated areas -- cable is often a better buy than a general market broadcast because you can run commercials more frequently on more channels."
Before you run out and hire a film crew, read "The Advertising Handbook" by Dell Dennison and Linda Tobey. The $8.95 book is published by Self-Counsel Press, 1704 N. State St., Bellingham, Wash. 98225.
"Television is not for the faint of heart or light of pocketbook," the authors warn. But television advertising does have its merits.
On the positive side, Dennison applauds television for being the only medium that permits you to sell your products with words, pictures and often music. Television ads make a lasting impression and create a sense of urgency and immediacy. A well-produced commercial can also help your business appear bigger and more established than it actually is.
On the negative side, poorly produced television spots can hurt your business by making your products look low-budget or even sleazy. It is also difficult to manage your own television campaign because programming and rates change constantly, making it more difficult to make smart decisions.
Although many cable companies will produce commercials for you, you will probably get better quality if you hire an outside production company. Depending on how sophisticated you want the commercial to look, expect to pay at least $3,000 for a 30-second commercial.
Before you spend any more money on advertising, take this advice from Ron Kaatz, a veteran advertising executive and professor at Northwestern University:
"The goal of advertising is to communicate one message to one person at one point in time," said Kaatz, author of "Advertising and Marketing Checklists."
His workbook features 77 valuable checklists to help business owners develop a successful advertising program. The book is available for $17.95 from NTC Business Books, 4255 West Touhy Ave., Lincolnwood, Ill., 60646-1975.