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Should a Small Business Advertise on Cable TV?

Should a Small Business Advertise on Cable TV?

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: December 2, 2014

I learned something surprising last month: Although Americans are spending more time than ever online, web surfing isn't cutting into their TV viewing. On the contrary, it’s actually leading to more TV time. The average American watches 5 hours and 3 minutes of TV per day—a number that’s been steadily rising since the 1980s.

In particular, Americans are tuning in to cable TV. Last year, cable’s share of television viewership hit record highs, while broadcast television viewership declined to record lows. Americans spent twice as much time watching cable TV as they did viewing broadcast TV.

All this means that if you haven’t advertised on cable TV lately (or ever), it might be time to start. Consider:

  • Not only is television highly popular, it also has a strong effect on consumers’ purchasing decisions. In a recent poll by CivicScience, television tied with social media as the top influencer of what U.S. Internet users buy.  
  • With consumers rapidly reaching “information overload” thanks to the Internet and social media, visual marketing tactics such as TV commercials offer a way for small businesses to stand out from the clutter of words that bombards prospects every day. Eye-catching, funny, touching or creative commercials will get attention.
  • Cable TV advertising has some specific advantages for small businesses. First, of course, it’s substantially cheaper than broadcast advertising on major networks (think multi-million dollar Super Bowl ads). Better yet, cable advertising gives you the option to go broad and reach a mass market, or to narrowly target viewers who live in your area, have an interest in what you sell and are prime prospects for your business.
  • The latter strategy is what most small business owners want, both to save money and to reach out to customers who are likely to visit their stores/restaurants/offices. Cable TV is uniquely suited to this goal, since programming is incredibly niche-focused. Whether your target customers are passionate about Italian cooking, cross-country skiing, customized Japanese motorcycles or deep-sea fishing, there’s a show (probably several shows) about that specific topic.

So how can you make the most of cable TV advertising?

  • Identify the type of customers you want to reach as specifically as possible. Include demographic factors such as age, geographic location (by ZIP code or neighborhood), marital status, household income, ethnic group and number of children, as well as interests like those described above.
  • Set a budget for your cable TV campaign. Keep in mind that in order for advertising to be successful, you need to consider reach (how many prospects see your ad) and frequency (how often it runs). It will take several viewings for your ad to even register with most viewers. The good news is that airing a short commercial more often is a better strategy than airing a longer one infrequently. Be prepared to run your commercial for a minimum of three months in order to get results.
  • Talk to a salesperson at the cable station. They should be able to provide you with a media kit as well as answer questions about the types of audiences and the number of viewers that various shows reach.
  • Get help creating your ad. Most cable stations will create a spot for you at various pricing levels depending on length and sophistication. If you don’t want to star in your ad, no worries—they can use stock photos or hire actors to play roles. You can also use an outside ad agency or production company to film your commercials.
  • Measure your results. Just like any other type of advertising, your cable TV ad should include a way for you to keep track of how many customers come from it. For instance, you could show a specific landing page URL in the ad (telling viewers to visit or ask them to mention the code “Cable” when they come in to your store.

Done right, cable TV can be a great addition to your overall marketing mix.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades