Wouldn't it be great if people who'd never met you — strangers — thought of you as an expert in your field? Any time they need a service, you're the first person to pop into their mind. You're knowledgeable, professional, and most importantly, credible.

So how do you get to that place? It's not like you can take a two-week course in "How to Become An Expert" and suddenly people flock to your overwhelming charm and charisma. The answer is simple: the public must feel like it knows you before it will get to know you. This is accomplished through Top Of Mind Awareness (TOMA) advertising.

One of the most effective forms of TOMA advertising is radio, which can deeply penetrate your market. Of course, it must be done correctly:

  • Buy the same times instead of "scattershot." Repetition is a must for recognition. Buying the same time slot increases the likelihood that you will hit the same audience again and again.
  • Buy holiday shopping times far in advance. You'll be able to negotiate a better price by reserving early.
  • Try to get "Drive Times", which are closely associated with driving to and from work, as well as lunch hour. There is a higher concentration of people in their cars during these times, giving you a potentially larger audience.

If you have the time and funds, you can also host your own radio talk show. It takes a lot of effort so be sure that:

  • You have the time to plan, research, and lay out shows.
  • You have gotten the best deal on your radio time. Call around.
  • You can get the same time every week and that sports, etc. will not interfere with your show's airtime.
  • Your sponsors and guests are lined up in advance.

Rehearsing with guests and knowing the format of your show can also help. Consider sending guests (or using them as notes to help you) questions and estimated response times. For example:

  1. The word professional is probably overused, but what are some ways a consumer can know the difference between a professional plumber and a fly-by-nighter before they schedule an appointment?" <Answer takes 1 minute 40 seconds>.
  2. What are the warning signs that a contractor may not be on the level? <Answer takes 2 minutes>.
  3. Can you explain the reasoning behind visiting homes before providing an estimate? <Answer takes 30-45 seconds>.
  4. How important is preventative maintenance in the grand scheme of home comfort? <Answer takes 1 minute 30 seconds>.
  5. There must be guidelines in place for what kind and how often you should service your home equipment. Can the homeowners themselves do any of it? <Answer takes 2 minutes 40 seconds>.

You may be scratching your head and going over your budget with a red pen because you simply can't find the funds for radio slots. And you don't have the time to produce your own show.

Don't worry. You're not being left out in the cold. Buying radio time is a great way to advertise. But being given radio time because you have something to offer the community is great publicity. And publicity does what your advertising dollars cannot do - establishes you as an expert in your field and gives you credibility through a third party (typically a well known television or radio personality in your area) that is already known, trusted, and respected by the general public.

Offer interviews to radio or TV programs. Book appearances on TV talk shows or radio call-in shows. You need to be accessible and able to deliver interesting, useful information in easily understood "sound bites".

No matter what form of radio you decide to utilize, be sure that you're getting out there. You have something to offer your community…they're just waiting for you to tell them about it!

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a contractor marketing firm. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115. Call 800/489-9099 or check out www.hudsonink.com for other free marketing articles and reports.