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Advertising & Marketing in Cedar Rapids - A Guide for Small Business Owners

advertising & marketing in cedar rapids for small business owners

Every community is unique. As a small business owner in Cedar Rapids, it can be difficult to understand the challenges and opportunities available within your neighborhood for advertising. You're constantly bombarded with options - many of them pushed hard by local media companies. How do you make the right decision for your small business when presented with such an overwhelming selection? Television, radio, print, billboards, social media, digital marketing tools, web design - let's face it, you have enough to worry about. Let's take a moment to discuss the unique media environment for the city of Cedar Rapids and the factors in play for someone in your shoes.

Television Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Traditional Media Advertising in Cedar Rapids

While many small business owners are quick to dismiss traditional advertising options such as Television & Radio or Print & Outdoor, we would urge you to give them consideration. Tried and true legacy media still has the ability to be incredibly effective with the right target demographics in mind. In this section, we will identify the available options in the Cedar Rapids area for small business owners on TV, radio, billboards and print media.

Television Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

There are several broadcast and cable television providers in the Cedar Rapids area that allow local ad insertion. Below, we outline each one individually with some pros and cons of every option based on recent viewership data from various sources - and opinions based on our own client success stories.

Broadcast TV Stations

KCRG TV9 (ABC Affiliate)

The local ABC affiliate for broadcast TV advertising in eastern Iowa is KCRG TV9, owned by Grey Media. For Linn & Johnson County, this station has been a clear leader in local news viewership for quite a few years (this article was written in 2023) based on data collected from both Nielsen and ComScore. For advertisers looking for a local audience, the morning, noon and evening news features stories primarily focused on the Cedar Rapids community.

KGAN 2 (CBS Affiliate)

The local CBS affiliate for broadcast TV advertising in eastern Iowa is KGAN 2, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Like KCRG, this station is focused on providing local news broadcasts focused on the Cedar Rapids community. However, KGAN (and its partner station QGAN) lag far behind KCRG in average news broadcast viewership (as of this writing in 2023). What the station lacks in local news numbers, it makes up for in live sporting events such as NFL Football and March Madness basketball.

QGAN (Fox Affiliate)

The local Fox affiliate for broadcast TV advertising in eastern Iowa is QGAN 28 (formerly KFXA), owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. Like both KCRG and KGAN, this station is focused Cedar Rapids local news broadcasts. As mentioned before, QGAN, and partner station KGAN, lag behind KCRG in Linn & Johnson County local news viewership. This station also has a solid live sports lineup including Big Ten Football and Basketball plus additional NFL Football coverage.

KWWL (NBC Affiliate)

The local NBC affiliate for broadcast TV advertising in eastern Iowa is KWWL 7 owned by Allen Media Broadcasting. KWWL focuses their local news primarily on the communities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls. In Black Hawk County and the surrounding area, they are the dominant source for local news viewership according to data from Nielsen and ComScore. In most cases, small businesses located in Cedar Rapids would not be advised to advertise on local news broadcasts on KWWL unless they felt confident that they could draw residents of northern Iowa to their location or were willing to deliver there.

Cable Television Providers

Mediacom Cable

Mediacom has been a leading provider of cable television services in the Cedar Rapids area for decades. While traditional cable TV services have continued to give way to streaming options, there are still opportunities for local ad insertion on cable networks through Mediacom subscribing homes. OnMedia is the advertising division of Mediacom and sells ad inventory on over 40 cable networks in their Cedar Rapids zone including ESPN, HGTV and Fox News. In general, cable TV advertising is most effective when targeting a 50+ age demographic. Particular networks and shows also help narrow interests and tastes to your target audience.

ICAN (Iowa Cable Advertising Network)

ICAN is a company that represents several smaller cable television providers in the Cedar Rapids area as the sales force and technology behind their ad insertion capabilities. These television providers include ImOn, USA Communications and South Slope. ICAN functions similarly to Mediacom - just with a different geographic footprint in Linn County.

DirecTV & Dish Network Satellite

Many small business owners are unaware that they can purchase ad inventory on DirecTV and Dish Network in eastern Iowa. Much like the previous two providers, DirecTV offers many different cable channels to feature your ads. The big difference between the cable and satellite providers is geography. Both DirecTV and Dish Network have a much larger buying zone with a similar radius to the broadcast stations listed above. Many of these households are scattered across rural communities in eastern Iowa that may have limited options for other services. Again, the wheelhouse for satellite and cable viewers is adults 50+. The disadvantage of satellite vs. cable for a typical small business owner is that the zones available are not as locally restricted which means your ad dollars may be stretched too far outside your sales radius.

Radio Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Radio Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Unsurprisingly, there are even more traditional FM/AM radio stations to choose from in the Cedar Rapids area than TV providers! In this list, we narrow those options down to some of the top audiences and the ownership groups they are associated with. Interested in audio ads on streaming radio? We discuss that further down in the Online & Digital Media section.

Radio Stations & Ownership Groups

KZIA Z102.9

This popular Top 40 FM station in Cedar Rapids is noteworthy on its own because it's one of the few locally owned stations in the area. Its listenership skews younger to middle age (18-45 primarily) according to most Rasmussen data in recent quarters. The crew at Z also stays active within the community with a presence at many local events.

iHeart Radio

iHeart Media owns several popular radio stations in the Cedar Rapids area. The most recognized names are KISS Country 96.5 FM, WMT Newsradio AM 600 and 100.7 FM The Fox. The listenership for these stations varies and must be selected carefully depending on your target demographic. iHeart Media owns radio stations nationwide and also owns a popular streaming radio app, simply called iHeart.

TownSquare Media

TownSquare Media also owns several popular radio stations in the Cedar Rapids area. The most recognized names are KHAK 98.1 FM, KRNA 94.1 FM and KDAT 104.5 FM. The listenership for these stations varies and must be selected carefully depending on your target demographic. TownSquare Media owns radio stations nationwide.

NRG Media

NRG Media owns several stations that are broadcasted in the Cedar Rapids area although they split their presence in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area as well. The most recognized names from them are Rock 108 FM and KOKZ 105.7 FM. The listenership for these stations varies and must be selected carefully depending on your target demographic. NRG Media has a slightly smaller footprint nationwide than iHeart and TownSquare with stations in four Midwestern states.

Billboard Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Billboard Advertising in Cedar Rapids (Static & Digital)

There are three main companies in Cedar Rapids with highly visible outdoor billboard inventory. Billboard advertising is sold based on several factors including: location (and drive-by estimates), board sizes and digital vs. static. Billboards typically rely on a strong geographic tie-in when effectively used by small business owners.

Billboard Companies with Local Inventory

Lamar Advertising

Lamar Advertising is one of the largest billboard companies in the world with hundreds of thousands of signs across the United States and Canada. They also boast the deepest inventory of billboards (digital and static) in the Cedar Rapids area with hundreds available at any one time. Lamar provides impression estimates for each of their boards with an online menu to browse inventory.

MediaQuest Outdoor

MediaQuest Outdoor is an Iowa based company that also has a strong presence in the Cedar Rapids area with dozens of highly visible boards in the metro - both static and digital. Like Lamar, MediaQuest provides traffic count estimates and an online inventory browsing option.

Reagan Outdoor Advertising

Reagan Outdoor Advertising is the second largest company of this group with a footprint scattered across the nation - however they have the smallest inventory selection of the three in Cedar Rapids with just a handful in Linn County. None of these boards are digital and traffic count estimates are not readily available on their site. They do have a huge presence elsewhere in the state of Iowa.

Direct Mail Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Direct Mail Advertising in Cedar Rapids

Direct mail may be considered archaic by some, but there are many reasons to give it consideration for your small business. With the addition of many data points to help filter demographics and other behavioral factors, direct mail can be a potent tool for reaching people where they live or work in Cedar Rapids. Below we've included three specific tools & strategies to explore with direct mail marketing.

Direct Mail Tools & Strategies

EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail)

EDDM campaigns, or 'Every Door Direct Mail', are executed based on existing mail routes used by USPS (United States Postal Service) carriers. You can access these routes according to zip code using the USPS online tool. What makes EDDM routes even more useful for localizing your message is that routes can be filtered based on additional data points including household income, age and average household occupancy. Using that data can help you better qualify each route according to your goals. Another significant advantage of EDDM is that the postage route per piece is significantly less than retail rates. Use Every Door Direct Mail to carve out distinct limits for your message within the exact proximity you want!

Targeted Lists via Third Party Data

Do you need to qualify your target audience even more than just routes, income or age? Another overlooked capability of direct mail campaigns is the ability to purchase third party mailing lists to access addresses for specific groups such as:

  • Household registered auto purchases by brand

  • Household age or taxable value

  • Specific industries, business types or employee head counts

Coupons & Flyer Distributors

There are some direct mail companies that specialize in providing bulk rates for coupons or flyers that sent out in booklets or envelopes. Examples for this would be a company like ValPak, which has a presence in the Cedar Rapids area. The advantage to using a service like this is a lower per unit rate - the disadvantage is that your message may be shared amongst other coupons & flyers.

Newspapers & Print Advertising Options in Cedar Rapids

Print Companies with Local Ad Inventory

Cedar Rapids Gazette

The Gazette (formerly The Cedar Rapids Gazette) is the lone paper in Cedar Rapids for local news. Locally owned by Folience, the Gazette offers a variety of placements within their weekly and weekend editions for small businesses. As of 2019, the circulation for the daily and Sunday editions range between 32,000 and 37,000 homes. It's no secret that newspaper subscriptions across the nation have fallen drastically in recent decades with increased internet accessibility. While the Gazette also sells ad placement in their online articles, a small business owner interested in running ads in the physical print paper should be mindful of demographics associated with the readership there. The vast majority of regular newspaper readers are of late retirement age.

Corridor Business Journal

The Corridor Business Journal, otherwise known as the CBJ, has been a staple of the Cedar Rapids business community since 2004. It provides local business news, analysis and events throughout the year. Physical copies of the CBJ are distributed bi-weekly and offer ad placement opportunities. The content of this publication may lend itself well to select B2B small businesses. The CBJ also offers ad placement in online articles and newsletters.

Little Village Magazine

Little Village Magazine is a free news & culture magazine distributed in Cedar Rapids. Founded in 2001, Little Village is based in Iowa City but regularly features articles about the Cedar Rapids community with an emphasis on the "small, local" stories. As a free magazine, you can find LVM distributed in public areas throughout Cedar Rapids. Ad placement opportunities are available in each monthly distribution.

There are so many places and platforms to advertise online that evaluating what's best for your small business can be a difficult task. Below we've identified some paid advertising strategies with the capabilities of narrowing your message down to a zip code level. Most of these tools have the unique capabilities of not only localizing your campaign to the Cedar Rapids area, but adding in valuable targeting options to filter by things like keywords, behavior, interests or recent site visits. Let us help you simplify the world of online digital advertising!

Pay Per Click Advertising on Google & Microsoft (PPC or SEM)

Pay Per Click ads, sometimes referred to as PPC or SEM, are triggered to appear at the top of the results of a search engine based on keywords within a user's search and other factors such as geo-location. PPC ads can be used in different ways to target very specific questions, products or services people are searching for near you. The two largest PPC providers are Google and Microsoft. Google (as of this writing) owns a massive advantage in search traffic market share and is the priority of the two for most small businesses. There are advantages to Microsoft Ads, however, as they allow for simultaneous presence in Yahoo, AOL and DuckDuckGo search properties based on your decision to enable partnered providers.

With PPC ads, you can easily pair your web content with relevant search results in your market area - giving you the opportunity to compete for relevant traffic right away. We use this tool for many of our small business clients in Cedar Rapids.

Google Local Service Ads (Google Guaranteed)

Google Local Service ads are available to a select group of professional and service based businesses and are charged per lead similarly to services like Angi or HomeAdvisor. Prospective customers that search for services related to your business can send you a message or call you directly from these ads that are placed at the top of search results in the same general area as PPC ads. Local Service Ads are denoted by a green checkmark following a verification and background check process facilitated by Google. You can read about the services eligible to use Google's Local Service Ads in another article.

Paid Social Media Advertising

When "social media" is discussed with most small business owners, the initial conversation is usually centered around their efforts to schedule and post to their company page regularly - whether that be on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat or elsewhere. Every business and platform is different, but we often find that the conversation about social media steers toward questions like "why isn't it working for us?". While we're not advocating for you to abandon your posting strategy, we find that many small businesses would benefit from adding paid campaigns to their plan of attack. Free, organic posts can work great for some industries - however others may find that building a following isn't worth the time and paying for views is a better use of time (assuming the platform is a good demographic fit). We discuss organic social media opportunities in another article.

YouTube & Streaming Video Advertising

With the seismic shift in media viewing habits over the last two decades, we're seeing more consumption of video content than ever before - and the vast majority of that video content is viewed through a Wifi connection. The popularity of YouTube and the adoption of streaming services instead of traditional cable packages has provided small business owners another medium for reaching potential customers on a hyper-local basis. Similar to PPC and paid social media ads, we can help you create campaigns that target people beyond just age, income or location in Cedar Rapids - but also behavioral factors such as keywords, recent purchasing behavior and other web based data. Ads are typically purchased on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis that is calculated according to all of the targeting layers you decide to utilize.

Flanker Media can provide ad buying opportunities on YouTube TV, Hulu, Roku, Paramount+ and other streaming video exchanges.

Retargeting or Remarketing Ads

Looking to stay in front of your existing or prospective shoppers as they shop online? Retargeting ads, or sometimes referred to as remarketing ads, can be a cost-effective way to keep your audience engaged. By linking up analytics accounts tied to your website with ad platforms, we can help you service both display and video ads to users that have previously visited specific pages of your website. Have you ever visited Amazon during the holidays and had a specific product ad follow you around online? Your small business can do this too!

Establishing a Website Presence in Cedar Rapids

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Trying to explain all of the strategies and technical theories related to search engine optimization (SEO) in one, short section of this article would be impossible. That said, there are some fundamentals that a small business in Cedar Rapids can follow in order to stay competitive in organic search results. We will briefly touch on those here - but know that each industry and market will differ greatly. If you need help building a strategy for your website, we would be happy to provide a consultation.

Best Practices for Optimizing Your Website

There are a few tried and true methods for getting your website to rank organically for the keywords you covet. The bullets below look to simplify a handful of these concepts as much as possible. If you need help with this, our team is ready to assist you!

  • Pair each page's keyword content with what people are looking for. How do you accomplish this? There are tools available (many of them free) to see the specific searches people are making related to your products and services in the Cedar Rapids area plus estimates on the seasonal volume of that traffic. Do research to make sure your page appropriately covers what people are looking for!

  • Be thorough and organized when structuring content. Are you an expert in your field? Don't be afraid to flex that knowledge by providing deep, thorough explanations of what you do. Use organized headings to signal to Google how to prioritize the info on your page. It's not a bad rule of thumb to try and hit at least 500 words on each page you'd like to rank for in a search engine results page (SERP).

  • Your meta titles and descriptions for each page should prioritize the keywords you're looking to rank for. Meta titles and descriptions are the way a web page is displayed in a search result. The clickable text link is the meta title and the descriptive text underneath is the meta description. Make you sure maximize the words you use in each - without being too wordy!

  • Regularly update your site with new information and resources. This can typically be accomplished by adding a blog to your site - but can also involve adding more valuable content to other pages as you get an understanding of what customers are looking/asking for on your site. One great way to ensure you stay consistent in adding site content is building an annual calendar that becomes part of your routine.

Creating a Content Calendar

Have a lot to say about your business that you think people will find valuable? Build a plan to write about it consistently! A content calendar is an outline to you or someone internally to integrate content creation into your work routine. One tip that we love: are you a business that takes frequent project photos? Possibly before and after galleries? Turn your gallery into blog articles! Chronicle the change that needed to happen, the process you used to help, and other details such as products, locations and testimonials. This creates a richer experience for prospective customers and helps enhance your content footprint with search engines (and better social media posts!).

Could You Use Helping Creating an Advertising Strategy?

While this list is far from exhaustive, you're probably now exhausted if you've read this far. If you need help creating a strategy backed up data and unique creative insight, the staff at Flanker Media would love to have a conversation with you about how we can put your small business in front of the right people without frivolous spending. Our consultations are free - so what do you have to lose? Contact us here.

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