(By Paul Weyland) Provided that you are on the same page as your client demographically and provided the client’s business isn’t seasonal (Christmas trees), you should be asking for long-term (annual) business in every case. Here are four reasons why.
FINANCIAL SECURITY. You cannot get rich in this business without long-term contracts. Without them you are starting each month with a big, fat zero and you are always operating in crisis mode. It’s unrealistic to believe that local direct clients you have never met before will just give you $3,000 in the middle of a broadcast month so you can meet your goal. With long-term clients, you start the month at close to budget, or even beyond your goal. And you can look months ahead and rest assured that with continued hard work, you will be financially secure.
IMMUNITY FROM SALES WEASELS. What happens as soon as you get a new local client on the air? Who starts calling them? Every predator with every other media company in town, including little advertising agencies. With a signed long-term contract, you have immunity from these would-be thieves. The contract vaccinates you against sales weasels.
NO MORE SHAKEDOWNS. What if, every single time you saw me, I was trying to sell you Amway soap or talk you into joining my little sales network? What would you do when you saw me coming? Run! And what if you had a gatekeeper, someone who answered your phone and he or she told you that the Amway guy was on the phone? What would you do? You would lie and say that you weren’t in.
And we, as media salespeople, are perceived by clients exactly the same way. Instead of looking forward to seeing us, they resent us. Because every time they see us, we’re hitting them up for money. We’re shaking them down.
With the contract signed, the shakedown stops. Now, when they see you, it’s a treat. You’re there to help them design and employ better ways to bring in more
customers. You’re there to offer them tickets to concerts or some other event. You’re there to help them with a promotion when they are shorthanded.
CIRCLE OF TRUST. Once the contract is signed and the monthly shakedown is over, you can go on to build a relationship that lasts a lifetime. You can then, through good servicing, get into that client’s circle of trust, the same circle that contains other professionals the client relies on year after year.
Like the client’s accountant, insurance agent, lawyer, doctor, and others, you, the client’s marketing and advertising person, are beyond reproach. Your value in marketing and advertising supersedes your rate or ratings. You are the client’s trusted friend in your niche, and you are in the position to keep that strong relationship for life.
I hope it’s clear that you must ask for and get long-term local direct if you want to survive in media sales. But what’s in it for the client to have a long-term relationship with you and your station, even if you’re not number one? How do you convince the client to sign the contract? By explaining the next point.
CATCH YOUR FAIR SHARE OF FISH ON OUR LAKE. As long as the client’s business isn’t seasonal and as long as your demographic matches the demographic
that your client is trying to reach, then it’s logical and statistical that a certain percentage of the “fish” (audience) swimming in your lake are coming to the surface right now, looking to buy what that client is selling.
People are like light switches. They are either on or off for various products and services. If we cast good bait and cast it often enough, it is an educated and calculated risk, not a crapshoot, that client will catch fish that are on right now in your lake. If he’s not casting good bait on your lake, then it is logical and statistical that his rightful customers will buy his product or service from a competitor, more than likely a national discount competitor.
BRANDING. Branding is mindshare. Mindshare is ownership of real estate in the minds of your listeners. Your client is wasting no money by advertising long-term on your station. By staying with you on a regular basis and demonstrating that his business regularly identifies and solves consumer problems, he’s teaching people who might be off this week why they should consider doing business with him when they finally do come on.10
People switch on and off throughout the year. If he doesn’t differentiate and constantly remind your audience how his difference makes a difference to them, he will eventually, in the minds of your listeners, become marginalized, invisible, and irrelevant. Instead of thinking about your client, chances are they will be thinking about his competitors.
INSURANCE AGAINST BAD WORD OF MOUTH. Many clients tell us that word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. You’ll get no argument from me. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising. Unfortunately, it can also be the worst kind of advertising. If a consumer has an OK experience with a client, they might tell one or two people. But if a consumer has a horrible experience, guess who they’re going to tell? Everybody.
Many victims of bad customer experiences will never go to the business owner to complain. Instead, they tell everybody else they know. Advertising is controlled word of mouth. You and the client control the words. Your client needs to advertise with you year-round as a layer of good P.R., protection against bad word of mouth, to help put out some of those little fires, those little pockets of insurrection that pop up because somebody had a bad experience with your client.
Long-term controlled word-of-mouth advertising is your client’s insurance policy against uncontrolled bad word of mouth coming from the occasional unhappy customer. It also serves as insurance against what the client’s competitors may be saying about him.
SHOW BUSINESS. People don’t buy logically; they buy emotionally and then try to back up their emotional purchase with pretzel logic. We’ve just given the client three logical reasons to buy us.
We’re in the entertainment business, and frankly, we’re more fun to do business with than the client’s other vendors. Look what happens to you when you meet someone at a party for the first time and they ask you what you do for a living. “I work at the radio station.” Then the reaction: “Really?”
We are all celebrities in that context, and we fail to take advantage of it. We treat long-term-contract advertisers better than clients that advertise a week or two a year. We become the long-term client’s conduit to the world of entertainment. We represent the best ticket in town. We also provide venues (trips, client parties, cookouts, etc.) where long-term customers get to meet and associate with other long-term customers.
Look what you’re doing when you put a new long-term customer in contact with every big mover and shaker in town. He gets to know these people, strikes up relationships with them, and gets the opportunity to do business with them. You are the conduit for that opportunity network with big shots. Through you, your client is hobnobbing with business hotshots and celebrities from your station.
Suddenly your client is more important to his friends, employees, and his family. Through you and your station, he becomes more popular. Again, you represent the best ticket in town to a better social and business life. And as long as the client pays, he plays.
How do I approach local direct clients to buy long-term? Easy. I, like other smart sales reps, lead the way by saying, “I’m here to help you develop a five-year marketing and advertising plan. We’ll break that down into annual increments so we can measure progress.” What’s amazing about that is how many clients begin nodding their heads when I say that. They’ve tried it their way, and it “didn’t work.” They’re looking for somebody that knows what they’re doing to lead the way.
If the client doesn’t buy long-term this time, what will I ask for the next time? The long-term contract, of course. When clients don’t buy long-term, it’s because you have not yet convinced them that it’s in their best interest to do so. They still don’t see the value. You have not finished educating them. So the next time you see them, you would again ask for the long-term contract. And the next time, and the next time. It’s the right thing for you, and it’s the best thing for your client.
Remember, once the client is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that your plan for her success is better than her plan, she will hand over the keys and let you drive. We have to ask for and earn long-term local direct contracts.
Paul Weyland is the go-to person for expertise in increasing long-term local direct broadcast business. You can contact Paul at (512) 236-1222. http://paulweyland.com