What Advertisers Think About, And How You Can Turn It Into Cash


(by Eric Rhoads) Advertisers, whether local, regional, or national, tend to think about the same things. Sometimes they pace the floors thinking about those things. Their bottom line is…

How do I increase my revenues?
How do I grow the number of customers?
How do I get customers to increase their average expenditure?
How do I get them to purchase more times in a year?

They also think about situational things, like…

How do I get rid of that warehouse full of out-of-date lounge chairs before next year’s models come out?
How do I generate more revenue in the winter when my business is based on summertime products like lawn mowers?
How do I meet that bank loan I’ve got due in six weeks?

I believe there are two kinds of advertisers: Those who are sophisticated and do a lot of planning, and those who tend to advertise as they respond to specific situations.

As an advertiser for products my business produces, I can tell you that there are a few important things I think about with every advertising proposal….

What is my return on investment? If I spend $100, will I generate $400?
What is the lifetime customer value? I know that if I can get a customer for that product, that person may spend $5,000 over the next 10 years. That means I can know what I’m willing to pay in order to get that customer.
How do I raise cash if I’m in a cash crunch?

I can tell you that I probably fall into the category of people who don’t plan as much as they should and who tend to shoot from the hip a little more than they should. Chances are a lot of local advertisers fall into this category, while those who use agencies tend to be better planners and more sophisticated.

So what should you be giving your advertisers?

1. A marketing strategy that puts the advertisers’ priorities first, transcending radio’s understandably biased “media mix” recommendations. They don’t really care what media they use. What they care about is “Can you solve my problem?”

2. Ongoing, measurable sales results that advertisers can attribute to their radio spend; measurably steering consumer dollars to your clients, and solving their problems or addressing their needs.

3. Ideas. No one can come up with enough ideas.

But before you can offer ideas, you need to intimately understand the advertiser’s needs. If you know I have a warehouse of furniture I need to sell before the new model year, you can then find out what it would be worth to sell it. I guarantee you that if I had $50,000 in inventory that was about to become out of date, and you asked me what it would be worth to me to sell it out, I would know.

I’d want you to probe what deals I’m willing to make, what we can say about those products, and what I’m willing to spend to solve my problem. And frankly, I’d need confidence that you could move that furniture. For instance, if you said, “I’ll sell all $50,000 in 10 days if you’ll pay me $10,000 to do it,” I’d need proof. Or better yet, a guarantee. (Why not? If you believe in yourself, why not reverse the risk?)

I speak to a lot of media people who want to tell me who they reach and the size of their audience and the features of their media property, but honestly, I don’t give a flying … you know. What I care about is whether you can sell my stuff. Can you get people in the door?

Most media reps are talking about features, not benefits, and very few are asking the extremely curious, even Socratic questions that will help them deeply understand what’s keeping me up at night and the problem I want to solve.

Once you’ve asked your questions, speak to solutions, not all the other things I don’t care about. You could be the number 60 station in town and I’d buy you if you convince me you can solve my problem.

Just don’t forget that it’s not about YOU hitting budget, it’s about THE ADVERTISER hitting budget. And the more they grow, the more you grow, and the more loyal they will be as you become their go-to solutions and ideas person. You move that warehouse of furniture for me, and the next discussion will be about the next problem I have to solve.

How many of your advertisers wake up saying, “I want to buy a radio or digital campaign”? Instead, they get out of bed thinking, “I’ve got to make more money.” They want an idea, and a way to measure its impact, 52 weeks a year.

Clients spend far more on advertising than they put into their retirement. They’d fire their financial planner if they didn’t get a monthly report documenting their ROI. In this age of accountability, how much longer do you think you can get away without giving your advertisers 52 weeks of documented ROI?

In this digital age, I can log in and get a report on how much return I’ve received on my e-mail campaigns or my Facebook campaigns. Facebook has such good data that it’s trained me about what to expect from all media. What can you deliver? Where can I log in and see the results from my radio campaign? Help me find a way I can measure your results.

The True Test Of Your Station’s Marketing
Poynter.org sums up Gordon Borrell’s 2016 survey of what thousands of local radio and news media advertisers want from their ad sellers: not what our clients perceive as yet another advertising peddler, but someone who will provide a customized, overarching marketing strategy in building their businesses, with the radio/digital buy being a result of first meeting the advertiser’s objectives – not first meeting the station’s sales objectives.

There’s far more money to be allocated to radio — when we take the lead in shaping the advertiser’s total picture rather than just getting a piece of a campaign objective.

Are you really doing that now, with the way you’re selling spots, sponsorships, and digital marketing services?

Test yourself two ways: Does your station’s marketing to your advertisers – and does your station’s marketing FOR your advertisers — lead the prospect to the instant conclusion that they’d have to be an absolute fool to do business with anyone but you or your advertiser?

If it doesn’t, it’s not working right.

How many billions are passing us by because many in our industry are focused on cost containment rather than the radical revenue growth that comes from giving clients what they are demanding?

I believe we can all rise above ratings reliance, rate reductions, and a compendium of packages/events/digital marketing services that don’t provide ongoing, trackable sales results attributed to radio — and focus on weekly, measurable, attributable results.

Apart from ratings, what’s compelling about radio, your stations, and your campaign strategies in the collective minds of your advertisers? I guarantee that perception will be reflected in their ad spend (or lack of ad spend).

“I know, Eric, I’ve heard it all before. Give me something specific I can do now.”

1. Get tighter and more intimate with advertisers’ needs. Research them on your own. Talk to employees and customers. Find out their burning problems. If they trust you, they will tell you. Trust takes time. Don’t be in a mad rush.

2. Take the lead and deliver attributable results, 52 weeks a year. Share with me what you’re doing — and how you’re doing it — to make buying radio the preeminent, unique, and compelling media experience.

3. Lead advertisers in prioritizing the development of an actual long-term marketing strategy that is about them, not you. It’s OK to help them determine what other media they should use, including competitors. They will trust you more if it’s not all about you.

4. Originate unique and compelling vehicles that sustain long-term campaign objectives.

5. Ideas are more powerful than ratings. Ratings can get you the buys from the well-planned advertiser agency or internal agency clients, but ideas can solve short-term problems. That comes from knowing the problems.

6. Help advertisers measure radio-attributable results. You may not have the tools that Facebook has, but if you can discuss with the advertiser what will measure your results, and get her to be totally in agreement on it, you can tie it to the campaign period. But you need something that can clearly be attributable to you. If the advertiser is running different promotions in different places to move that furniture, it’s not measurable in terms of attribution to you.

Look, this isn’t new. But it might be new to you. Or sometimes we get so busy we forget. This is Radio Selling 101.

When you focus on discovery of urgent needs and top goals, find the biggest pain, find out what it’s worth to solve it, come up with a big idea and a marketing strategy that lifts your advertisers’ boats (beyond self-serving radio schedules), and implement documented sales-results measurement specifically and directly attributable to radio or your station, that’s when you will rise above the fray and gain your rightful position of dominance with your customers.


  1. Eric, here’s two ways that produces documented results attributable to radio; making buying radio a pre-eminent and compelling experience. They both generate more radio sales/commissions per hour of preparing and pitching; yet are two initiatives at which most sales managers recoil – yet have generated millions of dollars in sales results for my own clients:

    1. In developing that over-arching, client media strategy, realize two things:
    a) Maybe 1-2-3-4 per cent of our advertiser’s prospects are “Now” buyers. The rest are “Future” buyers. Both groups have similar buying parameters, but the key issue is timing. Contrary to historical practice, whereas the overwhelming majority of radio ad budgets are focused on “buy now”, radio’s future growth is to be realized in the advertising that appeals to and concurrently gathers the contact information of the 96% of Future buyers, while simultaneously motivating the Now buyers to purchase.

    b) In keeping with the above, advertise a radio-promoted/register-online, no cost, no risk “Offer”of a decision-facilitating experience or the release of decision-facilitating information that appeals to both Now and Future buyers that moves the advertiser’s prospect to the next step in their decision-making process.

    Make sure that the offer of the experience/information is unique, devoid of platitudes, non-general – but ever-so-client-specific and/or (preferably) customized to the advertiser’s prospect. Make it so unique and specific and helpful, that the focus of the info cannot otherwise be found on a Google search.

    While maintaining a single selling focus, this offer concurrently captures prospect contact info (automatically cc’d to the station for results tracking), builds the client’s database of prospects that can be seeded in a drip campaign, and there’s a simple call to action for the info/experience while giving the Now buyer an opportunity to purchase.

    2. Jumping sales by $125,000 to $1MM, where major broadcasters have attempted something similar on their own and failed, this is the easiest selling premise in the world: without changing how you sell, without giving sales people extra work, unlike your competition, you can guarantee advertisers 52 weeks of million dollar sales results that they can measure to the penny – even in a small market.

    Without distracting other staff from what they’re already doing, all the sales people do is sell like they normally sell, and a lower wage employee handles ALL the details, with every step documented so no one has to reinvent the wheel, proven to work in communities smaller than Gettysburg to as large as NYC, with radio/digital advertising sales increases of $125,000 to $1MM in the first 13 weeks, while building additional billings in the resulting 52 week campaigns.

    It’s about organizing the buying power of the households in your community – beyond your audience – by directing their spending to your advertisers, instead of their competition. Given that this has been executed and refined in over 50,000 advertiser participations, there’s one way to do it right, and a thousand ways to go it alone and do it wrong.

    In Summary
    I’m happy to pay it forward and freely share more as to how these things are done. It’s time to raise the tide and lift all boats.


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