How To Develop A Lucrative Relationship With Your Clients


Chris Kroeger hosts PrimeTime with Chris Kroeger weekday afternoons on Entercom’s WFNZ in Charlotte. OrthoCarolina, a physician-owned private company, is one of the nation’s leading independent academic orthopedics practices, serving North Carolina and the Southeast. And it’s one of WFNZ’s best clients.

Each year 160 OrthoCarolina physicians complete about 1 million patient visits and perform over 95,000 procedures. Kroeger and WFNZ have developed an outstanding relationship with this local client that helps keep that business flowing. It’s really a win-win, which is exactly what managers want to see between their stations and clients.

One of the many reasons this relationship flourishes is that both the client and the station are big believers in local. There is also natural synergy between the Sports Talk audience and orthopedics and sports medicine, and the fact that Chris Kroeger is a homegrown Charlotte native cements the relationship even further. Kroeger interviewed OrthoCarolina VP of Marketing Blair Primis for Radio Ink about Primis’ philosophy on marketing, how he uses radio, and why he’s a big believer in your industry.

Kroeger: What is your philosophy when it comes to marketing and advertising?
Primis: They are actually two different things. I think advertising is within marketing; marketing is multifactorial, and advertising is just a part of it. But as a result of that, I don’t really think about advertising like needing to buy space, or buying an ad. It’s more like how can we develop a partnership, and out of that partnership comes what might actually be advertising “assets.”

My take on marketing is what kind of partnerships, how you can relate your brand, your company, your service or product to somebody else — and out of that partnership might come some ads, or assets.

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Kroeger: You’re in the health care space. How have you positioned yourself differently from others in this space?
Primis: A couple of ways. Since we’re a practice, you’d think we’d talk a lot about injuries and how to recover from injury, but we actually spend relatively little time talking about that. That makes us relevant to consumers all of the time, versus just when they’re hurt.

It also opens up the opportunities for us to create and develop partnerships or marketing campaigns, because if you’re limited to what would traditionally be in the health care space, you’re just that — limited to what’s in the health care space.

Besides that, you have way more opportunity to create partnerships if you think of yourself as “Well, how can I be relevant to consumers all of the time?”

Kroeger: Specifically with radio, how does that tie in to some of the branding and messaging you’ve run, whether it’s live endorsements or prerecorded spots?
Primis: For radio, it goes back to relationships. Radio has evolved for me because I think there’s an audience you certainly want to target. For me, it’s more about mindset, and I try to look at how people are thinking about their lives when they’re doing things.

It’s not just about people listening in the car, because I know that’s changed a lot. It’s when they’re seeking out programming, whether it’s cable TV, radio, or their favorite blog. Back in the day, media spoke to you. Today, you choose the media. We try to link into what the mindset of that consumer might be, we try to identify it.

It could be live endorsements, it could be spots, it could be partnerships, it could be events. Like we’ve done with you guys, we like to link to personalities. We go even one step further, having you engaged in OrthoCarolina radio content, which then takes your brand and syncs it with ours and puts it in a place that’s commensurate with what the rest of our marketing strategy is about.

Kroeger: Why us? Why do you think it works so well?
Primis: There are two components to that, and it’s been an evolution with the station. I like the audience — I definitely like the sports audience. The two things that appeal to me most are, number one, it’s local. I like the idea that you can actually go see, touch and talk to, and feel the thing, because we’re also local.

We’re not a national brand. We don’t have offices across the country. You can hear something about our organization and go to the event we sponsor or see one of our physicians or come to something we’re a part of. I like that. I actually extend that philosophy to all of our partners, too. Our T-shirt company is here. When we buy water bottles, they’re bought here. Our radio commercials are made here. TV commercials are made here. Our creative agency is here. We’re very much a believer in giving back by utilizing local talent.

Number two, as we’ve developed a relationship, it has become easier for me to find that you’re the type of person I think embodies a lot of what our brand is about. Let’s go in and be partnered on a show, an entire program, as opposed to dribs and drabs all across the station. So local, personality, relationships, and then, I think, highly targeted.

Blair Primis

Kroeger: That’s a different approach — the idea that you’re going to take all ad dollars and put them in one silo.
Primis: I’ve been on the “Content is king” bandwagon for a very long time. And the thing that I hear a lot now is “Content is king, and distribution is queen” because you can have the greatest content in the world, but if nobody sees it, what does it matter? So our marketing strategy and philosophy has evolved as well, into doing more things that go deeper, as opposed to one giant thing.

To create a super metaphor, you can advertise all year, or you can do one Super Bowl spot. You might actually reach the same number of folks, however it’s got to work that one time. And you don’t really know what’s going on in the consumer world at that time. It’s a riskier venture to go that route, so we choose the route of multiple points of interaction, as frequently as possible. It gives us the way to go deeper when we do that.

So to go deeper, and in a particular time of day on a particular station with a particular audience, is an evolution of ours, but we’ll take it. I’d rather have a thousand people who are super loyal than 10,000 people who sort of know who you are.

Kroeger: That factors, too, into the challenge in advertising: never wanting to have people feel like they’re being sold something. That’s what we try to do with you, make it a partnership. It’s not throwing you on a feature and saying, “By the way, this is sponsored by OrthoCarolina.” It almost feels premium, in a way.
Primis: Totally! And I think that comes from the fact that you know what our brand is about. So a live endorsement — or even outside the studio, you’re just on the street, talking to somebody. If you’re sitting at a Panthers game as a fan and see our video come up, you can identify with that because you know what we’re about as a brand.

Well, now when you’re on the air talking about us, you’re not selling. You’re a consumer of our stuff, you understand what we’re about, so it isn’t a sale. You’re just talking about a partner of yours.

Kroeger: And I guess to that end, aligning with us, reaching our audience, the Panthers, the Knights, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, that overlaps. If this advertising campaign was on a different station reaching a different audience, those brands wouldn’t have that overlap we’ve got right now.
Primis: Perfectly said; I agree 1,000 percent. The touchpoints are multiple, so you’re not actually sure where it comes from. The old idea of — and we get this a lot in my business — as we serve patients, we ask them where they saw or heard our commercials. Because wouldn’t that give us an indication of where we should put our ad dollars?

No. Why not? Because they don’t know where they saw it. They’re clueless. Now, I’m not insulting them, but I think it means that we’re so present all the time, what they’ll fill out on a survey is the last thing they remember. And oftentimes, we’re not even there! “I love the ad in the magazine you ran!” OK, we don’t run a magazine ad. “Oh, I love the ad on that station!” We don’t have an ad on that station. They just know that they saw it somewhere.

Kroeger: So it is depth, not breadth. To that end, digital is part of that, social is part of that. How does all that mesh for you?
Primis: Huge. Going back to my thoughts around distribution, for us, we’re a content creator, not a distribution channel. So digital is huge. We’re very active in social. We’ve evolved there as well; that’s an ever-evolving thing. We could certainly continue to learn and improve, for sure.

We’re super active in digital. What we do there is publish content on our website, and push that content out through social. We use e-mail marketing, a lot of third-party content, a lot of third-party sites. We do a lot of stuff with you guys with branded content on Facebook, which is a huge piece. So we’re very active in partnering with digital. And I think about it the exact same way: digital is another channel where you can get your content to very specific audiences.

So it has the benefit, beyond measuring with Nielsen or something, that you can actually track hyper degrees of data. Your business intelligence on digital can be very powerful. Almost too much so, where you can get in a rabbit hole. But I do think that it is super valuable, because you can learn from it.

You actually can learn how to use other channels from what you learn in digital, because you find out why a piece of content worked so well organically — versus where we had to boost to get comments. We’ll put all these great stories from a patient perspective or a physician perspective in our newsletter, and we’ll be like, “Whoa, this thing got the most clicks?”

Well, the next time we do it, it gets the most clicks and engagement again, so what do we do now? We create more content that gets results. We actually change how we do our marketing or our content creation based on what we learn, which is cool.

Kroeger: To piggyback off that, if you could offer some tips to other marketers or people in your shoes who are buying radio, what would you say to them? Also, what improvements on the other end would you like to see? As in, “Hey, here’s something we’d like to implement. We need this coming back to us, we need help in this area from the radio or broadcasting side of things.”
Primis: Great question. This might not be specific to radio, but going back to what I was saying at the very beginning: develop a relationship. Have them know what you’re about, have them understand your brand. And then what I think happens is, they start to think about how they can help you, even when you’re not talking to each other.

They might be thinking, “You know who might like this? Ortho might like this. Or our client XYZ might like this.” Now they’re advocating and working for you, and you’re not even meeting about your brand. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is try to be specific and cater toward how they like to be treated, as if you were dating them. What would you want to do to make sure that your date is happy? And I’m not saying that you buy them a lot of stuff or that you give them a lot of things, but just do enough to make sure they know that you’re around.

Right? You can even throw in a few things here and there as added value, but the point is, “Hey, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, we’re following up on this, we had this neat idea, not sure if you’re interested, but why not try?” That’s cool to me. Those are the characteristics that I think define partnerships and not vendorships. Vendorship is “Your contract is up, let me tell you how you did, and I’m just going to send you the renewal.” That is a bummer.

Kroeger: What would you say to somebody who says, “Well, I tried radio, but it doesn’t work.”
Primis: I’m not even really sure I would understand why they would say that. Because how do they know that? I’m not even sure what that means. Is it a widget? What are they trying to do? My guess is that they looked at it as a tactical use of ad dollars, which is probably the mistake.

How does that station or channel or that personality engage with their audience? What does that look like? What is the attitude of the station? What is the attitude of the show? How does the show use their digital content? You’ve got to go deeper than just “Radio isn’t working.”

We’ve never not done radio, in all of my time here — and I want to say specifically, in some fashion, with your station, for at least 8 1/2 years. I’m a huge believer in radio. Quite frankly, we don’t advertise on television, but we do on radio.

Kroeger: Going back to maintaining that healthy relationship, I feel like if somebody says, “It’s not working,” OK, well, why is it not working? You can diagnose that. Maybe our spot wasn’t running at the right time, maybe the message is not coming across properly. But that’s also having that relationship and understanding each other, or “Hey, you’re not doing anything wrong necessarily, we’re just not executing the right game plan. So let’s change the game plan and go back and execute that.”
Primis: Exactly right. And understand a little bit about the personality of the station and the shows. If we’re going to sell something that’s very academic and detailed and super fancy, look at the guys that are going to be on the air talking about it. Do they fit into that? As opposed to looking at a ranker and being like, “Oh, these guys are doing well. Let’s put some ads here.” It’s just not a smart approach.

I’m not categorizing other marketers and what they do, but I’d be curious to know why when someone says, “Radio doesn’t work.” My assumption would be that in their mind, there is an equation that they’re running: “The dollars we put into this, I can’t measure at the same rate as I can with other dollars. I know that when I boost something for $25 on Facebook, I’m going to get another 75 clicks on it.”

Well, what does that actually mean? Versus the larger idea of having some penetration outside the marketplace, when someone’s not in front of a phone or a computer, it’s tougher to measure. I’m using air quotes, but I do think that is most likely what my guess would be: “Well, I can’t measure it. I’m not sure it’s working.” They’ll use the dreaded “What’s the ROI on that?”

But do you actually know what you’re asking? ROI on what? For what? If we put up a billboard, do we get a patient? No idea. So why do you want to know?

Kroeger: That goes back to your original point. It’s a mindset thing, right? You’re viewing it as “We’re spending ad dollars for branding.” We’re branding and co-branding — as you said, that’s a two-way street — but you’re now spending money thinking, “All right, if I spend X amount of dollars, that’s going to mean a thousand patients are coming through our offices over the next month.”
Primis: Exactly right. There’s something about the mix of our strategy that has allowed us to continue to grow patient volume, brand awareness, relevancy in this community, and it’s because we don’t focus just on what we do. My guess is people are like, “Well, we ran an ad about fixing X,Y, and Z.” And you’re like, “ Well, people didn’t need to have X, Y, and Z fixed at the time they heard the ad, so of course it didn’t work!” “Come fix your iPhone screen today.” Well, my iPhone screen is fine today, so the ad is irrelevant.

It’s like I was saying, “Suffering from back pain? Come today!” We almost never do that because I don’t know when your back will hurt. But I can say things like, “Here are some advantages to knowing when you should change your running shoes.” Or “Did you know we had yoga?” “Here are some things we do about water versus Gatorade, or ice versus heat.” Or “Did you know that we lead the industry in this type of procedure?” Or “Here’s how we use technology. Here’s what we’ve done to give back to our community.”

My hope would be that folks think about digital and radio knowing what their message is and how they might use the channels for it, as opposed to just saying, “Here’s what we’re about, and we’re going to tell you.”

Kroeger: Where do you see radio going in the future, or in the next decade? How do you think that factors into what you think your game plan is going to be?
Primis: It will be interesting to figure out how people will listen to radio on demand. Think about how, back in the day, you waited for the op-ed page of the New York Times because you wanted to read what those specific writers had to say about an issue. You waited until that came out.

And I’m wondering, will there be more dedication to wanting to listen on demand? That will make the time of day that you do it not as relevant. The obvious one in front of us is clearly podcasting — I can go back as often as I want, any time that I want. So, specifically in the sports space — or maybe News/Talk, it may be interesting for that as well — anything that is timely, how do you benefit? How do you create-on demand programming that is timely?

Because, I don’t know about you, but if I miss the game, I’m probably not going to watch the full game on DVR. I’ll kind of skootch up a bit and look on my phone and realize that we scored at the seven-minute mark and be like, “Well, let me go to 6:05 and watch how it develops.” I might watch it if I have the time, but I’m going to condense.

Whereas music can be at any time, or a podcast about society or life. How do you create timely news or sports relevancy? You know a podcast is about leading up to the Panthers game on Sunday, so listening to it on Monday is pointless, because now the game has happened.

So I think my answer would be to find a way to take timely, personality-driven content and make it condensable and on demand. Some of it can be evergreen, but it’d be a challenge. And we’ve done some of it, running things on how you can leverage ongoing components, but the main driver of it might not necessarily be those topics.

It might be hard to do. I don’t know, it’s interesting. I think News/Talk would be hard too. How do you talk about yesterday’s news tomorrow if it’s already over? It’s hard.

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