Do You Really Understand Your Clients?


(By Barry Cohen) The most common misconception among your prospects and clients: “All my customers read, watch, and listen to what I do.”


Does your client or prospect hate hip hop? Jazz? Talk? He or she may, but his or her customers may love it. Clients need to understand that their own tastes simply do not matter. It’s all about their customers. If they ever want to sell anything, they need to learn exactly who their potential customer base really is —not who they think it is. And yes, it’s your job to help them figure it out. How, you ask?

Help your prospects and clients design a survey, a contest, an onsite event — whatever it takes to get the answers. Educate them on the shifting population demographics in your broadcast area. Has the population gotten younger, or older? Has the ethnic mix changed? Are they mall shoppers? Online buyers? The more you help your client determine his or her audience, the better you can match them to your audience — or walk away and not waste anyone’s time on a business you can’t serve well.

So, let’s think positive(ly). Let’s assume you can serve this prospect well. Now what? Once you’ve made your case that your audience does indeed buy his or her products and services, now it’s time to demonstrate how well you can deliver your audience to the client’s door — or to their telephone, or to their in-box. Put on your lab coat and goggles and follow me in. Before you fire up your equipment, take a deep breath and read on…

Take a cue from a successful national chain with local franchises — Domino’s Pizza. How did Domino’s become successful? They identified the pizza-purchasing public’s main complaints: wrong orders, slow delivery, and cold (dead) on arrival. Then they turned the paradigm on its ear and pledged to deliver (literally) on a brand promise that overcomes all of that.

You and your client can do the same, too. Just follow these simple rules:
Find the need.
Satisfy the need.
Deliver the promise.
Create an “in your face” campaign to get the word out.

Very few clients truly have a product or service with no competition. That said, you and your client need to find out what their customers are buying now, where they buy it, why they buy it there — and most importantly, what it will take to make them switch.
Yes, the formula even works for radio stations. When I served as the general manager of WKCW-AM in Warrenton, Virginia, we were an AM daytimer in the shadow of a major metro (Washington, DC), surrounded by full-time, full-service suburban stations with ratings, budgets, equipment, and staff. That did not stop us. We conducted our own callout survey and tweaked our format according to the results. Did it work? Yes.

Research the rules before you break them. WKXW-FM, a.k.a. NJ101.5, did just that. They put talk on the FM band before it became fashionable, they mixed music and talk, and they refused to accept the second-class status accorded to other suburban New Jersey radio stations. (Thank you, Walter Sabo.) Located in Central New Jersey, instead of aligning themselves with either New York or Philadelphia, they carved out their own identity and superserved New Jersey. Both the station’s ratings and its revenue rivaled its major-market counterparts — which positioned it well for acquisition.

So learn from the above example. Here’s yet another success formula for you and your clients to use:
Dare to be different.
Achieve and maintain a high public profile.
Keep the momentum going.
Use guerilla tactics; dominate by reducing the size of the battlefield.
Grow the demand, grow your revenues.

Just a couple more final points to help you help your clients. Years ago, we worked with a chain of retail plumbing and bath showrooms. Before we got them to agree to run a campaign, one of the two principals checked the company’s receipts and objected, indicating that most of their orders came from contractors. True, we told them — except that Joe Baccagaluppi the plumber did not wake up one day and decide to purchase that black sink with the gold faucets. No, Mrs. Whiteside of Ridgewood called and told him to purchase it for her. Know who your real customer is.

Similarly, the gas barbecue grill dealers’ association commissioned a Gallup poll one year. What did they learn? The male in the household physically went out and purchased the grill, paid for the grill, set up the grill, and used the grill — but the female in the household told him to buy it. Add some know-who to your know-what and know-how.

Barry Cohen is the principal of AdLab Media Communications, LLC ( He has sold both major market and suburban radio, presented RAB workshops and webinars and is the author of the book 10 Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign, and co-author of Startup Smarts.


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