Radio Ink: Tell us about the business? Where are you located? The history of your business?
Gary: Well it didn’t start out as a business. My father and I have been doing this for many years, working on bikes. First on our own then for friends and family, while at the same time working our regular 40 to 50-hour full-time jobs. About three years ago, after doing it on the side, we realized we were over our head trying to help people with their bikes, we decided to jump in and do it full-time. The business grew organically on its own. We got a few vendors and have not looked back since. We have one location in a somewhat rural location. It is on my parent’s property, and at this time I am sitting on 20 jobs.
Radio Ink: It sounds like at first you didn’t need to do advertising, so at what point and how did you put together a marketing plan?
Gary: Once we went full-time we went through that work quickly since we weren’t doing it just at night or on the weekends. That’s when we realized we weren’t that busy. I did a little social media but the business wasn’t growing as fast as I wanted. Things really picked up for us when we decided to do the radio ad. Cookin’ Country does this thing called the “shop-local ad” and I didn’t want to put a bunch of my capital into advertising because it was a new business and I didn’t have it to spend. John told me about this shop-local package where you split an allotted time frame with two other small businesses. It had affordable pricing and I was surprised by the amount of air time I got. It went very well after that. It got us a whole new customer base that we weren’t getting near with social media, because most 45+ males don’t have or go on Facebook. If you live in a 15-mile radius, the odds of you knowing us without knowing one of our friends wasn’t very good. Radio helped us reach a whole new demographic. The people that have heard about us knew we were in a shop on the outskirts of town but it gave us credibility. That is what helped the most, is the people who already knew about us but weren’t coming in, hear us on the radio and think “These guys are legit, let’s give them a shot.” Those two aspects were tremendous.
Radio Ink: When did you start doing that?
Gary: I started advertising on the radio March of last year.
Radio Ink: During the winter, do you have work?
Gary: This winter was nuts. In this industry, in January and February, you are eating Ramen noodles and just hoping to keep the lights on, but this last February I had a record month. Our customer base is getting bigger and bigger. We are not doing anything different, it is the same business and pricing. It’s that our name is getting out there more. We are getting people from 25 miles away driving here to have us work on their machines.
Radio Ink: Are you doing more radio?
Gary: I have stayed with the shop local. He offered me several different packages — all fair pricing, which is one of the things I like about radio: fair prices but I would go out every morning and look at the amount of business I have and if it’s not broken don’t fix it. The shop-local thing has been tremendous. I may do some 30-second spots soon to see if I can get that spring push. As of right now what I am doing is working great.
Radio Ink: What has your experience been working with the folks at the radio station?
Gary: Everybody there is awesome. I have worked with John and Josh but primarily John. I was a little overwhelmed at first going into a radio station and doing the ad. I walked into the booth with John the first time and I was out in five minutes — which I did two times and then he cleans it up and off I go. It wasn’t a painless, easy, no-problem-at-all transition.
Radio Ink: How did they talk you into it at first? What was it about those guys that you put your trust in them?
Gary: I had a quote from John, probably a year before, and had that in my inbox and would look at it every couple of months. What did it for me is I go into the Minute Mart and I heard Cookin’ Country on the radio and the shop-local ad. I was thinking about it all wrong. I was thinking somebody was going to be in their car and catch me on their way to work. I’m hoping within that 15-minute timeframe someone is going to hear me while they’re driving to work, but I was totally overthinking it. I have worked in places like the tire store where we had the radio on in the background 90% of the time. It was usually Cookin’ Country or another local station. It was a bigger footprint than I was initially thinking in my head. I had to think outside the box. Radio is getting too a lot more places than just inside of your car while you’re driving to work
Radio Ink: What do you say to other advertisers who say radio is a hundred years old and nobody listens anymore and it’s all about Pandora etc?
Gary: The proof is in my business. I have had a prior month-to-year date increase every single month since I’ve done the radio. My customer flow has improved. The amount of people who come up to me and say “Hey Gary. I heard you on the radio and I’m going to be bringing my bike in.” It’s people flat out telling me, so I don’t have to assume it’s the radio. Guys do drive around with satellite radio in their truck, you are never going to change that. If you need to advertise, people just aren’t going to Google you every time and come in. You have to take your demographic and go after it, that may depend on the radio station that you listened to. You can’t reach everyone and you just have to go after the ones you can. A lot of people listen to the radio. I’ve experienced it myself by advertising.
Radio Ink: What advice do you have for other advertisers who might be afraid to get in for the first time?
Gary: Find your local radio station managers or sales managers and call them. They are there to help you. They want to sell you radio time. Tell them your basic needs and what you want. That is what I did with John. I had no idea what the first step would be so I emailed him. He sent me this, for a small first-time shop they had the shop local ad. If that was too much I could’ve told John I need something easier. You have to start the conversation. There are going to be customers who would not have walked into your place of business unless they heard you on the radio. It will only take a handful of new customers to pay for that investment.
Radio Ink: Let me get the stats on your business.
Gary: For employees, it’s just me and my dad, and my mom and my wife help out. We are going on our third year.
Radio Ink: is there anything else you’d like to say or see the radio industry do better?
Gary: In my community it has been a very good experience. One hundred percent. John made this so easy for me and I didn’t feel pressured and that’s what I liked most about it. He dropped the quote off and he didn’t check back except maybe once. It was a low-pressure deal. He is more concerned with my business than I expected. He genuinely cares how my business is doing. I like to deal with people and that’s what I like about this radio station. I deal with John and John comes to talk to me. Everything is done through one guy. You get to know him as a person — that makes any relationship way better.
Do you have a sales success story you’re proud of? Help us help the industry tell the story about the tremendous power of radio. We’d love to write about your success story in the next issue of Radio Ink magazine. Send all the details to [email protected].