Radio Ink: Mark, tell us about your business.
Mark: Our father started the business in 1957 as an ornamental iron shop. My brother Tony and I now run the business. Tony and I started in the shop when we were 17. We took over the business in 1985 when our father passed away. Our late sister Michelle, Tony, and I took over different aspects of the business. It just so happened that that is when the economy started to pick up for construction and went for about 15 years at a 45-degree angle and we grew with it. We are a structural steel and miscellaneous iron steel fabricator. We build buildings, ornamental iron railings, miscellaneous iron projects, catwalks, fire pits.
Radio Ink: It doesn’t sound like a typical business you would see on every street corner. What is your philosophy on marketing?
Mark: From the commercial perspective, the biggest problem in our industry is the bigger contractors who try to force us into a position of being a commodity. But, we bring with a huge amount of expertise, buying power and experience to the table, so my goal over my 10 years as president of the company is to make sure Selvaggio Steel isn’t treated like a commodity. We are not the cheapest guy out there but we are the guy that gets the job done. At the end of the job our clients typically are happier with us than they would have been if they’ve gone with Brand X. it is cleaner because we follow through on our commitments.
Radio Ink: Mark who are your clients?
Mark: Mainly contractors for commercial building. We do have some clients in different states that come to us when they need us. We have one client in Indiana who comes to us with his overflow, he does the same thing we do. We are a manufacturer in the construction industry. We also have our miscellaneous steel division, where we work with small businesses, homeowners, farmers, anyone working on a project needing a steel component. We also fabricate ornamental iron railing for homeowners and businesses, as well as do custom fire pits.
Radio Ink: How big is your company?
Mark: We have 27 fulltime employees. We have a company/family policy of not laying off our employees, so when we get slow we keep them on sweeping floors etc. We have a pretty significant overhead, so when I say slow it’s an expensive endeavor with no revenue coming in.
Radio Ink: How did you get involved with the radio stations and meet Diane?
Mark: Another rep from the radio station walked in years ago and introduced me to AM Springfield with Sam Madonia. At the time, it was inexpensive and we bought the very first commercials on AM Springfield morning show that starts at 6 a.m. every weekday morning.
Diane: That is our community-oriented morning show on our WFMB-AM Sports Radio1450.
Mark: We have been on that program one way or another from day one. Selvaggio Steel is well known in the community, and well known as a fabricator, but we weren’t the only one at the time. We continue to strive to get the equity position in this market and we never had it up through the mid ’80s. We felt that radio was an inexpensive way to be everywhere all day long. It started with AM Springfield and Sports Packages.
We are the only fabricator left in Springfield, and there were six of us at one point, when my brother and I took over for Dad.
Radio Ink: How does radio get you that equity position?
Diane: As a business owner, Mark and Tony are very community oriented and I work hard to make sure Selvaggio Steel is always top-of-mind. When I came in to be his rep five years ago, we started doing some promotional things. One of the events they support is the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure. Selvaggio Steel does a fundraiser every spring called The Men of Steel Bartending for the Cure. We came up with that idea and it has been a successful event for the past four years.
Mark: We have a philosophy here that this is our community and we are very community-minded. We put significant financial resources back into the community with donations to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, the Lincoln Land Community College Foundation, St. Martin de Porres Charity, and many more. My sister passed away but she was a major advocate of community service. We still have that philosophy. This community is ours and if it dies, we die with it. We are trying to keep that from happening.
Mark: Tony and I have focused on the breast cancer awareness and research. My dad died of cancer and my mom died of a brain tumor. I have three daughters and a wife so this is an important thing to me. We are proud of that. Diane brought something to us that we can rally around.
Radio Ink: Why is radio working for you?
Mark: We are very well known in the community and the advertising we do is on radio with Neuhoff Media stations. The Neuhoff Media group with Kevin O’Dea and Diane Williams is like family to us.
Radio Ink: What is it about the group and Diane that makes it feel like family?
Mark: When Diane comes in, she knows our objectives, and she walks out with a deal. We do haggle back and forth, but she brings opportunities to the door. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is one example of something we never would have touched until Diane brought it to us with a high-profile way to tie in. We needed somebody with some inspiration to walk in the door and say this is what you need to do, here’s a fresh idea. For many years I had people come in and say we need for you to do some advertising and here’s the package. Give us your advertising people and we will line this up, but I don’t have any advertising people. Anybody who walks in the door today must come in with an idea for me because I don’t have a clue.
Diane: Mark is fantastic because he is always willing to listen to new ideas. I totally customize every advertising and promotional opportunity for Selvaggio Steel, and I bring ideas that will raise Selvaggio Steel’s profile in the community and help to maintain that equity position in the marketplace.
Radio Ink: What do you say to other advertisers who think radio is dead or that it’s too old and here you are advertising on an AM station and it is working for you?
Mark: We get a lot of feedback. We are on a lot. This is all about name recognition. We are a steel warehouse, we do ornamental railings in the residential market but it is not retail, per se. It is wholesale retail-ish because it is fabricated goods. We need name recognition. When it comes to people making decisions around a table like a CEO of a major company, you want them not to have a negative opinion when your name is brought up. You want them to say, “Yeah, we hear that a lot about Selvaggio Steel.” Radio gives me an opportunity to get all that name recognition. It’s that equity position that we worked hard for. It may have kept other companies out of business or kept them away from coming into this business because our footprint seems bigger than what we actually are and it is the key element. It is all exposure and you can’t get that exposure with signage and you can’t afford it on TV. Radio, especially with the sport’s venue, it takes me in a good direction. I do some Comcast cable advertising work and it is all tied to sports. We were on all of the high school football playoff games on radio etc. because that’s what people want to listen to.
Diane: They do piece steel for special custom projects. We have a large farming community around here. On our AM station we have a very successful farm show that Mark advertises in. We try to focus the message. We also have really good high school sports on that station and he’s on all of it
Radio Ink: Mark what advice do you have for other advertisers who might be considering jumping into radio advertising?
Mark: I think the key point is equity position in your market. It is a concept that is really important. You can’t get that exposure on TV or newspaper or with signage. Radio is a fairly inexpensive way to get the frequency you need to get your name out. People are driving, they are not watching TV. They’re listening to radio for sports and news and that is when our name is coming out. The AM show is on from 6 to 9 and we are on two or three times a week. Sam will throw our name in there and we do a live morning show at our location remote every year around our Christmas party. We promote the fact that this company is a family business in Springfield, Illinois, supporting the community — and that is what everybody else should do too. You get the equity position and you can afford to do that with radio. I am not a big Facebook guy or Internet guy because the kids doing all of that don’t have the money. They are not buying my stuff. The guy I need is driving down the road doing his project and he needs a steel railing for his client and he doesn’t know where to go. Radio can give you that equity position at a cost that’s reasonable.