Who’s To Blame For Lack Of Communication?


(By James Bahm) I read Radio Ink‘s Wednesday article called “Agencies Confused By Advertisers” (as though it is the advertisers’ fault that they somehow didn’t know what the goals and objectives are). One part of the article that struck me is that “advertisers may be failing to get the most value from media pitches as a result of flawed processes and lack of communication.”

In the media sales process (I will use media ad sales, though any industry can be referenced), the lead account executive is responsible for asking the right questions to get as much insight as possible from the client.

In the article, there are five items that agencies said advertisers need to improve. You read that correctly, they put the onus on the advertisers to change. Which, it seems, is a good way to alienate potential clients.

As a marketing and advertising professional, it is 100% MY responsibility to ask the right questions at the onset. Questions like:

What are your goals for this campaign? Both your short-term (immediate) goals, and the long-term goals (when this particular campaign ends)?…

— Help me understand your key business challenges? What is happening in your business now that you are looking to advertise? How is that impacting your business? What trends in your industry are you seeing your competitors capitalize on…? (It’s even better if you’ve done some research into industry trends and use this to create a valid business reason for them to want to meet with you!)

— How will you measure success? Do you want more page views? More foot traffic? More phone calls?

— What areas of your business could you focus on that would increase profitability faster? (For example: Imagine an automotive place that is constantly advertising “Oil Changes for $19.95” — they get a lot of customers, but it’s not too profitable. If they could repair more transmissions for fewer customers, however, their profitability would increase dramatically.)

— How do you see us implementing our ideas? (The more involved the client is with the implementation, the more engaged they are throughout the process, the more collaborative the process will be.) What are some realistic timelines we can adhere to in order to have everything implemented by the 28th?

— What do you look for in a media partner? How will you evaluate our recommended solution versus other stations in town in order to make a decision? (It is very important to know how they make a decision — what do they need to see, hear, or experience?.)

— It is important to me to understand how you prefer to hear from me. Every two weeks we like to touch base on the progress to see what needs to be changed, if anything. Do you prefer a phone call, email, or in-person visit?

These are just a few of the questions I ask my clients in a CNA (Client Needs Analysis) meeting. And I often conduct a CNA during the campaign and following a campaign. A client’s needs can change one week or month to the next, so asking — and re-asking — questions is very important.

Ultimately, it is the seller/station/account executive/company’s responsibility to ask these questions of the client, not the client’s responsibility to volunteer it.

The article concluded by saying: “The study calls on advertisers, not the agencies, to make things more clear. ‘Moving forward, it is crucial advertisers provide clearer expectations, focused ambition and clarity on decision-making to enable agencies to invest resources proportionately at each stage.’”


In this case it is the agencies’ responsibility to ask the right questions and get this information. In a hostage situation the negotiator is responsible for talking to the bad guy to learn what is needed to resolve the situation. The bad guy doesn’t just offer it up.

If you are in the market for any product/service, it is expected that you will have questions you want answered. However, it is the ultimate responsibility of the seller to ask the right questions and engage the client to uncover their needs and what’s motivating them to make a purchase.

Sales is a process of asking questions and uncovering needs. Good questions engage both parties and promote collaboration. A lack of questions will leave both parties with unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations. Good questions always lead to more questions and further the conversation.

Bottom Line: It is your responsibility to find the answers, not your client’s responsibility to volunteer them!

Questions To Ponder: How do you engage potential clients? What questions do you use to uncover needs? It is more important to know what is important to your client, or to truly know HOW important it actually is?

James Bahm is a 25-year broadcasting professional, an advertising and marketing resource, and owner of The Bahm Consulting.


  1. I have just come back in from raking my portion of the local forest to offer a comment.
    There are few experiences more humiliating than being parked in the public square – left there bare nekkid. Unless you’re in radio, in which case the situation has become the standard modus operandi.

    Along with radio’s rejection of its responsibilities to its audiences and advertisers to begin generating more effective on-air and spot generation by applying available techniques and strategies, acceptance of the constant boning by agencies leaves the industry wide open to exploitation and abuse.

  2. I left comments yesterday about the other article and I want to say thank you for yours as well! I was completely shocked at the agency comments as it’s completely backwards.

  3. Great article with super insights. As a start-up internet talk radio effort, I’m trying to glean every morsel of information I can to become successful. I can’t wait to fold your ideas into action as we get off the ground. Thank you for being so generous with the business knowledge.


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