(By Barry Cohen) Surely, you’ve heard them. They’re rampant. Your sales staff hears them every day. Do you believe them? Should you believe them? Should you pay any attention to them? Should your clients and prospects believe them? Do they believe them? Let’s put them under the microscope, and then we can decide.
Lie No. 1: “Radio is dead. Nobody listens to radio anymore.”
Believe that, and I’ll sell you a bridge in America’s largest city. Let’s start with our friends at Nielsen. The findings are widely published that 93 percent of the U.S population still listens to good old-fashioned, legacy, over-the-air radio. That’s roughly 245 million weekly listeners. Mind you, we are not even including satellite radio — which, by the way, still only has little more than 10 percent of terrestrial radio’s reach.
So break it down. Even if you have a small station with a relatively small audience in a small market, the only real question for the prospective advertiser is: “How many of them do you want to buy from you, and what are you willing to invest to tell them your story and bring them to your doorstep/call center/in-box?” Followed by this question: “What do you think is the collective buying power of my audience, and what are you willing to invest to get your (un)fair share of it?”
Lie No. 2: “Everyone is on Facebook.”
Even with Facebook’s 1 billion worldwide subscribers (at its peak), there are still people who never set up a Facebook account, who are not active Facebook users, and who don’t spend all day on Facebook. The current millennials and the next upcoming generation (“Gen Z”) may not have grown up on radio, but they’re not using Facebook either. Oh, and by the way, there’s no click fraud on radio, and no bots either — just humans, listening.
Have you verified all of your Facebook respondents to make sure they are real people? Finally, if a foreign power can manipulate Facebook content to mislead the American public and disrupt an election, do you still trust Facebook? More important: do you think the buying public does?
Lie No. 3: “You can’t measure your results on radio.”
Wrong again. Even before the newest technology was perfected, you could isolate your responses and attribute them to radio in several ways. Here are a few we like to use and recommend:
• Set up a dedicated phone number that is used only in your radio commercials.
• Set up a dedicated URL that is given only as a call to action in your radio commercials.
• Track ZIP codes that correspond to areas covered by radio stations carrying your ads.
• Make a special offer that appears only in your radio commercials.
• Now, add the new technologies that are appearing on the scene and can help track your responses. Maybe it’s not your medium that doesn’t measure up, but your measurement.
Lie No. 4: “Nobody listens to your station.”
Plain and simple, short and sweet: every station has an audience, large or small. The trick is simply to ensure that your station has the right audience for every advertiser you sell — or you’re doing the client a disservice. In truth, if the audience profile and the sponsor’s customer profile are a perfect match, then it comes down to the message — or more specifically, the offer.
Every medium is simply a delivery system, including the Internet. Each medium and each media outlet is only as strong as the message you put on it. True, Internet technology now allows you to incessantly follow people who searched for a product. How long do you think it takes before a consumer gets tired of being followed? And the technology doesn’t know they’ve made a purchase and continues to track them, and annoy them.
When I served as GM of a small, suburban, standalone AM day-timer, I would look the business owner in the eye and say, “Give me the same budget you gave WXYZ-FM and just as good an offer, and then tell me how much product you sold. It’s not a question of how many are listening to any station, it’s a matter of how many are responding.” The same applies to the Internet. So much for online impressions — clickthrough rates are low. It doesn’t matter how many saw your online ad — only how many responded.
Our main competitor was a full-time FM in the same city with more staff, more budget, and with a rating book. We sold two things: creativity and results. If you understand your audience and what motivates them, you need to stand your ground with full confidence in your station and challenge the advertiser to make an attractive enough offer to bring your listeners in. And you need to know when it’s time to say no to a bad offer, or you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I started my career at two distressed properties, so I learned how to make my medium work, in spite of the obstacles — or the strength of the competition.
Barry Cohen is the managing member of AdLab Media Communications, LLC ([email protected]). He has sold both major-market and suburban radio, served as a station manager, and conducted RAB workshops and webinars.