Can Your Radio Station Create Raving Fans? You Must.


(By Michael Doyle) Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles classic book “Raving Fans” is one of my favorites to review when I need to turn around a radio business. I’ve had entire groups of employees read the short book about a man searching for examples of great customer service.

With all the competitive pressure around today’s Radio business, this is an excellent time to review its lessons, and see how you can use them to accelerate your business. The core principle of the book is that competition is greater than ever (and this was written in the early ‘90s’), and that ‘satisfied customers’ won’t stick around. You need to create Happy Customers and ultimately Raving Fans. I’m not talking just about sales here, or programming, I’m talking about creating Raving Fans for your business.

With so many choices for media attention, loss of space on the dashboard, the elimination of the radio as a home appliance, how can you create Raving Fans? Let’s apply the principles of the book.

1. Define Your Ideal Customer Experience.

2. Discover your customer’s (and listener’s) Ideal experience.

3. Integrate your Vision with their needs.

4. Build systems to ensure consistency.

5. Exceed Expectation.

For radio programmers, this must be more than just the music you play. I have a setting on my iPhone called ‘infinity’ that when my curated playlist runs out, it picks other songs it thinks I will like. If all you are doing is playing the same songs I can get on my iPhone, why would I come to you for music. The days of “more music – most music” radio are over.

The question you must ask yourself (and your audience if you do research), “If you miss a day of listening to WXXX, do you feel like you have missed a lot?” In a Raving Fans programming world, you need, personalities, information, music curation, interviews and other content that makes the world decide to choose you. Steve Jobs put thousands of songs in my pocket – what are you doing that’s special?

Do you go out into the world and touch your listener? It does matter. Do you answer the phone and talk to them? In an increasingly insular, pandemic driven, social media world, high touch can still be a winning strategy.

Are you developing local talent that can entertain, create interest, create empathy, and engage with people?

When you build the ‘ideal customer experience’ don’t worry about what it will cost, focus on what you want the outcome to be. Begin with the end in mind. In the book, there is an example of a Chevy dealer who used Corvettes as their ‘loaner’ cars. It drove customers in for service (profitable) and increased their sales of Corvettes (even slightly used ones). Who wouldn’t want to drive a Corvette for day?

From a sales and business prospective, do your customers tell their friends about advertising with you? Are your invoices easy to understand? Trust me – your invoices are confusing and suck.

Do your salespeople hold the advertiser’s hand through the sales process? Do you provide extra value to your biggest advertisers, not just the meanest ones? Do you have a way to measure success for the clients, do they feel their opinions are valued? Remember, you are not selling a product (radio or digital) you need to be selling what that product does. You are selling a service of showing the clients how to use your products to accomplish their marketing objectives. To quote Don Beverage: “You can compare the price of a product, you can’t compare the price of a solution.”

Have you as a manager or owner even met all your advertisers?

When I first got to Rochester NY in 2000, I met with as many clients as would see me, and I heard a lot of complaints. It started with the basics, we weren’t running their copy correctly, we weren’t billing them correctly, we had too much sales turnover. The list of problems was huge, almost overwhelming. It was hard to hear.

I went to station appearances – and frankly we didn’t appear to look very good in public. Our personalities didn’t answer the phone, and one was sleeping in the studio while on the air.

I gave the Raving Fans book to the entire staff. We then took one day and did a strategic discussion about what “Raving Fans” service would look like in programming, sales, promotions, traffic, and business office. The team built the plan, and we aligned it with what we had heard from our advertiser’s and listeners.

We increased audience interaction on the phone and answered it to say “hi” and “take requests” even when we weren’t doing contests. We set up weekly meetings to review commercials that ran incorrectly, understand why, and fix the problems. There are two types of problems, people problems and systems problems. We fixed both.

We set up systems, deadlines, expectations for appearance, training programs for every department. We did employees surveys, and put in a suggestion box, and I read every suggestion out loud, including the ones that were not very flattering to me. We created an ‘employee’ of the quarter program, as nominated by co-workers. We put up a raving fans bulletin board so we could brag about each other. We did annual employee engagement surveys, and took feedback from our employees.

The future of Radio is bright. The industry has a deployed staff of local advertising experts, still has the largest “share of ear” according to the most recent Edison Study. We can sell AM/FM Radio, Digital Audio, and a variety of digital products including video.

A lot of other people can sell most of these products too. The days of the ‘walled garden’ business protected by the limited FCC licenses is over. Now you need to stand out.

“In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” – Seth Godin

I can hear people thinking: What will it cost to do all of this?

The question should be: What will it cost if we don’t do this? Perhaps the industry will become invisible.


For nearly 40 years, Michael Doyle, The Sales MD, has been hiring, training and developing sellers and sales managers around the United States. The success of your business is tied to the success of your sales team. Contact The Sales MD at:  [email protected]


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