Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Using Imaging to SELL Not Just Identify

I always look forward to monitoring stations. When you hit the road and spend a few days immersed in a market or even just breaking down a station with an on-line monitor the area that seems to fall short is in the imaging.

All too often we work hard at just keeping it short - so it says nothing and just repeats the calls, name/frequency, and maybe some positioning.

We also tend to make such grand positioning statements. THE best rock!!, All the Hits not just some of them, Today's Hit Music, -- we throw around statements like these and expect the audience to believe them and embrace them mostly because we make sure to say them 14 times every hour.

Of course there is also the BIG production packed with sound effects, movie drops, TV clips, Music hooks, and anything else we can find to layer into the 10 second sweeper. Often these are so packed you can only hear the copy in a production room with the processing set 'just right'.

When you actually break down the message much of the time it's about recycling personalities, selling feature shows, hyping contests, promoting events, and selling that we have more music than others. It's ok to push all these important parts of the station, but does it really SELL THE STATION? Does this really build up any images in the audience's head? Or does it just try and push them around the dayparts? If it's not recycling it's usually making claims that set off the BS meter in much of the audience as quickly as humanly possible.

Think of it like a billboard for a minute. A billboard that just says McDonalds Next Exit will make the sale if I'm hungry on I-75. But, a billboard with a clever phrase or an eye catching picture that leaves a lasting image about McDonalds even if I'm not hungry goes a much longer way to building McDonalds into a real brand.

We don't just need listeners right now. We need them to have great images and feelings for our brand as much as possible to win. You won't get those great images if you don't project them on the air.

The best way is to think in campaigns. Brand building advertising works in series of well crafted messages that communicate the facets of the brand with a creative presentation that catches your ears and eyes. If you approach your imaging this way - with a clear message in mind and stick with it you will be building a real brand.

Now that's worth putting between the songs.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Old Fashioned Consultant Sell

As radio really came of age in the 80s one of the keys many sales teams used was 'the Consultant Sell.' The concept was built around the sales people taking more of a role as a marketing advisor than just being a person who sold 60 second spots. Learn as much as you can about the business you are selling to and apply all your marketing knowledge and resources to help them make a name for themselves or ring the cash register. The goal was to become their trusted advisor, on the inside of their marketing plans which would obviously mean more sales for you and the station.

It was really a great idea and when it was well done by a sales person it did move the needle on the sales budget and also worked well for many clients who now had a trusted advisor at a media outlet that reached the whole market at a reasonable cost.

We don't hear much about the 'Consultant Sell' anymore. In fact you don't hear much about this style of selling in any industry anymore. One would think that this is a basic building block of selling anything - learning as much about your customer as possible and then try to fill their needs. The sales person who could fill this role should be in the drivers seat.

I see a couple of reasons the Consultant Sell could have fallen off in Radio:
  1. Too many Corporate mandates. Who has time to hang with the local Auto Supply store or Insurance Agent to find ways to help them build their business. You have 2 sales meetings, a mandated call sheet, a budget session, 5 spots to write/produce and 3 pitch presentations due today.
  2. Not much support. When you have to do all the research, presentations, write your spots, and work with an overstressed promotion department you have to wonder what resources you really have to offer as a marketing consultant to the local business person.
While these reasons may be factors at some stations I suspect the real reason the Consultant Sell isn't used is because it doesn't work anymore. In today's world anyone who can use Google can network on their own to find out all about new marketing techniques and theories. They can stop in on any number of web sites to learn how to use databases, the web, viral video, search engines, ebay, and many more options.

No doubt the web has replaced the sales person in many industries as an expert on their wares. Here in radio we do still have the sales teams - but do they have a role in today's world to relate to the business owners and potential advertisers? Maybe it's time to take the old idea and rebuild it for the New Realities of the digital and new media world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Product Priorities

Even though Summer officially begins this weekend and vacations are in the air this is the time for every manager to take a look ahead at the Fall. A year ago we really hit wall in the Fall with the economic downturn becoming a nose dive and for most any plans or priorities were tossed overboard for survival. Hopefully the 'storm' has passed and while it has left some damage to the products to repair this Fall you should be able to start looking at rebuilding the product and at least setting some priorities besides cutting everything you could.

So where do you start?

While the specific needs of your station or group of stations are no doubt unique there are some common areas that I bet everyone can look at as starting points to rebuilding the products. Here are 5 areas I bet would be on your list:

  1. Get an Honest Evaluation: What shape is your product in? Have you lost key people that are affecting the quality? How are your ratings holding up? Has the competition made any progress or have YOU made any progress during the last year riding the storm out
  2. What training and coaching does your product team need as their roles have probably shifted and their time constraints are larger than they were a year ago. Is one of your PDs now handling more stations in the cluster? Are you doing a lot more with fewer staffers and wonder how can they get help to cover all their work and still do a good job?
  3. Production and Imaging: This is a crucial department to not only the product but also to sales and clients. Getting good messages on the air for clients to move product with is the lifeblood and I bet many of you cut back this department. It's also the place where the messages and images for the stations are built. Rebuilding this department could be the fastest return on your investment in the building.
  4. Promotions: Another spot where many cluster had to cut back on. Just like production and imaging this is another spot where clients interact and use the product to move goods and services. It's also a place where a lot of the images for the product are built. Getting it back in shape can return on the investment.
  5. Research: What does the audience think of your product now? How damaging was it to trim out that Mid-day person? Did the promotion cutbacks matter? How about the competition - did they advance? Has their music preferences shifted? Are their feelings about radio as dire as we've been lead to believe? We have lots of questions on the product side and while some of them are not worth answering with a tight budget others are crucial. Many stations have gone years without much perceptual research - it's probably time to get much closer to the audience.
  6. The Web: The web and new media have advanced. In the last year satellite radio has faded and the Ipod has become rather common place - no longer the newest gadget in the bag. Now it's the cell phone and the smart phone - using apps and streaming stations into these devices is the new hot gadget. We also have new smaller computers (the Net Book) and more and more wifi in the world. Between the smart phones and the more wifi world the audience is getting closer to a fully plugged in and portable communication experience. While terrestrial radio has let much of the past web/new media world pass it by this is our opportunity to jump in. No it won't return on the investment now, but in 2-3 years those who move on the options here can expand their distribution to the new media. Remember all the years AM wished it could become FM? Here there is no tower-transmitter-modulation system to limit the conversion. Get out that and stake your claim and build it.
There are plenty of opportunities as the economy improves and business gets back to growing instead of just surviving. This summer is the time to assess the situation and build your plans to get moving this Fall and into 2010.