I love my radio sales reps. Seriously. I have Linda to thank for turning me on to Roy H. Williams. I’ll never repay that debt. Scott and I still play golf. When I see Mike or Stacy or Fanny any of my other reps, we stop and chat like old friends. The good reps will do that. I was blessed to have some great reps.
The great reps also understand things like frequency. They know that for my ad to be successful, not only does it have to be impactful and tell a great story, it has to be heard several times by the same people in one week. The goal is for the same ears to hear my ad at least three times each week for as many weeks until they are in the market to shop for my goods.
That is the beauty of Radio. Unlike Television, where viewers change channels faster than a butterfly changes direction, Radio listeners tend to stick with one channel through multiple commercial breaks. Sure, satellite radio and music services like Pandora and Spotify have eroded some of the ears on radio, but that can be said about every medium. The one difference is that the people still listening are “still listening.”
The advantage of radio is that people don’t fast-forward through the breaks. They don’t look away, or run to the bathroom, or go get some food. Their ears are always open. They listen with some regularity, whether it is the morning drive, at the office at work, or while getting dinner ready for the kids.
The disadvantage of radio is that most people don’t actively listen to radio. It is background noise while driving, working, or cooking. Most people are doing something else when they listen to the radio. That means you have to say something truly interesting to capture their attention. Boring ads that sound like everyone else’s ads won’t get heard. They just blend into the background.
Because of Radio’s strengths, however, it makes a great choice for long-term branding campaigns because you can reach a lot of ears with a lot of frequency for a lot less than most media. The key is to make sure your schedule has that frequency of three per week, and that you run it at that pace for at least as long as half your purchase cycle before you can expect traction.
Now, please understand that many radio advertising salespeople don’t know about the frequency of three. I know this because I have sat through many presentations done by radio salespeople. In one such presentation, after the video they showed, you had to be on Valium to not want to sign up for radio. But the package they tried to sell me had a frequency of only 0.5/week. They were dumping their unsold inventory on me through this package, and it wasn’t going to help anyone but them!
You have to be adamant about getting enough frequency. Fortunately, because I had such wonderful radio sales reps, I got the chance to sit down and explore different packages to see what kind of frequency I could get. Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, taught me that running 21 ads per week ROS (Run of Station), I would typically get pretty close to the frequency I wanted. Unfortunately I didn’t always have the budget for that. I found, however, that if I ran ten ads, two per day in back-to-back hours, Monday through Friday, I could get my frequency. I didn’t reach as many people, but I reached them well enough. (Roy also taught me that you can try to convince 100% of the people 10% of the way or 10% of the people 100% of the way—they both cost the same, but have wildly different results for you.)
If you want to run a radio branding campaign here are some tips for making it more effective.
- Buy a schedule that gives you a frequency of three per week for the same people hearing your ad. (Your sales rep can help you with that, even a bad one.)
- Buy a schedule that is at least 50% as long as the purchase cycle for your industry. (Longer if you can. In fact, the longer a contract you buy, the better rate the station is willing to give you.)
- Create ads that are far more interesting than whatever the person is already doing while listening to the radio. (Remember that radio is a background noise more often than a primary channel.)
- Change your ads (but not the emotions or message) at least once a month. The more creative and impactful your ads, the more often you should change them.
- Don’t buy a station just because it is the top ranked station in your town. The top-ranked station often charges the highest rate. Why? Because they can. The funny thing is that often the difference in the number of listeners between #1 and #4 is not that significant, but the rate card varies greatly. A good ad salesperson will tell you how many people you’ll reach for the dollars you spend. Find the best value. (Pro note: the number #2 station in a particular format in your town is always more willing to negotiate rates than the #1 station. Give them a one-year commitment and you’ll be surprised the deals they can offer. You’ll still reach a whole bunch of people—without spending a whole lot of money)
- Don’t buy a station just because that station has “your demographic”. Your customer base is not a demographic. It is a psychographic. It is the people who share your values and beliefs regardless of age, income, or education. You’ll find them on almost every station.
- Don’t ever buy a prepackaged deal until you know it has the frequency you want at a price you can afford.
If you plan to be in business a long time and have the budget for it, Radio makes a nice long-term partner to run that business marathon with you. If you’re looking to get on and off like a ride at the state fair, it probably isn’t your best bet.
PS While Radio is best suited for long-term branding campaigns, if you want to use it for an event or sale, do what Roy taught me. Schedule the ads beginning with one hour before your event, and then schedule backward in time running one ad per hour (two, if they’ll let you) until your budget runs out.
PPS Often times sales reps will throw in “live remotes”, special events where the deejay visits your store and reports back to the listeners several times an hour to tell them how much fun he is having. While fun to have that happen, unless the deejay is a huge celebrity, they rarely draw a crowd. And if they do, the crowd is there to see the talent, not you. That’s okay. Just make sure that what they say on the air to the 99.99% of the listeners who didn’t stop by is on point with your message. That’s the true value.
PPPS Thanks, Linda! You are the best!!