by Ryan Ghidoni
Thursday June the 1st, 2016
Audio Active Advertising – Episode 20: How to Make Your Station’s Revenue Ratings-proof.
In the first nine years of my career in radio, from 1998 to 2007, I got to work for a company that embraced creative led selling.
The number of writers was actually greater than the number of stations they wrote for.
We sent sales reps and creatives to Texas, Toronto, and L.A. to train with Roy Williams and Dan O’Day.
Most importantly…it was all driven by sales.
Jim Blundell travelled to all of the CHUM stations across Canada to roll out his Fullwell Sales System which was based on this core philosophy:
“You will only get what you want by helping people succeed first.”
Our goal was to deliver more effective ads, even to our smaller clients, so that their businesses would succeed.
A successful client’s ad budget grows as their business grows and when it does…they spend it with the people who got them there.
A successful client becomes a long term client.
We also discovered an interesting side effect…
Consistently providing great creative made us ratings proof.
It didn’t matter if we lost a few points or slipped from second to fifth in the 12 plus numbers.
We were the ones giving them effective ads, so high tide or low tide…they stayed by our side.
This is why a well staffed creative department is an important part of a sustainable business plan.
A great sales team will help you GET clients…a great creative department will help you KEEP them.
Without effective creative, you have to rely solely on relationships and ratings and guess what…
Even the biggest powerhouse stations eventually slide in the ratings. A key person leaves, the brand fails to evolve with it’s audience, or new competition takes a slice of your pie. Radio is a ratings rollercoaster! It’s not a matter of IF a dip is coming, it’s a matter of WHEN.
Most clients don’t need another “friend”. They can get free golf games and show passes from ten other sales reps in the city.
To paraphrase a line from Bob Toogood, a GSM and great teacher who I learned a bunch from…
“Without effective creative, relationships and ratings create a tripod that’s missing a leg. A small wobble in the relationship or the ratings leg will cause the tripod to fall.”
Unfortunately, the radio industry doesn’t seem to be focused on long-term sustainability.
It seems to be focused on “how do we look this quarter” and “deeper levels of efficiency”.
This has created many Skeleton Crew creative departments OR HUB creative departments.
Skeleton Crew departments, with one or two members, lack diversity and time.
There is not enough people with diverse life experiences to bounce ideas off of. Even if there was, there is no time to brainstorm. The sausage factory has to focus on what will hit the air tomorrow.
HUB departments, serving multiple markets from one remote location, lack direct communication and market familiarity.
Great radio advertising requires strong communication between sales and creative. HUB departments rely on email to transfer information. Email has words but NO tone and NO body language, so miscommunication is an everyday occurrence. If you ever want to undermine the chances of two departments working together…. make them communicate via email. Any efficiencies you might get from centralizing creative can be quickly washed away by petty squabbles and countless revisions due to communication breakdown.
An even greater flaw of the HUB system is the lack of market familiarity. How can a client think you care about their business when you can’t pronounce the name of the street they’re located on? The best radio advertising is created by holding a mirror up to the audience. It’s pretty tough for an audience to see it’s reflection in Winnipeg when the mirror is being held in Toronto. Writers who live in the market write better ads for the market because they get what the product means to the audience.
These types of creative departments make me recall the following words from Jim Blundell:
“We all typically set out to get as much as we can from people. Our goal is to see how much we can get out of a client or to see how much we can get out of our staff. The moment we operate with that philosophy we have started the process of ending the relationship. There is a more fulfilling and a more lucrative way of leading.” – taken from http://fullwellcoaching.weebly.com/index.html.
But we still have to make money right? Who is going to pay for extra writers and producers? How can we bring back our local creative team?
Offset the cost by creating a new revenue stream by charging for creative. Create a process that involves a proper needs analysis, idea generation, targeted writing, and superior production. Give it a name (Super Creative, Client Solutions, Premium Plus) and offer it as an upgrade option. The internet has made business owners very familiar with the concept of the “paid upgrade” whether it’s a Vimeo account or a GoDaddy website. Clients can still opt for the free ad but it’s your job to demonstrate the benefits of the paid upgrade with sample campaigns, testimonials and success stories. If eight reps each sell four a year, you could add one or two members to your creative department (depending how you price the paid upgrade).
So if you lose a client or two or ten over the next couple of months because your stations took a beating in the spring book…take the time to do the following:
Add up the business you lost with what the other reps lost in the pit,
Compare the total loss to the cost of providing great creative,
THEN tell your GSM there’s a way of making sure your accounts are ratings-proof by the fall.
Want to outsource creative NOW to protect your top clients? Need an outside consultant to assess your creative department and provide recommendations? Contact Audio Active Advertising today.
Ryan Ghidoni is an 18-year veteran of radio advertising and has worked with some of the most creative sales reps, writers, producers and voice talent in the business.
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