YOU NEVER WIN WITH CRITICISM
One of my early lessons in sales was the agreement that all media options are good and viable or they wouldn't exist. That does not mean they are not utter failures for a certain business. You might think direct mail is akin to tossing dollars out an open window but it actually does quite well in the right circumstances. The same can be said of radio and every other marketing medium.
The biggest reason to stay positive is the client. I like to relate it to religion. There was a guy I knew that got deeply involved in his Church. In his mind everybody else was on the interstate to hell and had it all wrong. When he had blasted me with this one too many times for my patience I told him if right was all about telling people they were wrong and going to hell I wanted no part of it, that he was driving me away, not closer and making me out to be a fool.
And if that client of yours just spent a huge chunk of change on direct mail that you feel is a waste of money, don't offer your opinion. You job is to show your client your option might be a better option. I never make them think they made anything but a good decision, a calculated gamble that just didn't work out this time. I even say every marketing medium is good or it would go away. The trick is exploring marketing venues to seek out the best ones for their business.
I sell the merits of what I offer, not the pitfalls of what I don't offer. If I have to shine my light on the pitfalls, then just how good is my option. I was told if I had to cut down a competitor to make myself look good then what I offer just isn't that stellar in the first place.
I never tell my client they were wrong or made a mistake. Instead I sell my positives in hopes of winning them over. In fact, if my friend had taken this approach with his religious beliefs, I would have listened. He would have had a chance. If he sold the merits versus telling me I was wrong, I would be much closer to that yes.
Selling is about being smart and helping without making that person you're helping think they aren't the smartest guy in the room. The fact is, they might just be but haven't learned why radio will work for them until you came along to help them understand just why that is..
SHOULD I SOCIALIZE WITH MY CLIENTS?
I think I was influenced more by my situation when I got in to sales: a small market and I was so poor when I started I had to pay a couple of things on credit card. Extra cash was not an option. Thus, my station didn't have a budget for socializing and I sure couldn't afford to.
As time moved on I did and it did not end well. In fact I concluded once you hit the friend zone, you got fewer orders and were asked for favors the station management didn't care for.
For my experience, I developed a rule: when a client thinks of me they think only business. Don't get me wrong. I know my clients personally and they know me personally but that is rooted in talking at their business or seeing each other at spots like the grocery store, community event ot chamber mixer, not over lunch, not over drinks, etc.
I learned that people buy not because it's just a good proposal but because of other reasons as well. I had a friend that turned me down on a great idea he finally took me up on. I really needed the sale at the time but my friend said he just didn't have the cash to spend. The next day he bought the newspaper from a new sales rep at the paper because he knew she 'needed a break'. In other words it was easier to say no to a friend but harder to say no to a struggling new sales person. If I said sales had been off that month instead of selling the merits of my plan, I might have gotten a yes but as a friend, it was easier to say no.
Sure, I talked to clients. A five minute trip to the grocery store might extend to 30 or 45 minutes by seeing my clients shopping as well. If I see them in a restaurant I'll say hello and maybe pay for their meal.
From a social media perspective, I stay away from lots of personal opinion when it comes to religion and politics. I just don't go there. I don't use 4 letter words or anything that someone might think is taboo as far as public knowledge goes. I stay out of fights and don't bully online. Some of my clients might think less of me if I do. I do not know exactly what image they have in their mind of what I am but if anything, I want them to think of me as a nice guy that has their back on marketing ideas to make them more successful. And I'm not talking just radio. I recall one client where I suggested a reverse ad in the paper and a much smaller ad (reverse is black background and white print to make it really stand out on the page). That's not rocket science but rather recognized 'tricks' to get more from your ad dollars.
I approach my sales job as a marketing expert. I'll talk cable TV, direct mail, print, online advertising and even business cards. The idea is to bring value to the client and build the perception I know what I'm doing. In short it gives my client a greater confidence in my ideas I bring them that involve marketing on my station. In their mind, because of what I know, I wouldn't work for a poor performing station but rather a successful marketing venue.
And, yes, you have to educate yourself on other advertising venues, knowing their strengths and weaknesses. You can't just make this stuff up because your client might act on your words so those words need the backing of fact. If you don't have integrity, you won't last in sales. You'll be found out alarmingly quickly.
MY COMPETITION IS TELLING LIES ABOUT MY STATION
The issue is who the client trusts but thank goodness they tell you. And what a compliment the competitor gave you. That they are so threatened by your hard and effective work, they have to try to cut you down. You are certainly doing things right. But how do you respond?
Here's what I would say, looking the client straight in eye: You know, I am hearing that a lot. You and I are both in business. Our plates are full doing our jobs well and making customers happy. We really don't have the time to worry about what our competitors are doing. In fact, if we think about the comment, I'm reminded of something my Dad said. If you have to cut down your competitor to look good, what you offer must not be that great. Considering the comment my competitor made is not truthful, I would question their integrity. I prefer sticking with what's important: offering a great product and making my customers happy. If the comments give you cause to doubt that statement, I hope I may prove to you by my actions your doubts are unfounded.
A big part of sales is just letting things work out in the end. We know deep down the bad guys really don't win although they might appear to be winning at the moment. A person that resorts to criticism of competitors never gets ahead but moves on at some point. The ones that always win in the end are those who stay focused on providing the better product and making the client happy. Yep, you are going to have a good number of battles, many that leave a mark, but you'll win time and time again as others follow in the footsteps of the first loser.
And I want to make this clear: if you are always having to deal with this sort of issue you are the winner already. If you weren't, you wouldn't matter and nobody would be trying to best you. Nobody sets their eyes on tenth place, they want to win and beat out who is #1. With #1 comes the competition always nipping at your heels. Just remember, stay steady on what you are doing and don't lose focus because that is what got you to the position you find yourself.
THE ADMISSIONS OF A SALESMAN
I was posting on a radio advertising site when a memory from January 1991 flashed in my mind. I'm a positive thinking guy but that does not mean I am immune from getting down thanks to sales. January 1991 was a big learning experience for me.
The prior December I had billed about $13,500. My commission check, if all paid on time, would be $2,700. To put that in comparison, my typical check was $1,400. December had me with a smile on my face I could not hide.
It was the first Monday in January. The sales meeting was a pep talk about grabbing the dollars now while the getting was good. My boss spoke from experience and underlying was the positive attitude part knowing a dismal month of sales was ahead, in fact, a whole bad quarter. He knew everyone had spent their wad of cash before December 31 and were hunkering down.
I took off at 9. I had 15 businesses to call on that day. I knew I'd get some 'no' answers, so I arranged my list so I'd call on those I just knew would say yes to begin my day. If I could get a yes, it would reflect on my attitude as I visited those that were more likely to say no.
By 11 am I was near the end of the list...3 to go and not a single yes, just a come see me next month. I had already thought how impossible it would be with $1,700 on the books for January if I couldn't get some sales. There was rent, food, car expenses and such and $1,700 wouldn't come close. In fact $4,500 wouldn't cover my bills at 20% commission on collections. Anyway most of that $1,700 was agency business that didn't get paid fast.
Business 13 for the morning was an office equipment company that began last year amid stiff competition. They were certainly making inroads and holding their own, but they could never spend much. The lady I dealt with was a sweetheart. I could convince her to say yes but my mind would not allow me to sell her something I knew she'd regret buying. I always felt if a client would buy in the heat of the moment, I was not doing the right thing. I wanted a level-headed yes versus an emotion driven feel good now but bad later yes.
I recall driving into the parking lot and then a parking place where you could see her inside, a vacant parking lot and not a customer in sight. I just knew she didn't have any money to advertise. I pulled out of the parking place, never getting out of the car. I decided an early lunch was in order. My balloon of hope had been popped. I was sure I wasn't going to come anywhere close to finding almost $3,000 in billing.
As I prepared lunch at home it dawned on me. I had to make the client say no. I couldn't get a 'yes' until I asked. I reflected on how I didn't push the last few clients because I was scared of hearing the word 'no'. I was doing the absolute worst thing I could possibly do.
After lunch I went back out and I got one yes from a client I had just 'chatted' with. It was a small order but it was better than nothing: $150 instead of the usual $300. Finally at lucky 13, the office equipment business, I stroll in. I'm greeted with "Boy am I glad to see you. I need to buy some advertising." You see, January was the month many of the contracts for office equipment renew. The normal $200 a month order became $800 within about 5 minutes. We explored co-op dollars. She called some reps and got them involved. Glowing, I went back to the office to get the ball rolling. Then she called. She got her rep for one company to kick in some unearned co-op dollars and she upped the order to $1,200. (Note, an account executive can sometimes wrangle some unused co-op dollars about to expire from one client that doesn't use the monies to one that will).
A bit later I called on #14 and #15 that day. Number 15 was a car stereo shop, a least likely to say yes client in my book. They bought $300 because so many kids got cash from relatives for Christmas they might spend that money on a new sound system for their vehicle. My mind never considered this.
When I went home at 5:30 that afternoon, the first Monday of the new year, my sales had gone from $1,700 to $3,350. And it was all because I realized I had to do the right thing for myself and stop fearing the 'no'. I had to get in my head that until I asked for a yes or no, a client couldn't say yes.
By the way I wound up at about $4,700 for the month and every dollar past that first Monday was tough to get but I stopped fearing no so people could tell me yes. I didn't outshine any other salesperson at the station or set any records, I just kept calling on my accounts like anybody else. Isn't that the definition of crazy: doing the same thing but expecting a different outcome?If so, I was crazy in January 1991. The thing that made January 1991 and that first Monday memorable was it was the day I stopped fearing the word 'no'. As a boss would tell me years later: every no gets you closer to a yes. He's right. Sales is about numbers. The yes is out there, you just have to get all those that say no out of the way first.
So many have asked about sales and what I have researched, I figured I had better start a page. Most people ask how I have the time to do this and simply put, my current radio job is for all intent and purposes, caretaker of a radio station meaning many days nothing happens but I have to monitor and be ready to act if something goes wrong. So, the trick is to keep myself entertained all day.
For those that know me, I have been on the sales and management side of things since 1987. It was a rough start but a fun ride where I learned much about myself and people in general. I was fortunate to have great teachers to influence me. I'm certainly not a great salesman, but more the slow and steady sort of guy where my clients are intensely loyal. To me, loyalty trumps the quick sale. I prefer think long term.
YOU MUST KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY
These days we are hearing about too many small town radio stations really struggling. This is AM and even FM stations in the smaller towns. I have seen many towns on a downhill slide. I watched from the sidelines.
Many of the small town radio stations have simply sold cheap to outside interests over the years. The original owner passed it on to family and now that family is at retirement age but the station is not attractive financially to younger family members.
Then the are AM stations where the FM came along decades prior. The AM has been a cost for the combo and now costs too much. To sell it invites competition and to turn in the license means the cost goes away and competition does not increase.
You really have to know your community. What was the town like in prior years. What is the town today? So many towns have evolved, and not for the better. Many are in some state of decline.
Let's stereotype. In the 1950s when that AM daytimer came on the air, farmers had small acreages and while few were rich, all survived. Main Street was bustling with everything you needed for your life. In the late 1960s came the FM and it would sustain a loss for another decade or so until it finally dominated listening habits by the mid-1980s. Then the AM began to dwindle until it became fairly insignificant by about 1995.
Since the 1950s, farms became bigger. Farming became more mechanized. If you could get the better farming equipment, you needed much more than 40 acres to make that work. So, you bought out other farmers who couldn't make the transition or just had bad luck. Naturally the ones bought out left town, taking a job in another town. The community shrunk in population.
The mom and pop business that was flourishing, now needed to survive on less customer count. For the most part they did, for a while. But farming equipment demanded more land and it became easier to farm large acreages. Now that quarter section became a full square mile, then perhaps, through leases and buyouts, perhaps a few thousand acres because farm equipment isn't cheap and to pull a profit, you need that much land. Fewer landowners farming means fewer people. Fewer people means fewer customers. Fewer customers means fewer businesses.
By now Main Street has about as many storefronts open as closed. The population is half what it was 25 years back. The kids graduate and get jobs in the big city. The town is graying.
The radio station cannot generate enough revenue to be live and local but there is a solution. This new modern satellite delivered radio format means no unreliable jocks or jocks not following the format and it also means that 20 year old jock and the 15 year old mayor's daughter will not become a blemish on your station. You can have big market DJs and consistent programming with a minimal staff. You're now able to make a decent profit again.
The community suffers many blows. School attendance is down. There's talk of the next town over consolidating with your school. It does. The big town half an hour down the road celebrates a Super Walmart going in. Then Dollar General opens on the outskirts of your town. The Main Street becomes more vacant as more businesses shutter their doors. The local restaurants, once packed, now close down after the lunch run because the evening meal just doesn't produce enough customers. The bank is bought out by the big bank in the bigger town.
As we enter the 21st century, Main Street has only about a dozen open businesses. Population is down again and older than ever. Only the farm related businesses seem to do well. Primary businesses start to close. The grocery store wonders how it can stay open much longer and finally closes. Too many are shopping at the bigger stores.
So there you are. You are working hard. You do a fine job but there's just not enough of a business community to produce anything but a very slim profit. You had to lower the spot rate, not raise it. The local paper, around more than a century closes shop. There's three shopper newspapers offering cheap rates and some of your radio dollars are going there. So what if most toss it in the trash with the junk mail, the option to reach 40,000 households, if only 10% read it bests your actual reach by a long shot. The bigger town FMs are upgraded and come in clear locally. The radio dial offers many choices. A bad year in farming could cause your demise. Locals are buying more in the bigger town 30 miles away because they have to go there to buy much of what they used to buy locally.
To say this is rare is not truthful. This scenario is more commonplace. Town movers and shakers are not going down without a fight. They are trying to evolve the town, but that means outsiders buying locally, an audience your station does not reach. And locals complain you are no longer local and you explain you wish you had the dollars to be. In your coverage area, truly the only place you can generate income, has too few businesses to do radio the way you want.
I know this is a dismal picture. For some, the LPFM is not as much a business venture, but a service. Still you need the financial backing to survive. Studying the trends of your town is essential to determining if it is a good idea for you. You need to look at your town's history and trends. You need to know where you will be in ten years. Your LPFM as the only local station can bolster the community but I must caution you that I have seen many a small town fall off the cliff of demise where they did everything right. It is akin to trying to stop a fall after you lost your footing. You are not going to stop the fall, just, with any luck, how you land.
I looked at a really beautiful small town. It did everything right. In the past couple of years its grocery store shut down. So did one of the restaurants. The newspaper closed up. The bank sold and was replaced by an ATM.
In another town I looked at, it seems a certain celebrity was buying up ranches. It was estimated he might have bought a third of the county. The business community suffered. The business that doubled as a farm supply and grocery store decided to drop groceries. There was just not enough business for some vendors to carry product the the store. The soft drink and beer distributor said they couldn't break even. So did the dairy products distributor and bread distributor. Main Street closed up one by one. Today a bar, a restaurant, a couple of beauty shops, a farm supply, some ag and auto repair places remain. The auto parts store is gone. The local newspaper was being run by the daughter of the publisher because Dad had a stroke and could no longer run the paper. It's tiny building, including a small press and the paper that was barely breaking even was for sale for $5,000 cash. The daughter warned you had to print in house to make it and you had to sell in the bigger shopping hubs to get by. To put it in real numbers: in 1980 the publication was producing about $40,000 a year. By 1990 it was about $30,000. In 2000 it was around $22,000. In 2006 it was $16,000. She thought the paper, with more consistent selling, it might do about $10,000 more admitting subscriptions account for much of that $16,000. By the way, in 2015, the paper is still for sale. It did about $14,000 in 2014. The publisher felt the town was transforming. Some Main Street buildings had been bought or town down and replaced with steel buildings. Two businesses recently opened. One sells books online. The other is an online business as well, selling antiques. They each buy a weekly 2 inch ad for $60 a year. The grocery store used to buy a 10 column inch ad, at a minimum, each week.
In another town an AM hangs on selling 50 cent spots on the AM if you buy the FM that has become more of a regional country station commanding $7 a spot. He got an offer on the FM. If he sells, he cannot afford to sustain the AM for long. He'll sell the AM or just turn in the license. You see the AM makes about half what it needs to break even and most of that is the 'combo buy'. Very few only advertise on the AM. But that beats the simulcast since making 50% of your break even beats 0% any day.
RATE THE PITCH FROM AN ACTUAL LPFM STATION
Part of constantly learning about the business of radio is looking at how others do things. I found what looks like an interesting offer. Let's see what you think and then we will tweak it.
The regular reader knows I push the fact you have to talk the language of business when you speak to business owners about your station. If you don't 'get' them, you cannot sell them on your station.
The pitch from this actual LPFM station starts like this (paraphrased to obscure the actual station's identity):
"As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, we do not offer advertising on a paid for broadcast basis. Instead we closely follow National Public Radio's process of soliciting tax deductible donations. Although we do not offer 'quid per quo' advertising per donation, we follow the NPR model of identifying donors within our regular programming."
Let's stop there. First, the station does a good job identifying what they do. The way National Public Radio identifies and credits Underwriting is pretty universal. The true plus is they have explained what they offer without the negative 'you can't say this or that' jargon that fills most media kits for not just public full power stations but LPFM stations as well. I have always contended the best way to kill a sale is to tell people you want their money but stipulate what you won't allow. This station has avoided this quite nicely. In fact, they have clearly defined what they are selling: donor acknowledgements.
The true negative is saying they accept donations only. I have repeatedly stressed 'donations' should be absent from your pitch. Business owners have to make their money work for them, so by asking for a donation, you are saying the business owner transfers the benefit to the LPFM. I used the shopping around the Christmas season as a prime example. You buy $200 in groceries and gladly pay because you benefit for the cash you exchange for the benefit. As you cruise out with your groceries, there's the Salvation Army kettle. If you flat out do not try to avoid them, you might drop a couple of dollars in the kettle. Why not $200? You get no benefit. Watch how many don't drop something in the kettle. Watch how many full baskets of merchandise come out and how little cash goes in to the kettle. This is reality folks. Because you have a LPFM does not turn human behavior on it's ear. Reality does not change because you have a LPFM.
"These announcements air at random times throughout the broadcast day with no set number of days or number of total announcements aired. This is determined solely by station management".
I like the idea on the surface. This allows the station to not be bogged down in scheduling and having to do credits when you are off the air. It offers the liberty to schedule as many announcements as you need to achieve the results you think the client needs to buy again. But it says none of that.
Let's say you go to a gas station to fuel your car and the owner says, "Give me $100 and I'll give you plenty of gasoline in return". Would you do it? No. The gas station owner decides when you have pumped $100 in gas. You don't know what you are buying. Do you see the problem?
What if I said, "At the $1,000 level you get mentions at random times for an undefined length of time. Our objective, however, is simply to make your business the first one to come to the listener's mind when they need your product or service. In addition, if you listen, we want you to see you get real value and that we are surely very grateful for your support of our station. Clearing, we see this as a partnership. We want to create a scenario where you want to work with us from here on".
"In the thank you message, we identify your business, describe what your business does and give your website address, if available. In addition, we list your business as a sponsor on our website."
I really like this description with one exception: include address and phone number as well. I am not big on a phone number but some businesses make it due to the phone ringing. What I truly like about this description is you have clearly defined what the on air announcement will sound like. An example might be a good idea as no sample was offered. It dictates content. It should. I recall buying health insurance and the only payment option was a bank draft. I had no room to argue. It was the way they did business. My point is when you clearly define things, they are not subject to change or modification. Simply put, there is no room for discussion about doing something different and the average person doesn't think about trying to change the policy.
Pricing: 5 classes: $1,000 or more per year; $500 to $999 a year; $250 to $499 a year; $100 to $249 a year and $99 or less per year.
Stats: 60 dbu reaches 38,133 and 50 dbu reaches 69,844 people. Radio Locator says there are 62 choices on the radio dial. The station is a 'Community' format where volunteers do their own shows. The schedule includes several non-entertainment segments of local mass appeal. I suspect the station, based on format and crowded dial would ever achieve 1% and more likely .5% of all radio listening. Thus about 350 to 700 total weekly listeners. I want to point out, if .5 or 1% of the population goes to a specific business, that might be enough to make the business a success.
So, in my critique, I don't like the word 'donations'. I do not like not knowing what I get and the fact only station management says what I get for my money. I have no idea of how I benefit as a business owner.
In the 'like' department, I love how they avoid the FCC Underwriting Rules and clearly define the content of each announcement. I like the 'random' airing. The more 'loose' you are, the better. The more you define, the smaller the box you create. It eliminates logistic nightmares and trust me, you'll have them. Although you have the right to bonus plenty of freebies if you desire, the only missing component is how the client will benefit. Naturally this can be spoken. You can, possibly, offer a guarantee on the contract. As for a lack of a guaranteed number of impressions for the money, it allows the station to set a firm number of units hourly with individual businesses identified in a rotation where frequency is determined by number of businesses on the air at any given time. This lets you control inventory and keeps you from crediting should you be off the air for some reason.
This 'unknown' number is frequently an add on in commercial radio. For example, at night or at times on the weekend, there's not much demand. So, stations might say, you get 20% of the avails from this time to that time for X dollars. At this point we think that will be X number of units. We can give you an exact total at the close of business on Friday. However does X commercials for $X look good to you? It is always a low cost and very effective is gaining value per dollar for the station.
Overall, just a little tweaking makes this a great pitch in my book. What is your opinion? As a business owner, would the pitch in italics make you want to buy?
SMALL VERSUS BIG SPENDERS
My first boss in radio was a very nice guy. He was just a decent person, hard working, honest and a good person to work for. The truth be told, he was overwhelmed, not by the workload but the position. The truth be told he was a great salesperson. He felt the results of the campaigns he sold were a reflection on him as a person. He communicated well, understood his accounts and what they expected and he fought hard to exceed their expectations.
After a few months the group owner sent in a guy to manage the station meaning my former boss was demoted to Sales Manager. It was the perfect job for him but he didn't stay long before moving on. Like anyone, he say it as a personal failure.
One afternoon he looks really down in the dumps. I asked. It seemed he had about $8,000 in sales each month but his biggest account had run through their co-op and was cancelling their $1,200 a month schedule until they could get more co-op dollars. He said he lost $240 from his pocket and he had no prospects to change that. He said it would take months gaining that business back from other businesses that might advertise. He said he would rather have 20 little accounts than 1 big one. I took that to heart.
Let me explain: co-op is assisted advertising. Let's say you are a clothing store and you sell Wrangler jeans. For every sale of Wrangler product the folks at Wrangler put some money aside to help you advertise Wrangler. When you have accumulated enough to run an advertising campaign, Wrangler will say if you run advertising that says these certain phrases, we will pay half your advertising cost up to the amount we set aside for you based on your sales. Now, a good representative might be able to wrestle away some extra dollars from clients that never use their co-op but that is not usual practice. So once your amount is used up, you wait for sales to create enough to advertise more using co-op.
When I went in to sales, I worked hard. Even though I did everything right, some accounts would simply go away. One sold. Another shut down and moved away. One owner changed their focus to contracts versus everyday consumers. The list went on. It was the harsh reality of sales: 20% of your accounts will go away every year on average even when you do everything right.
Protecting yourself from that 20% is crucial. I have said before you spend about the same work to get a $50 a month account as you do a $500 a month account, so why not go for the $500 folks? The 20% rule is why.
I think we can surmise the number of businesses that can spend $500 a month is a fairly short list compared to the $50 a month group. The $500 a month group has numerous media options they can use and the other media has them at the top of the list to woo and sell. Plainly put, you might have that $500 account today but the competition is out to change that and they are usually more of a threat than the 20% rule.
Now that $50 a month account might take as much time to sell as the $500 account but there is something very attractive about the $50 account. In almost any community, $50 doesn't go far and indeed is not enough to afford most local media. The little business actually appreciates you taking your time to earn their business. It is likely you are the only media they buy. They know they need to advertise and they are loyal to you for singling them out to give them the big business treatment. So, as far as competition goes, you really have none so only the 20% rule applies.
The real lesson here is it takes longer to sell ten accounts at $50 than it does one account at $500 but once the dust settles, the $500 account is likely trying another media option and the $50 account sticks like glue. If you lose a $500 account it really hurts but a $50 account is easier to find and can remedy your loss faster than finding another $500 account that you have to win over by beating out all your competitors.
For this reason, the $50 account is like that fleck of gold versus the $500 nugget. I can pan all day and get bunches of flecks of gold but rare is the day I discover that $500 nugget. Because of competition and the 20% rule makes the small account my choice any day..
A CASE FOR MINIMAL UNDERWRITING
One email asked about how to accept Underwriting sold by volunteers that cannot possibly violate FCC Rules regarding Underwriting. The other email asked about accepting Underwriting without sounding commercial. I get what they are saying here. Their audience might feel the station 'sold out' if Underwriting was enhanced.
I think we can tackle both of these in one response. I base my answers on the fact I have always found myself at stations where we had to keep it simple and work smart. I quickly learned anything you add is a bad idea but anything you can eliminate is good. In other words, the less you have to worry about, the better off you are.
So, in keeping your Underwriting simple you can let your volunteers run wild and never violate FCC Rules on Underwriting. If you don't want to sound like you 'sold out', then minimal is better.
I have worked commercial radio where we went to the smaller businesses that could not afford a meaningful schedule on our station in order to grow our billing. It was amazingly simple and hassle-free.
Our greatest success was selling sponsorship packages. All the client got was a name mention and either a phone number or address (these days a website address too). Giving it a fancy name helps. We used "Billboards". Everybody can relate to a billboard and we described it this way, the drive down the highway is not interrupted by the billboard yet it enhances the drive by offering some useful information very quickly. Like the billboard, the shorter the message the better. A billboard is highlighted and commands attention.
KLFT FM in Lafayette, Louisiana has a great asset in Christine. When we communicated we shared ideas. Hers was the simple 'Business Card'. These are 3 clients bundled in to one announcement. Here's an example: "90.5 FM thanks Herbert's Paint and Body Shop on Main Street in Kaplan. Mark's Grocery on Congress in Rayne and St. John Elementary in Crowley".
Rick at WUIC LP in Harlan, Kentucky sells mentions that include the business name and the physical address unless the business prefers only a phone number. The rates are cheap, about $20 a month for 1 a day when you spend $100.
KLFT and WUIC have websites. You might have to Google KLFT 90.5 Underwriting to bring up packages..
I especially like these ideas based on my sales experience. In smaller towns and areas flush with small mom and pop businesses, the name mention or spots as described above are hot sellers. In fact in a few towns, smaller in population that the town our station was licensed, had almost everybody in town buy. I'll cite an example: In one town of 30 businesses we had 28 on the station. In another town we had 30 of 35 businesses. In a third town we had 21 of 24 businesses on the air and, believe it or not, one was the local newspaper publisher (consider this: we are selling advertisers that buy the paper and the paper bought from us!). In each instance, the advertisers got the business name and address or phone number, nothing more. They were thrilled at our dollar a mention monthly package of 50 units for $49. Literally it took less than two days to get all those sales in each town. Total time spent was really about 4.5 days selling to wrap up 79 accounts in the 3 towns.
What was our secret? We sold school lunch menus, birthday and anniversary listings, community calendar and if the town was having an event. Such events might be the 4-H stock show, a July 4th community event or even a town celebration. In fact, at one station we dedicated an hour to the town. We took requests from the town, announced community events and let callers say Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to folks.
Best of all, we lumped all the advertisers in as few 60 second units as we could. We could get about 8 in an sixty. So, at most we ran 4 different spots, sometimes 3, and they played in or near the feature.
At one station we sold time and temperature with an exclusive sponsor getting the business name, address or phone once a day, Monday through Friday for $150 a month. To put this in perspective, our regular spot rate was $14.
So why do I like these? First, clients do. Second, they're easy to sell. Third, there is minimal if any copywriting and production involved. The client has no choice on copy, the choice is set by the package offered. They all meet FCC Underwriting guidelines. So, in short, your volunteers can run free without having to reign in the herd to stay within FCC guidelines. Best, they sell rather quickly because business owners understand the value of staying top of mind with the consumer.
I think this solves the issues brought up. Name mentions with address or phone are hardly commercial sounding even when several play at once. Second, it is so easy to sell and get on the air with minimal effort.
There is one other consideration a struggling salesman told me: "I'd rather have 100 tiny accounts rather than 10 large accounts. His point was 100 accounts paying $100 a month always beat 10 accounts paying $1,000. His point was somebody is always going to cancel on you and it is much better to lose 1% of your salary versus 10%. It is so much easier to sell $100 than a $1,000 a month account.
Another friend ran a tiny town station where local sales were nil so he had to go to nearby towns and even distant cities to sell. He spent about two days a week on the road selling about 100 accounts a month at $50 a month for name mention spots. 2 a day for $50 a month was easy to sell. In about 6 hours he could make $1,000 or more for the station. I'll write about this station in Some Station Observations.
OK, I LOOKED AT THE LOCAL PAPER BUT WHAT CAN MY STATION DO?
"As you suggested, I looked at my little town's newspaper and emailed them for the advertising rates: $7 a column inch but a business card is only $20 a week if I buy for 13 weeks. Classifieds are a flat $5 but some are $1.50 a line. I went through the paper and wrote down every advertiser and what they spent. Now what?"
Good for you. I'd do that each week. Watch for week after week advertisers. The regulars likely get a rate similar to the Business Card rate (usually 2 columns wide and 2 inches deep) which is $5. I think on the classifieds, the $1.50 a line applies to Public Notices that are placed by government, school and utility agencies as required by the State. There is no such requirement for Public Notices to be broadcast on radio.
Your paper has a decent rate. That is good. $20 is a decent rate, being that you are in a small community. You now have an idea of what the small business spends when they advertise. Following my own advice, I'd suggest one Underwriter Unit a day Monday through Sunday at various times each day to hit all your listeners for $20 a week for at least a 3 month run. Every advertiser is a potential Underwriter.
By subscribing to the paper, the only local venue, according to you, you can get a good handle on what those businesses are that keep that publisher in business. Before you hit the airwaves, why not stop by to meet these folks. Talk about the coming radio station and talk to them about their business, how long they have been around, what they do, how they do it, their challenges and victories. Get to know them as a friend and understand how they earn their living from their business. When you get on the air, they might be ready to buy day one. Don't discount friendly visits. That is how most sales are made.
You'll come away with the inside scoop. An auto mechanic I had on as a regular liked to offer free services to anybody that would stop by. He called it a safety check. They'd look at all the fluids, pull up the suggested servicing from that make's owners manual, check the tires, belts and such. Then the customer got a print out suggesting when things might need to be done and the estimated cost. They gave a $25 coupon good on their next visit. More than a few customers asked why they did this. He said the way you build customers that are loyal is by helping them keep their car trouble-free. It is not about making a dollar today but earning that dollar in the future when the time is right. Even if something needed service rather quickly, he would tell the customer they might want to take care of this very soon. He even said they added any needed fluids if they were a bit low and never charged on that initial visit. He'd tell the customer he hoped they might choose his business for servicing their vehicle when it needed it after saying he added this or that at no cost to the customer. People loved it. I'm sure you can see why. This was something I uncovered by merely asking about the business and he he did things. You can imagine, such information made me think of several ideas for a commercial. I actually put him on the air voicing the spot. And it was quite effective. I had a competitive message by learning his business.
That was the commercial world of radio but it applies to LPFM too. You can't promote his free service but you can work to give him value for the Underwriting he buys.
Back to that local paper: Our writer has shown he has done his homework. He knows who spends and how much. He has a nice list of actual buyer to go see and he knows the dollar amount to pitch them because he already knows what they spend. By no means do you ever cut down the paper, instead talk it up as a great publication and that the client was wise to buy advertising there. Note they would be equally wise buying your LPFM.
You never want to tell your client they make bad decisions, ever. At most, if the ad isn't working, you might say the message might not be right. The harsh reality is all media offering marketing opportunities has to be good enough or they go under. Suggesting looking at the message is not saying the client made a bad choice (even if it might be) but that additional thought might need to go in to the content of the ad. My owner once said ads that don't work have the wrong message and offered the complaining account a $100 bill to give away to the first person hearing the ad on his station offering a $100 bill to the first customer to stop by now. He even did a live call at one spot and a bunch of people showed up. So many, in fact, the business owner got scared. But it proved people were listening, just not responding to the message.
WHEN NO DOES NOT MEAN NO
I hear lots of responses from potential clients. By this I mean folks I know that have LPFM stations tell me what a client says and ask how to address this. Finally my mind worked hard enough to offer some advice they could grasp. I compared it to dating.
If you have ever dated, you might be familiar with the male or female role and it surely doesn't matter which side you are on, the asking or responding. Let's say you are a guy and you ask a girl out, you might get any number of responses. You hope for yes but many times get a different answer. It might be "I'm in a relationship.", "I don't know you well enough", "I think of you more as a friend" or that "Thank you, but no!"
Is "No" really no? Sometimes it is. The other answers might be correct as well but they might not. To be blunt, many times you have not done the right thing that will get you a yes.
Like dating, sales works the same way. Whether dating or selling, you get a no in a creative way more often than a yes. All this means is no does not mean no. Here are some examples:
I just don't have 'it' in the budget (means either the really don't but more frequently says you have not sold them on the station. Most businesses have no advertising budget, period).
How many listeners do you have (sometimes they want to know but in almost every instance they know the question will throw you off the chase).
My sales are down, so I can't do anything (Sales are up and down all year and they know how to weather the slow times and have prepared for it. If they are slow, they need to be on your station but it runs off lots of folks).
Right now I have more business than I need (meaning it may be the truth today but the number of businesses that really have enough business is so rare. The statement followed by "I'm scared if I get more business my staff will be so overworked our quality would suffer" means indeed they are telling the truth. If they don't add a statement like that, they effectively blew you off).
Radio advertising does not work for me (meaning they have been burned by the grab and run approach from a radio salesperson or more often than not, they have never been sold on radio in the first place and many give up).
I never get any advertising results from radio (meaning they don't have a clue about how radio works or they effectively ran you off).
Nobody has ever said they heard me on the radio (means they're probably telling the truth and don't have much understanding of advertising. They need a crash course in marketing and you're the teacher, but many don't bother to teach them).
In radio sales and this includes Underwriting, these comments mean you have not reached that level of comfort and assurance for the business owner to say yes. You need to earn their business, plain and simple. If you don't call on them again, you lost, not them.
The fact is EVERY business advertises themselves. They buy something from someone and many times it is not their best option. Radio works well for many businesses, most every one. You need to show you will build a long term relationship and work for them. That means talking about how radio works and why. If you simply show up week after week, those rejections become a distant memory. Take the time and effort. It's like a farmer planting a seed. Maybe it will sprout, but if you ignore the plant, you'll never harvest the fruits it produces, plain and simple. You watch over it and care for it so it is healthy and thrives. That is your job, like the farmer, to do this for the business customer of your radio station.
True story. When I started sales in a small market I was given a list of 40 businesses that had bought on the station in the past two years but were not currently advertising on the station. To offer background, the two sales people who had been at the station quit. You see the owner brought in a partner to manage the station. One of the sales people was fully expecting to be made the General Manager. When that didn't happen they were ticked off and set out to destroy the station. In fact they spread a rumor that I was hired to do sales because I was the gay lover of the new partner and we ran off to San Antonio to spend all the money we could make on our gay friends.
At two businesses, they believed the rumor and told me to leave and never come back, not saying why. I asked my boss what to do. He said walk back in next week like nothing happened.
One of the two threatened to call the cops if I set foot in the store again, so I suggested the following "My boss says I have to come by every week or I get fired". This business was in a mall so I asked if I could stay outside but simply make eye contact with the owner on my weekly visit so I could genuinely say I came by and saw you". The owner said that was okay and that is what I did.
On my 4th visit the owner met me at the door. In a civil conversation she asked about me. How long had I been in radio? How did I know the new Manager of the station. Where was my family from and such. After I told her I was married and showed her a picture of my wife and I, she invited me in. There were many more personal questions I gladly answered. In time I was handling her whole advertising budget and planning her promotions. I directed where her ad dollars went.
The other client where I was tossed out, my boss suggested I go in to apologize to the client. My first words were "I came by to apologize for us getting off on the wrong foot last week. Will you forgive me?" The client said yes and then said I was wasting my time coming by, thaty they would never buy my station.
On the third visit, the client said "Remember what I told you last week". I told the client my boss made me stop by to everyone every week. I added it was okay if they never bought from me but I can't lie to my boss, so if it is okay with you, I'll stop by each week and simply make eye contact with you, wave hello, and not waste your time".
A few weeks later we were talking, not about business but about me personally and working at the station. I became the voice of the business. The ads I did were replayed year after year. Salespeople that took over he account after I left would track me down to locate an old spot or ask me to do one for the client. I'm talking 5 years after I had moved on to another station or two.
It was the first client that apologized for their actions. You see they had been dealing with their prior salesperson for about a decade and did not believe the person would make something like that up. The client believed every word they were told as undisputed truth. I can understand why they would. They build trust and a long term relationship over years.
So, why mention this? I want to demonstrate that no matter the mountain in front of you, it can be moved by simply going back to see the client over and over and not lashing out at them even when it is deserved.
I also should point out in some cases the business owner is in a bad mood, stressed or simply upset and you show up, being the straw that broke the camel's back. You are yelled at for walking in. Simply say you are sorry for your bad timing and you'll stop by in a few days. The owner knows you don't deserve that and you just told them you understand and are not taking it personally. Granted, it rattles you when it happens and my remedy was to visit an account where we really hit it off and enjoyed visiting so I could get back on track. It ain't all sweet in sales but in almost every case it is respectful, professional and decent if not downright friendly.
I even had clients spew a string of negative remarks about my station. If I don't react in anger but apologize for them feeling that way and ask if I might be afforded the opportunity to rectify things, they suddenly get nice. One guy even said I 'passed his test' and ushered me in his office to 'talk turkey'.
I REPEAT MYSELF BUT THIS IS WORTH REPEATING...
I needed to get something put together for our website and I took to writing.
Before I began I must admit I know what is available locally and can at worst ballpark what clients are paying for advertising. I've seen rate cards for many. And I am looking at ALL advertising venues. You see, a business is introduced to all their options if they do any advertising at all and a good deal that don't know everything out there. Thus, your advertiser doesn't just think radio.
Your station is part of a mix of media options available, so you are selling against TV, radio, newspapers, periodicals, direct mail and maybe a few other options.
You must make yourself a contender. How? You talk about your positives. But before you begin, I want you to pretend you are the business that is going to buy from you. What do you want as a business owner? What is important to you as a business owner? How do I talk your language and make a logical and rational argument that a certain radio station should be 'bought'?
Let's really be blunt. Would you spend your hard earned cash to 'support a needed community service'? Is that what they think when they buy commercials on the other stations that provide a needed community service? Do they buy an ad in the paper to support that needed community service? Would they buy because they think they might gain a few new customers? And explain just how it is that your station provides a needed community service and how no other media does except you. Do you go to businesses in town and hand them the contents of your wallet because they provide a needed community service? How about for the "Halo Effect" of being a concerned and active supporter? Now lets get crass: These are silly and meaningless reasons. I know some business owners who would very gracefully explain the stupidity and imply they're surprised you got your head through their front door with such a big ego of how important you are in your own mind. Businesses buy as an investment in their business and for no other reason. That is the root of the purchase.
Now you are in the right mindset. So what makes you a good investment?
You offer an uncluttered format for their message. It is like being introduced to one or two people, not 5, 6 or 7 at one time. The message is easily retained. It is in a more conductive environment to be actually listened to. This means the effectiveness of every message offers greater value per dollar spent. The objective of advertising is to be heard and remembered.
You offer Trade Area Marketing. You don't make businesses pay to reach people 20, 30, 40 or more miles away that will never be their customer. You focus entirely in the area where their customer and future customer lives.
You bolster every day sales. A business succeeds through every day sales not special reduced price, limited time sales. A customer buys when they need what you offer, not just when it is on sale. Would you prefer customers who pay the every day fair price or the customer who will only but if you are the lowest advertised price.
And you might add, you promote facts, not opinions which vary by person and easily lead to customer dis-satisfaction. Most customer issues involve claims made and the customer's impression. In fact, opinions and claims invite scrutiny and comparison, putting the business at a disadvantage. Facts increase the chances you exceed customer expectations.
Let me ask you, if I was talking to you about marketing your business with my station would any of this make you consider an investment via my station to bolster your customer count. Would these words tell you I understand? That I get what it is like to run a business and try to increase customer count? Can you relate to me? Do you see why it is important to talk the talk and give reasons that make a person want to try you.
Notice I never mention Underwriting Rules? Notice I never talk about supporting my needed community service? Notice I am not selling a halo? Did you notice I try to offer reasons I feel we might be a good decision for you? Notice I talked about how the business benefits?
CAN LOW POWER FM REALLY SELL UNDERWRITING?
The most important thing I can say to you before we begin is erase all the radio lingo from your brain. Underwriting, Low Power FM, even that you are a non-profit are all things that are either not understood or insignificant. If you had to learn what it was, eliminate it from your sales vocabulary.
First, get in the shoes of the person you are to see. What do they care about? Is it that you play this or that or that you have this local person or that doing a show. The answer is not just no but hell no!
You talk business. You talk about how your station can benefit the business owner. You talk about your advantages and why you are worthy of consideration. You speak from the owner's shoes about how you can positively influence their success. Think of it this way, if a co-worker was wondering where you were going for lunch, you would answer with "Did you see X show on TV last night" but would be talking food choices, right? In radio we tend to get caught up in our own lingo and getting off the subject of business. I see this happen so often, I wonder how radio has survived to this day.
The biggest mistake people make is trying to explain Underwriting. That is almost always a fatal mistake. Others get so excited about showing how they compete for listeners they forget to demonstrate why their station is a good marketing venue. The fact is you are here to talk marketing and nothing else.
You must clearly and plainly explain things. Use liberally the phrases "our research shows", "we have found" or even "we believe". We believe is my favorite because it is difficult to dispute.
Now, every business knows they need to advertise. Every business knows the best thing advertising can do is keep your name out there so people remember your business when they need what you offer. These are givens but are worth saying because it demonstrates you understand advertising or in the case of the LPFM, marketing.
You might wonder how you approach the restricted wording on the message you will broadcast. My solution is space on the station website where the FCC does not restrict language. You might even say your station has discovered such announcements are better received and retained in this manner and that now more than ever radio is a tool to get the potential customer to your door by pointing them to the personal one-on-one approach the website allows.
Framing your 'pitch' is essential. In lieu of saying Underwriting and talking all the restrictive language, I say "We offer business card ads that say who you are, what you do and how to get in touch". We include full details on our website where you can go into specific details, comparisons and offers. We find this an effective marketing 'one-two' punch. If I need to say more, I talk about how the biggest and most successful companies maintain their success not by comparing themselves to competitors but allow the person to come to that conclusion because they hear your business name so frequently. In other words, the more they hear your name, the more they believe you are the best and overall leader in the business because you don't have to brag. It is not so different from the toughest guy on the school playground that never tells anybody he is but everybody knows it while the weaker guys are always jabbering about how tough they are so they can climb that ladder.
Many LPFM operators are upset over just getting a few miles. This is a HUGE advantage. Naturally you call on businesses where the business can hear your station. The huge advantage is Trade Area Marketing. Every single location business knows the bulk, if not all their customers, are within just a few miles of their door. Of all the advertising options, most cover fairly vast territories. Newspapers push this huge reach. Cable TV talks about how many towns they can reach with your message and those full power stations that cover a county to many counties talk about the tens of thousands if not more that can hear your message. The reality is that burger place in the neighborhood isn't going to find customers 30 40 or 50 miles away coming to them for a burger. The State Farm agent down the street isn't going to get more customers from the next town over or two towns over, especially when there's a State farm agent in each of those towns. Likewise the grocery store in your immediate area isn't gaining any customers from 30 or more miles away when the potential customer has to pass at least a few closer to their home grocery stores to reach yours. Trade Area is a huge deal.
Talk Trade Area Marketing. Talk about not having to pay to reach people who will never be their customer. If you pay $20 a column inch in the regional newspaper or $20 a spot on that full power FM station to reach people in your Trade Area, you can bet you are paying a good $15 or more of every commercial or column inch to reach people who will never be your customer, so why do it? Why not spend $5 an impression to reach just the people in your listening area who are close enough to your business that they are all your potential customers? Would you, as a business owner, have that $20 make 4 impressions only where your potential customer lives instead of $20 to reach only 1 in 4 people that are your potential customers? How could they say no? Naturally this is for the single location business and most businesses are.
You are not selling donations. If you want to do this, you'll be more successful with a cardboard sign at a busy street corner. Seeking the warm fuzzy feeling of a donation means the business owner will hand you the least amount of money they can to get you to leave. You have nothing to benefit them and there are many more deserving non-profits that can benefit and ramp up that warm fuzzy feeling to a ten. You are a radio station and I bet the radio dial is full of them where your LPFM is located. If your non-profit is a school, you might have greater success but nowhere near the success you will have if you are selling an opportunity for the business owner to increase their success.
But what if the owner says "I say this in all my ads" but it violates Underwriting Guidelines? You will have to say no sometimes. You can explain Federal Regulations will not allow that phrasing but I'd think it is better for you to say that is best said in writing. Say it is more powerful when stated on the website, not on the radio. The words are stronger indeed. The person can print it out and say I want 'this' and show the page. You can try to explain you have found it best to position the business as the undisputed leader in their field by not making any comparative claims. After all, the leader needs not to compare themselves with anyone. Coke doesn't have to say they are better. Jello never has to say they are the best. The list goes on. Simply put, if you must compare yourselves to others, you are saying you are not the best. You say you believe that is how listeners perceive this. However, when this is put in writing it becomes a pledge that makes the potential customer more comfortable doing business with you. Because it is written and not spoken on the air, the 'promise' is stronger and more absolute.
But I'm a 501c3 and they can deduct what they pay on their taxes. That's nice for the business owner to know that after you sell them. Chances are that is not that important because their CPA will figure out what line that goes on at years end. Many times it is more advantageous for the business to call it advertising so 100% is deducted. Donations are sometimes not 100% deductible but only a percentage is.
There are other advantages. You can talk how commercial radio has commercial breaks that last several minutes. You can mention how 60 second commercials are frequently heavily produced but frequently say as much as your messages do. You can talk about how Paul Harvey was known for making many businesses very successful through his spoken word, simple, factual advertising messages that listeners perceived as friendly reminders. And if they listened to Paul's broadcasts, ask them how they felt about the products he advertised. Were the messages remembered, believed and did the business owner think the product advertised was superior to competitors? If so, simply say, we are taking a page from the Paul Harvey marketing book.
You can talk about how you only air one or two friendly straight to the point messages at a time so your message is not lost in the clutter. I like to mention 'straight to the point' messages without the fluff. One of the things that made me laugh, I tell them, was this TV commercial where you see this dog driving a pick up truck with a guy in the passenger seat. The guy says, "You're not listening to me now". The dog sees a duck and drives the truck in to a pond as the guy in the passenger seat says "Mother of Pearl! No!!!". Did you ever see that TV commercial? No matter the answer, I say "I love that commercial but I can't remember what they're advertising". Mt point is it is not the length of the message but the message itself and when you have to window dress the message there is a good chance the message will not be clearly related to the listener. Think that provocative looking model in that full page ad in a fashion magazine. Did you see the product advertised or do you remember that provocative model?
I have been asked why the client should market themselves with our LPFM. I think the best way to explain this is: Our monthly operating expenses are lower than our competitors so we can afford to get you more impressions in your trade area for fewer dollars. We are local. Since we do not reach outlying communities, we have to try harder to be the local station people can identify with as their local station. And the lower overhead means we don't have to run as many messages every hour. That gives you a bigger bang for your buck. Best of all, all our listeners are your potential customers, not some of them. While we don't run ads for sales and such, we do offer marketing that lets you increase your every day customer count and smart business owners would rather sell every day to customers at a fair price rather than sell at below their fair price on certain sale days.
I frequently explain that sales attract the cost conscious consumer that is looking only for the lowest price. These folks typically never become loyal customers but always go for the lowest price. Anyway, sales only gain customers that need what you offer today. If a car dealer offered $10,000 off on every car would you buy one today if you did not need a car today. Are you buying a house full of new furniture today because a store has a half price sale when you don't need a new house full of furniture today?
So, choose our LPFM because you pay only to reach your potential customers, pay less per message, are presented in a way that positions you as the leader in your field, makes sure you are in an uncluttered format so your message is remembered and because we are local like you. I add that just as we have to work harder to be the local station to our listeners, we have to work harder and smarter for the client. Our customer base is limited to our trade area too. We have to be the right choice to be successful, just like you and your business. We cannot survive by being just semi-successful here and the nearest towns in every direction in order to survive. We have to outwork other media because without the support of the local area we cannot survive. Our goal is to make a positive impact on your business right in your trade area because our signal does not reach that competitor 20 miles down the road. We don't seek their business because we do not reach their trade area.
What if the business owner says radio does not work? Smile confidently and say you hear that a bunch. Now you explain: "Let me ask you this, can you read the newspaper while you drive in your car or watch a TV show while you are grocery shopping? Can you do paperwork or check your email while reading the paper or a magazine? The fact is other media requires all your senses. Radio doesn't. You can hear the radio while shopping for groceries, while you drive, check your email, catch up on paperwork, cook dinner and many many other things.
The fact is passive listening is retained by the mind just like information gained by giving your full attention. The fact is many radio listeners can't say just what brought them to your door and the same goes for television since people frequently do something else when the commercials begin. Sometimes a person will print out a webpage or cut an ad out of the paper to document what they want.
When I was doing sales at a commercial station I approached a brand new boat rental company on the shores of the nearby lake. He had no ad in the phone book as he had just opened days before I stopped by and had never placed an ad in the newspaper. Simply put he advertising in a regional fishing magazine in the issue that promoted a fishing tournament at the lake and he advertised with the radio station. Granted many of his customers mentioned the well targeted fishing magazine ad. All the other responses, a good 45%, stated they saw his ad in the newspaper, on TV or in the phone book. The problem was he never had an ad in the newspaper, on TV or in the phone book. All of those people rented from him by hearing the ad on the radio. They just didn't recall that because they were passively listening to the radio when they heard the message. I also like to ask how frequently the client tells other merchants where the client heard or saw their advertising. It is extremely rare for a customer to mention the advertising source that brought them to the business because they mostly are not sure but also because people just don't think to tell the merchant.
THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (Merchant) MEETS THE WMTG MEDIA KIT
WMTG provides an eclectic mix of music and information unavailable on commercial radio. We are proud to be a source of popular, seldom-played music from the 1950s through 1990s, and we offer a variety of current adult contemporary music, too.
Bill Says…there’s a reason it is seldom played. One can play seldom played songs but infrequently because listeners want familiar music.
WHAT IS UNDERWRITING?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows businesses to underwrite or fund programs on stations like WMTG, but it does not allow commercial advertising. WMTG depends on underwriting donations from businesses and individuals to defray operating costs, as well as equipment purchases and repairs. Unlike many other non-commercial stations, WMTG does not receive any funding from the government. Underwriting is similar to commercial advertising, but differs in a few very important areas:
So, I can’t buy a commercial. Underwriting? Are you now talking about insurance? Just tell me: if I buy from you will I get a return on my investment?
The FCC forbids announcements that issue a CALL TO ACTION. This means that statements like “stop in, shop here, call, call now, limited time only, mention WMTG”, etc. are not allowed.
What? Am I being pranked? This sounds really silly. You know, I’m too busy to play this game right now.
Underwriter announcements also may not contain QUALITATIVE WORDS. Qualitative words such as “largest selection”, “newest model”, “best in town”, “finest selection” and “state of the art” are prohibited
Finally, announcements may not mention or give reference to PRICES. References such as “free”, “sale”, “discount”, “clearance”, “reduced”, “going out of business sale” and “liquidation” are also prohibited by the FCC.
Boy, you guys sure don’t make it easy on yourself, do you?
Underwriting announcements on WMTG are required to follow all FCC regulations.
Okay. Not my concern, but okay.
Our Enhanced Underwriting Announcements:
identify, but do not promote
do not call to action
use value-neutral language
do not mention prices
can be produced in 10 to 30-second pre-recorded announcements
Enhanced Underwriting Announcements on WMTG are recorded by WMTG’s production staff. Underwriter announcements that are not recorded by WMTG are not accepted.
You know, this is just too darn complicated. In the real world I tell the advertising rep what I want to include in the ad and they take care of it. I could care less about the wording, I am paying you to bring me more customers, so just figure it out and let me get back to running my business.
Announcements may include information which identifies, but does not promote, the underwriter including:
the name of the underwriter
the underwriter’s products and/or services
the underwriter’s corporate slogan (as long as it is not a promotional statement, like “Get Met, It Pays”)
the location of the underwriter’s business
the underwriter’s telephone number
the underwriter’s web address
Enhanced Underwriting Announcements on WMTG may not:
be a commercial
include a call to action
use qualitative language
mention any prices
endorse a product or service
(Some examples of announcement texts are included at the end for your reference.)
Seriously, is this a prank? Who put you up to this?
Why your business should underwrite WMTG…
Your support of non-commercial radio is vital to maintaining the quality of programming and services you and other listeners in Mount Gilead area have come to expect from Community Radio WMTG.
I could care less. If I wanted to waste my hard earned dollar I could throw a few bucks out the window and be done with it and you wouldn’t be blathering about this and that
How can underwriting benefit your business?
While underwriting is not commercial advertising, it can provide your firm with some of the same benefits, plus some that commercial advertising can’t offer. Research indicates that Low Power radio is an excellent public relations tool. Listeners have a positive image of companies that support Low Power radio and report their purchasing decisions are influenced by such underwriting support.
How come I have never heard of this so called Low Power before? If it can only do SOME of what advertising can do, it looks like my best bet is to buy advertising which you clearly are not offering me.
Reach our diverse audience…
Because of the wide variety of programming done on WMTG, the listeners are a diversified group of people who share many common interests and lifestyles. WMTG provides programs that appeal to groups that are often ignored by the commercial stations.
Sounds like to me you’re trying to be the station for everybody but I’m not so dumb to think that can happen. You can’t reach everybody by being diverse. If you do it right you can reach a big chunk of the population if you center on stuff most people find familiar and comfortable.
Demonstrate your community concern…
Your support of WMTG shows you are interested in contributing to the quality of life in Montgomery County and surrounding communities.
I already do this. Now there’s another with their hand out. Fine, what is the smallest dollar amount I can get away with that gets you out of my office and doesn’t make me look cheap.
Expand awareness of your name and presence…
Awareness of your business is expanded each time you are mentioned on WMTG. With our diverse program offerings, you will be able to reach more types of listeners than any single format station!
Okay, I know I need to keep my name out there. What makes you think you can bring me such a diverse audience?
Enhance your business image…
Your image is enhanced by your association with non-commercial local radio. You will be joining other fine businesses that support our quality radio programming.
Really? Heck, I can’t tell the difference so how can any other radio listener. All the stations have messages from businesses and apparently you do too so just how is it the listener thinks highly of me about being on your station, supposedly non-commercial, with my commercial, or whatever the heck it is.
You can advertise your association with WMTG, Montgomery County’s first and only Low Power FM Radio Station, in other media (newspapers, Internet, etc.) Advertising that your business is the sponsor of one of the many popular programs on WMTG, or a station event, is an excellent way to increase the public’s awareness of your business. It is a strong statement about your company’s contribution to our community’s well being.
Are you serious? You guys have a mighty big ego. If you want me to use my hard to come by ad dollars to boost your station then we need to talk about what you will PAY me!
UNDERWRITING PLANS AT WMTG
WMTG has four levels of underwriting or support:
SPONSORS are those individual listeners who wish to help us with their donations. This rate is only $10.00 per month and is not available to businesses. If the supporter pays a year in advance, the total price is $100.00 (a savings of $20.00).
UNDERWRITERS are individuals, organizations and other entities who donate $60.00 per month or $660.00 per year if paid in advance. (This is a savings of $60.00).
The LOCAL UPDATE UNDERWRITER donates $50.00 per week to support our local information updates about 12 times each weekday. There is no discount for extended sponsorship.
The sponsorship or underwriter message will play a minimum of 3 times per day during the contracted period, and sponsorship of special station events can be arranged. Sponsorships and underwriting payments are not refundable. Availability and details of plans are subject to change without notice.
Okay, I get 3 a day of what exactly? And when do those play? You got some ‘splaining to do Lucy! That local update means what? Do you say this business gave us some money so now some local information? What do I get? You know, I’m not sure you are not a scam. Really, I have no idea of what I really get for my money but to know how many times a day I get it.
All WMTG underwriters who receive on-air recognition also receive a link to their website in a special section of our site at http://www.wmtg.org/. Please contact us for complete sponsorship details.
Okay. That is a good deal. I know I need an online presence. That makes it easier to consider your offer.
I wish I could say this is an unusual media kit. It is not. It is one of the best I have seen!
I always preach about writing your media kit for the reader. How does the business benefit? How do you bring the business more customers?
Somebody forgot to say what you get for the package. Is that a business name mention, maybe with a phone number or address? Is it a 10 second spot, 15, 20 or 30 seconds. Can you tell me?
HERE’S AN IDEA
WMTG is Montgomery County’s only community focused mass appeal radio station striving to reach as many listeners as possible and instill a greater sense of pride in the community by providing the only daily source of local information.
Our marketing research proves time and time again that a business gains business by being the first business to come to mind when a product or service they offer is needed.
We find that businesses that feel the need to compare themselves with competitors are not the number one business in their category. The #1 business never has to brag. They simply say what they do and they say it frequently. The result is they position themselves as the leader, the best in their field.
WMTG offers this positioning and top of mind awareness through concise and factual messages more easily retained by our listeners who reside right in your primary trade area. Our approach means we can say more in 15 seconds than you generally get from a more expensive 60 second commercial. In fact, our listeners respond better to this approach.
We realize the consumer has changed their buying habits. That’s why we not only promote you over the airwaves but on our website. We realize the typical consumer goes to your website because they heard about you on our station. We know the website allows the radio listener to understand your business on a more personal level, convincing them to buy from you.
Our objective at WMTG is to position you as a leader through our concise, factual, ’no bragging’ radio message. Then we make sure you are heard by the largest number of people in the county, your primary trade area. Finally we work to establish a bond with those listeners to your business through your online presence. We feel we have created the most cost effective and efficient concept for bringing new customers to your door at a very affordable rate while reinforcing you as a leader in your line of business.
Will you afford us the opportunity to put these words in action for your benefit?
Your fifteen to twenty second message is easily retained and frequently tells the listener more than the commercial. We only air a few such messages an hour and for added impact we identify you as a supporter of the radio station our listener loves. Why? It makes you a friend, almost an endorsement from the station, making it easier for our listener to chose you..
LOOKING AT RATES FOR UNDERWRITING
When I talk to Low Power FM stations and Public Radio stations I am always interested in what they charge for Underwriting. Naturally I am looking for unique ideas and trying to gather if they are maximizing their asset, the radio station. First, some are really inventive and some are downright too cheap.
No matter where you are, you shouldn't be charging $50 a year for an Underwriting spot 7 days a week. You need to run the numbers. Let's say you let a sales person get a commission for each sale when they bring in payment. Let's say that is 20%. On a $50 sale that is a mere $10 for making numerous calls on a client and potentially several copy changes within a year. Can you imagine how many accounts you must have to make it worth anyone's time and effort? And there is a limit to the number of accounts you can handle. In fact, I'd say about 30 active accounts is the maximum if you intend to keep them on the air. You can bet other sales people are after your client and will win your sale by simply out servicing you if you don't stay top of mind with the decision maker. At 30 accounts, that's just $300 a year for what is easily a fulltime job based on 20% commission on collections. Are you willing to put in 40 hours a week for $300 a year in your pocket, buying your own gas to visit these clients day in and day out?
On the other end, you can be too pricey. I know one station that is in a remote community and only has about 800 in their coverage area. They charge $10 per Underwriter Spot. Considering their eclectic format would not be of interest to more than about 5% of the potential listeners at best, it is easy to see why the rate is considered 'too much to pay'. I'm sorry but once or twice a week is not going to give any client any benefit other than another choice versus tossing cash out the window. The typical business can only afford about $80 a month in this town based on what I see in reported sales. So, if they developed a nice $80 a month package with say, 2 mentions a day on weekdays or once a day 7 days a week, I'd bet they get lots of takers.
Many LPFM stations are run by religious groups. The national average is 3% of the population listens to Christian radio. I suspect we can double that for what is termed 'Bible Belt' states and maybe a bit more for more rural settings where weekly services might be more of a tradition or weekly social activity. Even so, you really have to look at the numbers. When your entire reach is only 6,000, the maximum potential for a Christian station might be as much as 360 people. But wait, we are talking a station that is a specific denomination. And the station is not a music oriented station as the vast majority of Christian Radio Listeners tune to Contemporary Christian music stations. So, let's say 50% listen to the music station (and it is a rare location that doesn't have one in your area). Now we are at 180 potential listeners. Remember this station has a mainline denominational stance but in the 6,000 in the coverage area there are 6 options for mainline denominations like Presbyterian, Catholic, Lutheran (ELCA and a more traditional option), Baptist, Christian (Disciples of Christ) and Assembly of God. In this area some 540 people are on the attendance rolls for the denomination the station targets. At the very, very best case scenario, the station might have about 100 listeners, a generous amount in my mind and I'll give them that because they do some local non-religious programming too. Even so, I doubt you'd run out of fingers counting listeners at one time on both hands and that is in peak hours.
Simply put, this station is ending up empty on Underwriting because they charge $25 per Underwriter Spot and $100 to sponsor the station as a Day Sponsor. It's likely fewer than 10 would hear the spot so that means $2.50 to reach a person at best. What does a stamp cost? The numbers just don't work but their logic was the amounts were in synch with amounts the sponsoring church received when asking for donations. The problem is Underwriting is ongoing. People don't donate $25 every day, or $100. For the business community, you need that magic amount of dollars they can afford to spend monthly.
GETTING CREATIVE is always fun. As we set out with our Low Power FMs, we really need outside the box thinking. Taking their cue from commercial radio, one Public Supported Station offers naming rights. Their studio is the X business studio. The weather is from the X business weather center. The community announcements are from the X business community calendar. There's no spot, really, just an annual fee to earn the right. Charges vary from $3,600 to $10,000 depending on the market from the stations I have seen that do this. To compare, the $3,600 station charges $2 a spot for a monthly Underwriting package. The $10,000 station charges $100 a month for 1 Underwriting Spot daily, 7 days a week.
I love this concept of naming rights and expounded on it to include community announcements and weather. It's so simple and easy to execute. Simply put, it might be "your hometown station, this is K or W ??? LP, Anywhere, broadcasting from the Joe Blow State Farm Insurance Studio". A nice little dedication plaque for the door to the studio and appreciation plaque for the business does the trick. For that yearly sum, they get mentioned hourly in the recorded Legal ID at the top of the hour. How about this: "The Hometown Forecast from The First National Bank Weather Center calls for...and it's 62 at the First National Bank. One weather provider offered a remote sensor the software would receive so the temperature was really from that remote location and identified as such. Any PR oriented business is game for naming. Maybe it is the local power company that sponsors the community calendar and in return you build a 4 by 8 foot cork board, protected from the elements, where people can post community announcements at the sponsor's location. Heck, you could even call on the direct sales independent representatives that will post there and maybe get an extra underwriter or two. Even the weather and community announcements are so easy. Just schedule one community announcement and one weathercast each hour. 15 to 20 seconds is plenty of time for each feature and all you do is open with the sponsor getting the naming rights. My goodness, it might be a nice, say $15,000 or more a year from this alone.
THE RIGHT PRICE? So, what do you charge? How much is too much? What is too little? As I have stated before, look at other media in your area. If the newspaper charges $20 a week for a 4 column inch business card size ad, guess what, $20 a week is a good price. You have third party documentation many businesses can afford $20 a week. When a business advertises, what do they pay other advertising venues? Ask! Remember, a good rate is in the ballpark with other media and close to what other options charge a client. Too expensive means a solid no. Too cheap and you have no value to the buyer and become a "throw a few dollars out to get you to quit bothering me". In the ballpark gets you respect and value. Affordable gets you many more yes responses.
The response I get to the above is "we really don't know how many listen or what is a fair price". I understand that. Nobody really knows. Sure you can get a clue but there's lots of guessing even in rated markets, so it boils down to being simply liked. You see, if the client likes you and feels you are with them on trying to help, the number of actual listeners and price are not that crucial. If you make it a subject you talk about then it will be.
Here's a lesson learned. You'll need to read between the lines, but it demonstrates how centering on price and listeners can go so wrong. You need to center on the relationship and simply let radio do that magical thing it does. I was new to sales in a small town of 3,000. The Dairy Queen had lunch specials and they weren't on the DQ menu. Once a week it was cornbread and beans, all you can eat for, then, $2.99 including the drink (this was 1980). The franchisee had never bought radio and I was told to try to get her on. We agreed to about 15 spots advertising the cornbread and beans lunch at 99 cents if you said radio to get the 99 cent price...$2 under the regular price. Seeing the full parking lot that spilled over to the street, I was thinking she was certainly going to opt for a regular schedule.
I asked about how radio did. My problem was I asked how many paid 99 cents for their lunch special. The answer was NOBODY! The owner talked about running out of food 30 minutes before the lunch special ended and how she couldn't recall a busier lunch run. Instead of these facts, she felt radio didn't work because nobody demanded the 99 cent price. Had I gone in and asked how her customer count compared to the previous week, I believe I could have won her over. As a footnote, why, you wonder, nobody demanded the 99 cent lunch. The answer is radio is passive listening. In other words, you were likely doing something else when you heard the commercial, so when you got to Dairy Queen you likely felt you heard 'it' wrong that maybe we said $2.99. So to eliminate any embarrassment nobody demanded the 99 cent lunch, assuming the staff even knew the code word for the 99 cent special was the word 'radio' that the passive listener might not have even retained in the first place. I also learned code words generally don't work. It was a costly lesson since I enforced radio didn't work for a client who could have become a day in and day out advertiser.
TRADE AREA ADVERTISING
I was speaking with an LPFM operator the other day. His is a suburban radio station. He has great programming and a local DJ that is a household name, so to speak. He has tons of listeners as well. You'd think sales would be a breeze. That is not the case. Sure he has had some come forward to sell for him but they never back up what they say they can do with actual orders. We looked at his media kit.
It dawned on me that we didn't have that zinger that makes his potential clients sit up and take notice. We think we have it now. You see, when you are in a big city there are many possibilities for advertising and all of them are pretty much out of the financial reach of the single location business that does not have an advertising agency making buys for them.
Sure, the local paper has a local section each week where the city is pretty much divided into four quadrants, allowing local merchants to buy ads only for their quarter of the city but those quarters are pretty big. It might take 90 minutes to get from one end to the other taking the major streets. The cable TV company does the same. Then there are subdivision monthly newsletters that you can buy but their cost per thousand is high even though they are very good choices for the mom and pop business.
So, what does this LPFM really sell? The answer, and this is the key wording, Primary Trade Area Advertising. It is a fact that the single location business gets virtually all of its customers within a few miles of its door. The approach is why should a business pay to reach those who will never become your customers? That's like tossing your money out of the window. His LPFM is advertising right in the neighborhood. The business does not pay to reach people that do not matter. As a result, the ability to make more impressions at fewer dollars and the fact the ears that hear the message are in the Primary Trade Area really gives the presentation a swift kick in the pants.
Sure, it is Underwriting to us, but for the merchant it is advertising and any business worth their salt knows a few things like the best advertising you can buy is advertising that makes people think of their business when a person needs their product or service. Even more so, the regular mentions do that little extra by making the merchant familiar to the Primary Trade Area residents. Familiar is big, really big. Familiar also means superior to the competitor that does not advertise. Thus, making the listener aware of the business and what they do and doing this day in and day our rather frequently creates a mental image of the business being successful, good at what they do and are better than their competitors the listeners don't hear about.
So, if you need an oil change you are not driving 25 miles but instead but down the street. If you are going out to eat, you are likely choosing a restaurant right in the neighborhood. If you are buying car insurance, it likely the agency down the street. So this LPFM is selling the business to people right down the street or right in the neighborhood, the Primary Trade Area.
As Underwriting does not allow comparative statements, price and item and such, it does let you know who the business is and what they do along with contact information. With advertising, the hearer makes some mental decisions. The mind processes the information offered and then complete the mental picture by, what I call, connecting the dots. What I mean is you embellish the information and we tend to think positive. So, when details are omitted, the mind fabricates details and they are virtually always positive. Thus by simply saying who you are, what you do and how to contact the business, the mind makes assumptions that usually exceed the impact of any competitive wording. Have you noticed the best never has to brag about being the best? In fact it is the competitor vying for their position that compares themselves to the best.
On a side note, please make it clear that your job as the LPFM is only to bring people to the business. Your job is not to convert them to customers. That is their job. I had a guy that sold water filtration systems. His pitch was about all the contaminants in tap water and words like cancer and poison were thrown out. The price was a bit on the high side. Many people told him they'd lived there all their life in the town and drank the tap water all their lives with no issues. In other words, the product was too high priced and the pitch was wrong. I had to have that conversation about bringing people to him was what we did and it was up to him to sell them. He started with "my advertising didn't work" but once he realized he had been flooded with calls, it dawned on him it was the pitch and price that needed work. Advertising did what it was supposed to go. It generated leads. He just couldn't convert them to customers.
APPLES AND ORANGES
Pricing your Underwriting puts you on the road none travel. In other words, your situation is unique. When you compare other advertising venues in your area you must consider their reach versus your reach. When the full power commercial FM reaches a potential of 100,000 but you only reach 10,000 with your LPFM, you cannot charge the same as the commercial FM. Why? First, you are not selling 60 second commercials and second, you don't reach but 1/10th the population.
So, you think, "I'll sell at dirt cheap rates". Think before you decide this. Let's say you are buying tires for your car. You walk in and the clerk says "We have this very good tire for $80 but if your budget won't allow, we have this $8 tire". What is your impression of the $8 tire? We all know 'you get what you pay for'. Certainly the expectation of the $8 tire is very different from the $80 tire. But here is the deal killer for you: it takes about the same amount of time and expense to sell the $8 tire as it does the $80 tire. So, by comparison, if you're selling what would you rather earn commission on, the $8 or the $80 tire?
Price your LPFM Underwriting by population reach and what you think might be the percentage of the population that might listen. In fact, you might look at some websites, say the National Association of Broadcasters and Radio Advertising Bureau to get an idea of what percentage of the population prefers what on the radio. In other words, you reach 10,000 and 12% prefer classic rock and you are the only classic rock station, then price yourself at 1,200 listeners, for example. These are not real numbers, just pulled from thin air for demonstration purposes. My point is if the price is realistic then you get your fair price and the merchant will assess value to your advertising option. The cheapest means the merchant expects nothing and they likely felt sorry for you and decided to throw you a bone..
In 1992 I was in Kerrville, Texas when Kerrville was much smaller in population and number of radio stations. The radio dial was pretty simple: In Kerrville you had KERV AM and sister KRVL FM (Nostalgia on AM; Country on FM) and KITE FM, the station I worked for with Lite Rock. You had the barely received Bandera FM playing Contemporary Christian and you had KFAN FM doing Americana along with local full service country KNAF AM in Fredericksburg. The area was about to explode in a few years and already seemed huge to folks that had lived there 10 years earlier.
KITE FM is the new station, not quite a year old. I can say many things about the owner, some good and some bad but I'll refrain because good or bad, whether hindering or a positive force, it doesn't matter as your job is to sell and produce results for customers.
As the Sales Manager, I wanted a small, concise and factual media kit that did not overwhelm clients or salespeople who felt they needed to skip some parts or rush through it. In my mind the media kit needed to slip in to a letter size envelope and be easy to navigate.
Using a foldout 8 by 9 jacket with flaps to fold my pieces of the media kit cut in proportion to permit 4 pages in each of the two slips with each headline visible when assembled correctly with cut-out for a business card. I took some photos.
I admit I like this media kit not so much because I created the content but it's size, information and overall presentation. You see, I want my customer to know what the market is and what my media does, how it does it and how I am unique and of value. The idea is to demonstrate we are a better or logical choice for ad dollars. I want the client to know it is not his/her company and mine, but he/she and myself utilizing my influences to bring greater success for my client. Selling advertising is personal and takes a relationship where you both understand, respect and trust each other. Your client needs to know the way you make your living is by working for the good of others. In other words, I have a paycheck if I can help you make more money, gain news customers, position you as more of a winner among competitors. In other words, rates are not the subject or concern but making a positive impact on the client's business is the goal. This sets you apart from competitors and makes you less of a salesperson and more of an expert that is offering knowledge to grow the business and maintain it's edge among competitors. The result is, you never reach the argument over rates because the subject is results. There's nothing easy about results but that's where the loyal customer is found and certainly not in beeing the cheapest. You don't sell packages but plans that match what the client can spend and are customized to created the results needed to create a repeat customer. Here's a look in pictures:
SOME BASIC THOUGHTS
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
What are you selling on your Low Power FM? Are you selling Underwriting or Advertising? I know we cannot sell commercials. I'm talking about how you present yourself to the business owner.
As an experiment, ask the average Joe what the difference is between Advertising and Underwriting. At best, you might get: Underwriting is what insurance companies do but likely you'll get a puzzled look and a No. You see, it is a radio term, sort of like a stopset or quarter hour maintenance.
Radio terms are just that. So Underwriting is a radio term we adopt because the FCC uses it to distinguish between the advertising commercial radio offers and what public radio offers. And Underwriting IS advertising. If it wasn't, why bother, just grab the money and say thank you. If it is advertising, then we acknowledge the support by telling who the supporter is, what they do and how to get in touch. Why do this? Because it is advertising the business and you want and are allowed by FCC Rules to try to benefit the supporter.
So, why call it Underwriting? Why not opt for calling it "Top Of Mind Awareness"? Isn't that what it is? By running the Underwriting spot are you not making an impression in the listener's mind? Since the business owner doesn't know what the heck Underwriting is, use a term they know.
It is simply crucial that your potential supporter be spoken to in terms they know so you can get across a clear message. For example, I describe a vinyl record to an 8 year old as like a CD but it's bigger and it is black.
I spend my hard earned dollars on things I attach a value to. I pay the price commanded because I get value back from the purchase. If you need a car for transportation, you are going to buy a real car that runs and will do what you expect it to do. The value you get is the ability to go from point A to point B. Well, how about you buy this picture of a car? It's in color. Pretty cool, huh? You're not going to because it does not offer you any value for the price paid.
Okay, another example. You hit the grocery store a week before Christmas. There's the friendly Salvation Army person ringing the bell as you walk in. You buy the week's groceries and pay, say, $200. Why did you spend $200? The groceries will feed the family is the reason. That is the benefit. It is worth the $200 because you get value for your money. Now, are you going to drop $200 in the kettle at the front door? Why not? Is it because you get no value for making that $200 donation? Might you throw in a few dollars instead? The answer is maybe a few of you will. You will give a couple of dollars because you do not receive any benefit or value from the donation but tossing in $200 is out of the question, right?
When you go to business owners to sell Underwriting, your success is based on the 'value' or 'benefit' the business receives for the price paid. If they see this value, they are willing to pay for it simply because they benefit. When you sell underwriting as in help our little station and we'll mention you on the air, the business owner thinks there is no value or benefit so they surmise the smallest dollar amount without seeming too cheap that will get you out of their office. Why? They do not perceive value or benefit. The value or benefit moves from them to you.
The point is, your Underwriting must have a perceived value and benefit. You could walk out with $200 or you could walk out with a $5. For example, everybody at that restaurant is laying down money to get a benefit from it called lunch. It is a good value to every person there. You leave and at the street corner is a guy with a sign. Of all those cars at the stoplight, how many give the guy some change or a dollar? Not many, right? Why? You do not have any benefit or get any value from doing this but that $9 lunch was paid with a smile.
Your LPFM station sells advertising that builds awareness and instant recall for the business so you are selling a defined benefit that has value to the business, so they will pay for that. If you ask for cash without a benefit or value, most will say no or offer the least money they can. Worst of all, selling advertising and getting donations takes about the same time except I can almost guarantee you'll walk away with 10% of the dollars you could have for your time if you ask for donations.
If you need to buy a book, do you go to that mall bookstore miles away, fight traffic, find a parking spot, walk through a mall to the store that might or might not have it in stock or do you jump online and make a couple of clicks and buy it? When you introduce Underwriting it is as difficult as the mall bookstore.
Underwriting is a radio term. The public does not know what this means. To even refer to the term is opening a can of worms. Now you need to educate and chances are they will still be confused. Heck, we are and we are in the business. If we don't get it entirely how can the business owner who never heard the term? You'll wish for a time machine so you can start over.
It is your job to fit the Underwriting Rules and it is not the business owner's job in the first place. When you start talking about all those rules, the business owner is not interested. Let's say you go to buy a new car. Let's say you want a Mustang, in red and with leather seats and killer sound system. You get to the salesman that says I can't sell you that but I have this nice Ford Fiesta with cloth seats, in white and the standard radio option and that is what you're going to buy, period. In fact my boss says I can only sell these Ford Fiestas, so you must buy it. Is there smoke coming from your feet as you make a mad dash from that dealership? Why then, do you do this when you sell Underwriting?
You see, you can't walk up to a horse and say water. You have to lead the horse and maybe it will drink. You see, you need to sell the benefit and value of underwriting so the business owner will want to drink. And not just drink, but want that bottle of ice cold water you have versus that beer or Mountain Dew you cannot offer them. You cannot leave the option open but sell the benefits and value of what non-commercial stations are allowed to broadcast. So you don't say you sell advertising but that you sell awareness, branding, top of mind awareness advertising that simply says who you are, what you do and how to get in touch.
I really like it to relate to something the business owner knows, so I choose business card. I sell business card advertising that basically says what one finds on a business card.
The business owner should never know the details of what is allowed and not allowed in Underwriting. The best way to reject the request is to say that is not the type of advertising we sell. You might wonder why.
It is true that dangling the carrot and pulling it away is an amazing sales tool. When you pull away the carrot, the potential buyer only wants what they cannot have. Maybe it is our competitive spirit but they start to sell you on why they deserve what you took away. When I'd get calls about airtime at a station that sold daily and weekly blocks of time to programmers, they'd say my hourly rate was too high and if I'd drop my price they would say yes. I'd inject "Well, let's talk about your program because I'm not sure you'd be right for our station". Instantly, the fight was over winning my approval for their show and price per hour was no longer important. You see how that works?
So, when you go to sell underwriting, clearly explain it in terms that the business owner knows and in a way that demonstrates a value and benefit. Once they see the value and benefit, some will want to exceed what you offer, but when you say you are sorry but this is the only type of advertising your station offers, you pulled away the carrot, then can explain how important this sort of advertising is and try for a yes once more. I think every business will say awareness is the most important function of any advertising and underwriting is just that.
PUT ON THE BUSINESS OWNER'S SHOES
Okay, I know you're excited about your station but your excitement is lost on the business owner. When you go in to the business owner you need to craft your words to match their frame of mind and thinking. Why are they there? To earn a living, right? That's the mindset of the business owner and it should be. So talk to this person where they are. How can your station help them succeed more? How can your station make life a bit sweeter for them? What are their problems and issues and how can you counter these with your station? Plainly put, talk to them about how your station does this. And here's a big hint: playing 10 in a row every hour is nonsense. Sure, it might help your station keep listeners and mean more hear their underwriting but rather talk about things they can relate to.
So, what does Underwriting do? Underwriting says who you are, what you do and how to get in touch. That is a plain and simple message. Name one business that does not see value in increased awareness, Now let me ask you if you opened a business down the street from a school and the school said you could come down and tell every person in every seat in that assembly hall for graduation ceremonies who you are, what you do and how to get in touch as well as announce you are right in the neighborhood. How much value would this have to talk to this assembly of adults (aka parents)? If you had a chance to do this for your business, would you? Does this sound like something that would benefit your business?
If you ran a business, would you consider talking to an auditorium full of people in your primary trade area as a way to advertise? Sure you would. It would likely be something of substantial benefit to you. So, you present this Underwriting as a way to reach the primary trade area and tell about yourself to a bunch of people.
Now, public radio designates their Underwriters as supporters. You see, this is the 'bonus' halo effect, about the only thing any non-commercial FM sees as a benefit to businesses. That benefit is your business is associated with the station the listeners like, so they see you more as a friend and would consider supporting you versus another competitor because you support the radio station they like.
So communicating the value of underwriting as an effective advertising venue to the business owner means you speak their language and offer a true benefit and value that makes sense to the business owner. It's all in how you word this. By using terms the business owner recognizes and values, means underwriting is a top notch advertising value for them.
KPCW, Park City Utah
I really love this station. They are mostly talk/news in AM and PM drive, run some good interview shows and have a diverse playlist. In fact, they bolstered my belief that a top selling album that gets no airplay anywhere should deserve airplay and I have heard a few songs I have only heard in my personal music library although the album sold exceedingly well when released.
The real attraction to the music mix is that a guy like me can hear newer material and a good dose of familiar over-played songs and obscure jewels that deserve plays because of sales and quality. If today's musicians are inspired by that group 30 years back that sold millions of an album, then why not play a track or two here or there.
This is a Public Station trying to be a real Community Station. By listening, the station effectively makes you a part of the community. You feel informed and connected. There is so much information on the air, even in music segments, that it sounds busy without sounding cluttered.
From a sales angle, I requested their media kit. The station claims, and I believe them, 55% of their two county area listens to the station. This is reasonable because of the exceptional work they do to connect to their listeners. Even by cost per thousand, their underwriting rates are low but at the rates they charge, few businesses have that size budget to afford a meaningful presence. With this in mind, the station opened itself to an incredibly affordable solution they call MINI UNDERWRITING.
For time management, a Mini Underwriter must sign up for a year and they get a spot at a fixed time every day of the year, my only beef with the plan. I feel times should not be fixed so the client reaches the biggest cross-section of the community as possible versus those listening at a certain time daily.
Mini Underwriters are lumped together with a spot formula that can include up to 5 businesses with a standard intro and the same closing. This means each grouping functions as a single underwriting unit.
The Mini Underwriting is limited to 10 words, written. There's a difference between written and spoken words. For example a website address might be a single written word and a 7 or 10 digit phone number is technically one written word but many words when spoken. In general, Mini Underwriting might be 15 or so words or around 5 to 7 seconds. You can buy 8 daily Mini Underwriting spots for the same cost as their highest Enhanced Underwriting spot. So, these short spots are hugely popular and sometimes sold out.
People act like I have a screw loose, maybe several, when I talk about such underwriting. They balk saying it is a waste of money for the client and wholly ineffective. I disagree. I admit it is not worth much to a little obscure business in a major city but in a place with maybe 60,000, even 100,000 people, it works like a charm. I think some do not realize the evolution in buying habits and influences.
Radio has always held the position of reaching virtually everyone and being the final media used before a purchase is made. Radio is losing that, somewhat. At a pretty rapid rate, the radio is taking a backseat to the device used to listen to over the air signals. That phone you have with you is rapidly taking on the radio receiver. For years now, every business has felt pressure to have an online presence. More and more, the website is replacing radio as the last media used before a purchase. Think about this. You need a certain product or service. Do you exclusively use radio as the only media to determine if you will purchase? Did you recall the address or the phone number? Didn't you go to a website to get the phone number or address or even check out more details or pricing? Many do so and that number continues to grow. Plus the website is viewed as a more personal connection to the business whereas radio was prior to so many being online.
Radio still pushes forward to make a complete package as a safeguard or a 'what if' scenario but the fact is radio has gone online in many, many instances, when it comes to listening and connecting the customer to the business. This means radio is much more important in building awareness than simply acting as the only medium for connecting customers to the business. That is what makes Mini Advertising work so well.
Mini Underwriting used to be one dimensional before 78% of Americans got online. Now it lets the little guy play in the big leagues by acting as a direction finder for connecting customers to businesses.
Another thing I think is worthy of mention is attention spans. Many times our brains are multi-tasking many things at once. The longer Underwriting message may not be as easily retained with so much happening around the listener of radio who typically is at work or in the car and many times interrupted by that phone with a text or call. In my mind, less is more.
KLFT, Layfayette, Louisiana
This Catholic programmed station is in a fairly small city compared to the biggest markets in the USA. They offer some very simplistic Underwriting that is called Business Card underwriting. I love that name because it effectively says to the potential client just what it is. In this instance you will be grouped with others in getting dirt cheap awareness. The copy is limited to the name of the business, the street and the city. For example, it might be "Mike's Auto Repair on Commerce in Pleasant Valley". No street address or phone number.
These spots are simple and are actually good at building awareness and making the audience familiar with the business. For so many years we have been drilled to discount awareness in advertising and never reached the point of recognizing that repeating a business name over and over builds a reputation of being familiar and therefore comfortable in the listener's mind. Now more than ever, radio needs to pay attention to this.
The big boys have and I'll give some examples below.
KXRN, Laguna Beach, California
Laguna Beach is about 25,000 people between a big rock and the ocean. There might be 100 choices on the dial and hundreds of thousands within 10-15 miles from Laguna Beach, but Laguna has a distinct community feel not unlike a small town. It is vibrant and very much its own entity. KXRN understands this.
They actually understand the name mention. I mean simply the business name. One of their long term packages is sponsoring blocks of time. For example, 'The morning show is sponsored by Beach Bum Provisions'. They sell the same 'sponsorship' for news and their surf reports. The only option on the news and surf reports is to either sponsor all the newscasts or all of the surf reports. On sponsoring blocks, it's either the 4 hours of the morning show, 5 hours of midday or 5 hours of afternoon drive. It's all or none. We can term this as branding. Again, a very misunderstood selling factor. And you have to buy 6 months.
They have an exceptional package they call The Pearl Package that is really well thought out.
The person balking about the lack of effectiveness sits in a market with The Toyota Center, Minute Maid Park and works for a station where the news starts with "From the David McDavid Autoplex news desk...' and 'from the Gallery Furniture sports desk...' Let's see, Toyota is pretty successful, you think? How about Minute Maid? Have you every heard of them? David McDavid owns how many dealerships...never counted but it's a bunch. Oh, and Gallery Furniture, the highest volume single location furniture store on the whole dang planet. Obviously these businesses like to throw money out the window, not. Too many times we want radio to be every advertising function it can be for every client in lieu of it being a great tool to reach the masses and work with other media to cover every aspect of your advertising plan. It is very rare that a client only utilizes radio with no other media. How many times have you live tagged a spot with "See today's paper for more details'? You know radio enforces other media making it all work like a well oiled machine when done right.
Yes, now more than ever, we are researchers when we are in the market for a product or service. So, getting on that short list can benefit a business exceptionally while being #5 in that 7 spot stop set on that popular FM means the message is likely not retained without mixing with the other messages, if at all. Sure, the subconscious might hear the message but you know, when I was introduced to 7 people my subconscious never got me straight on everybody's name. If the subconscious really ruled, why run ads anyway, just do subliminal advertising amid the music and be done with it. We could do the news the same way and weather too. Don't know why you brought that umbrella to work with you...hmmm.
I MUST SAY THIS. If you have never run a radio station without enough help, you might not get just how important it is to keep things as easy and simple as you possible can. Mini Underwriting, Business Card spots and sponsorship mentions mean fast and easy copywriting, production and execution leaving much,much more time on the clock for that long, long list you have yet to cross off the list. You might well think the biggest benefit of these short spots and mentions is the time it saves you in operating your station.
So many times we feel compelled to go overboard on things when all that needs to be done is the minimal amount that makes everything work. A good cop takes only the minimal action required to resolve a situation or get things under control. The end result is the minimal works just like the drawn out complicated and overboard plan. At the least, prove me wrong before you try anything else. You might find that in your market I am right. You might find your market is wrong for this but if I was in your shoes, I'd try these short sweet and less time consuming options.
SOME RATES - I tend to think a bit differently. I do not dwell as much on the price per message but what is the amount the business can comfortably spend. Naturally, you must know a bit about your audience. For example, do you have plenty of listeners? Do they listen a few minutes or for hours. If they listen for longer periods of time, then it takes fewer spots to reach all of your audience.
The way you set things up is important too. Your rate with your plan has to make sense to the business and you need to base rates well under 50% sell out...maybe 35% to 40% at most. Why? Sell-out is mostly elusive. You might sell out a few weeks a year but just try to sell out in January.
With this in mind, I look at stations that sell hourly sponsorships. I know of 3 stations that only do an hourly sponsor on the top of the hour. For example, "The next hour of programming is sponsored exclusively by City Cafe at 100 Main, open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thank you City Cafe for sponsoring this hour of programming". This is plain and simple. One station really has this right. The hourly sponsors get a different hour each day and their ultimate package gets you an hour 7 days a week for a monthly advance payment. To be all inclusive, you can buy 2 hours a week. Why can they get away with this? They have a format exclusive to the radio dial and are in a small market. This station is lite rock, oldies based. There is a country, a CHR, a classic country AM and a News Talk AM as well as an NPR repeater and 4 or 5 national religious translators. The format caters to long listening times in a small market, so it works well. In fact they sell about 70 to 75 hours a week. They don't need much revenue, have an owned tower site, short stick and minimal monthly expenses, so they charge about $5 an hour...$150 a month for an hour a day, 7 days a week.
One of the better ideas I have seen in a community where many have gardens and crafts-making. They ask for $20, then an automatic $20 a month to be a member. Members can have announcements on demand at any time during the year. These announcements air 5 times every day. All announcements run together as a 'day calendar' sort of feature. This time also features other community announcements but members are clearly identified. One might wonder why a farm would buy a full year. Why not go on a month or two and cancel. The answer is simple. The weekly and monthly rates are much higher. They charge $40 a week for up to 35 mentions or $150 a month. With a year at $260, you can use the station anytime you want. This is a very unique community with lots of gardeners, craft/hobby types and only a handful of small businesses. A couple of the storefront businesses buy and there's a church that buys a half an hour each week.
What I really like is these announcements are almost newsy. For example, Member Dave Perkins is picking tomatoes from his garden today. Dave's stand is located at his home at 2200 County Road 6. Dave says the green beans will be ready in about a week. Member Cindy Stewart has made a new batch of soap bars in coconut and wintergreen scents. Cindy's soap bars are available at her workshop on 4100 County Road B daily from 10 am to 4 pm. Station member, The Thrift Shop, next to the post office has received a few men's suits and some children's toys. They are open Friday afternoon and all day Saturday. Thus, the 5 times a day they read everything might sound more like a daily calendar for the community rather than a bunch of Underwriting spots. And they sell the same to non-profit organizations that want to get announcements anytime they need.