Tag Archives: Gordon Borrell

NOT the Music of MY Life

112I read the transcript of the interview Mark Ramsey did with Gordon Borrell about how radio advertisers are less interested in audience and more interested in a buyer. It got me to thinking about my own radio sales experiences over my career.

Live by the Numbers, Die by the Numbers

Anyone who sells in a rated market has probably heard that phrase about what happens when all you sell are your ratings numbers. But what happens in unrated radio markets? How do these folks sell?

Cash Register Rings

Early in my radio career I landed my first general manager position at the age of thirty. It was as GM of an Al Ham formatted “Music of YOUR Life” thousand watt AM daytimer with no pre-sunrise or post-sunset authorizations.

In a market with no audience ratings measurement what we did was create a fan club for our listeners. We then created a fan club book of the names and locations our listeners lived. This book included state representatives, mayors, major business owners and even television & movie stars. It was a pretty impressive foot-in-the-door and helped us to close many sales.

But the way we measured the impact of our advertisers’ radio commercials were in cash register rings. That’s the real measure of R.O.I. (Return On Investment) for local owner/operators.

Does Anybody Really Listen to THAT Music?

I remember calling on the manager of our local Agway store as if it were yesterday. Rick Hurd was his name and he was about as old as I was at that time. He loved contemporary music and the big band selections my station played were definitely NOT his “cup of tea.”

“Does anybody really listen to THAT music?” he always asked. I said “YES, lots of people do and they are the very people who own the big country estates that you should be doing business with.”

After lots of weekly calls, Rick Hurd gave me my opportunity to show what my radio station could do.

Tell Our Advertisers You Heard About Them on “The Music of YOUR Life”

A key component of my marketing strategy was to air on a continuous basis how important it was for listeners of my radio station to tell our advertisers they were listening. We did this in a variety of ways and made sure to keep this type of messaging fresh.

Shortly after Rick began his Agway store advertising on my radio station, I stopped in to see how it was going. He said, “Dick, I still find it hard to believe that anyone enjoys the music you play over the radio, but WOW are those folks ever vocal and passionate about your radio station.” “I hear about your radio station at least once an hour from customers, some of whom I’ve never seen in the store before,” he told me.

How Many Listeners Do You Need to Be Effective?

I won’t ever know how many listeners we had to that radio station, but I do know how many were in our fan club.

The “secret sauce” of our marketing was making sure our audience understood how important it was for them to tell our advertisers they were listening and that they loved our programming and that in order to keep it on-the-air, they needed to patronize our advertisers and tell them what brought them into their place of business.

Bonneville Beautiful Music

Based on the sales success I had with an AM daytimer, my company’s President/CEO promoted me to general manager of his newly acquired Atlantic City radio stations. The AM station was a thousand-watt full-time news & information station and the FM was a 50,000-watt Bonneville Beautiful Music formatted radio station. Both stations appealed to a senior audience.

Atlantic City was a rated market and so Arbitron Ratings were important, especially for the advertising agencies out of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore etc.

But what we really sold was the quality of our audiences and we worked very hard to build personal relationships with all of the buyers.

As general manager, I often went on out-of-town trips with my director of sales to call on the people who bought the advertising. We constantly heard “we’ve never met anyone from any of the radio stations in Atlantic City before.”

Relationships are VERY important in the radio business.

And as Simon Sinek likes to say “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Age Wave

Another factor I employed in talking about the quality of our audience and the tremendous buying power they wielded came from the research of Dr. Ken Dychtwald that he conducted during the period of 1973 to 1979.

In 1986 Dr. Dychtwald coined the term “Age Wave” and formed a company to consult companies on how to market to a mature market.

I devoured Ken’s book and used it to market my Atlantic City radio stations to advertisers.

Key Factors to Consider

The Age Wave http://agewave.com/ website lists four key factors that will reshape supply and demand as the boomers move into maturity. The two that radio should be considering how to leverage are:

  • Boomers will have increasing amounts of discretionary dollars (for many) over the long-term as a result of escalating earning power, inheritances, and investment returns
  • Boomers will undergo a psychological shift from acquiring more material possession and towards a desire to purchase enjoyable, satisfying, and memorable experiences

The future is filled with challenges and opportunities, but then that’s always been the case for those who could see them and were willing to roll up their sleeves.

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Reflecting on Radio Show 2016

60The radio show was close to home this year, just down the road from my university, in Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. Plus, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters decided to roll their annual convention into an opening event at the Radio Show. So as soon as I finished my morning class, I was on the road to Nashville.

Tennessee Association of Broadcasters Kick-off

Whit Adamson, President/CEO of the TAB, put together an amazing opening reception and event inside the Country Music Hall of Fame. We were welcomed by TN Governor Bill Haslam who declared it “Radio Week” in the State of Tennessee. Then the Mayor of Nashville, Megan Barry, gave us a warm welcome to Nashville where she declared it “Radio Week” in Music City. The “red carpet” was fully rolled out for the radio industry and attendance would set a new record for the Radio Show.

Pillsbury’s Broadcast Finance Forecast Leadership Breakfast

The good news is radio is the “King of Audio.” The bad news is that revenue growth for radio underperformed ad spending post-recession. Radio’s 7% share of all advertising is predicted to decline to 6% by 2019. Why? Digital ad spend will grow significantly (40%) by 2019. And radio will struggle to reach mobile users.

The big takeaways from this session were: Investors want to see new growth catalysts like NextRadio, more event revenue and growth in digital/mobile ad revenues. Investors want no more than 3 to 4 times leverage with more industry consolidation. All of this investors feel will yield more “free cash flow.”

Investors worry about audience fragmentation and Millennial reach, radio’s competition in the car dashboard, the challenges coming from digital/internet, continued uncertainty over royalties and excessive leverage.

Focusing on Your Career Future

The room here was filled with young people. Radio mentors from all areas (except engineering) met with tables full of students and recent graduates to talk about the many opportunities available in today’s radio industry. The mood was once of excitement and enthusiasm.

Brittney Quarles and John Focke both would share their personal radio journeys with students as they shared advice such as: “the industry is small, don’t burn any bridges” and “find a champion for you and your talents” and “be careful who you share your dreams with.” The right mentors are essential to your career.

Beyond Basics – The Prosperous, Professional You

John Bates, Elizabeth Burton and Heather Monahan led a session in how to reach beyond your limits and build a better “Brand You.”

John Bates shared “3 ways to inspire and connect”: 1) logic is not the way, 2) human eyes connect you to another person and 3) be authentic. For example, people don’t connect with your successes, but your messes. You message is your mess. But above all else, “Make A Difference.”

Elizabeth Burton drilled down the importance of your online brand and that today your online activities build your reputation.

Heather Monahan told us that people take only 10-seconds to make an opinion about you when they first meet you. 50% of communication is nonverbal and your attitude is everything. And if you want to know what your personal brand is, ask others this question: “What value do I bring to you?”

The Digital Dash – Improving the Consumer Experience

Fred Jacobs, Steve Newberry and Scott Burnell (from Ford) all shared their perspective on radio in the car. The first big thing is car manufacturers don’t call it a radio in the dash anymore (and probably haven’t for some time) but “the center stack.” Into this part of the dashboard, everything a car owner wants can be accessed.

Steve Newberry (former NAB joint board chairman) really brought the whole issue home with his analysis of the technology revolution by saying there are two kinds of events: disruptive and modifying. Disruptive events would be things like television and FM radio. Modifying events would be things like cassette tapes, CDs and MP3s. Disruptive events change the landscape and prevent an entity from doing things the way they’ve always been done. Television stole radio’s programming and added pictures and radio had to reinvent itself with new kinds of programs. Modifying events such as records being replaced by cassettes and 8-track tape, then CDs replacing both of those to be replaced by MP3s merely modified the way people listened to their own music libraries but not how they used radio. The new digital/internet connected world is a disruptive event and radio needs to once again adapt to this revolution in communication. The future is bright if radio is agile and adapts.

Perception vs. Reality – The True Power of Radio

My first Arbitron rep was Pierre Bouvard. He’s a fountain of information. His presentation on “7 Things Brands Have Completely Wrong About Radio” tells the story in great detail and shows the challenges faced by radio sales people today.

Podcasting

Steve Goldstein did an amazing presentation on podcasting by starting out with this Thomas Edison quote from 1922 “The radio craze will die out in time.”

Today mobile is eating the world. 20% of audio listening comes from the smartphone. For radio, podcasting is all about retention, growth and relevance.

Podcasting is no longer niche. It delivers the demos advertisers want. Podcasting is different than broadcasting. There’s money to be made in podcasting and radio has the perfect megaphone to promote podcasts to its audience. That’s radio’s “secret sauce” that podcasters wish they had access to.

Radio – The Local Media Company of the Future

Gordon Borrell and his research company are doing some incredible studies on the future of advertising. He immediately got the audience’s attention when he said in the last ten years $56 Billion has disappeared in advertising expenditures.

Banner ads are dead. But digital is not.

Local advertising growth is forecast to increase 7.6%, but non-digital will see a 6.9% decline in ad spend and digital will see a 22.4% increase in ad spend. In fact, 2017 is the year that digital advertising will eclipse all traditional media.

Borrell said when advertisers cut ad spend in one medium they spend it in another medium. Radio will continue to be bought, but only those stations who have well-trained representatives that understand the realities of today’s advertising and can put together a total marketing plan that goes beyond simply radio spots. Advertisers will partner with any media company who has reps that listen.

The good news is traditional media – like radio – is still necessary to drive digital advertising goals and deliver maximum digital R.O.I. (Return On Investment).  You can see Gordon’s full PowerPoint deck here.

Final Thought

The mood in the halls and in the sessions at this year’s Radio Show was very upbeat. The things being discussed and presented did not shy away from the realities all ad supported media face.

Anyone who attended came away with lots of action steps that need to be implemented immediately.

Radio currently is the #1 Reach & Frequency medium in the United States of America.

There’s no time to waste. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and “Make A Difference.”

Radio’s future depends on it.

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Combined or Separate?

When I started in radio sales, the company I went to work for after leaving programming and operations ran an AM/FM combo that simulcast all of their programming. Selling for these two stations meant every spot sold was heard on both broadcast bands. (Piece of cake)

Then one day, the owner announced the signals were being split apart. The AM station would program an entirely different format from the FM station, but the sales team would be selling both separately programmed radio stations. (A two layer cake)

Anyone who has some history in the radio business will tell you the answer to the age old question of whether it’s better to field two separate sales teams for an AM/FM combo versus having one sales team. In fact they will give you a definitive answer: “it depends.” (Did someone leave my cake out in the rain?)

Before the radio industry could wrap their brain around this puzzle regarding sales staffing, along comes the Telcom Act of 1996 and companies now own clusters of radio stations. It was now possible for a cluster to number 5 or more radio stations serving a metro. (My cake is melting, melting. Did I mention I never really understood the lyrics to MacArthur Park?)

One brave company in Florida announced they were going with the single sales force concept for their nine station cluster. That got my attention as I was now in management. Well you can imagine I wanted to catch up with these folks at the next RAB Managing Sales Conference to find out how it was going. I did. I asked. The answer they gave me? “Oh well.” “Oh well?” I asked puzzled. They then explained it was very difficult to find radio sales person who could manage selling multiple formats (music, talk, sports, etc). They maybe had one person on their rather large sales team that could do it. A couple could handle maybe 50% of the cluster at the same time, but the rest maybe two radio stations in the cluster at most. The result was they abandoned the idea of one sales team selling everything.

Closer to home, I launched a print program at a cluster I was managing that had an AM station, an FM station and an LMA’d FM station. We had separate a separate sales team selling the LMA’d FM station and a combo sales team selling the owned AM/FM stations. It was decided that all sales people would now sell the new print program. I should explain the print program was actually two components. It was a quarterly coupon book distributed in five different mailing zones in the metro and then there was a calendar that was sold in all the mailing zones on an annual basis.

So, my sales force was now responsible for selling radio spots (and promotions) where you saw the advertiser today and he started in the next couple of days. A print coupon book where you saw the advertiser today and the ad would come out in the next quarter. And an ad in a calendar you sold today and it came out next year.

So how did that work out? Fabulously, actually. Till it didn’t.

What we would learn is it was a good way to launch and put immediate new revenue on the books. Over time the print program re-trained our radio sellers; which was an unintended consequence. They soon learned when an advertiser said they didn’t want radio ads; they had found themselves a print customer.

After an ownership change, I made the decision to break away our print program into a separate entity with its own management and sales people.

So it was no surprise when Borrell Research came out with their latest research study this week “2015 UPDATE: Assessing Local Digital Sales Forces” and it said that those companies that had sales people who were digitally focused produced more digital revenue than those that had one sales team selling everything. You can find the full report clicking on the hyper-link.

Quoting from Borrell’s Executive Summary: “The result is stark: Those with digital-only sellers report far greater confidence in their staff’s ability to understand market trends and clients’ digital needs, and they generate four times as much digital revenue. For instance, two different newspapers, each with a total of 22 sales reps, reported $7 million in digital sales last year and $360,000 in digital sales. The difference? One had seven digital-only reps; the other had none.

But before you get the idea that I’m taking the position separate is best, it really depends…..depends on the skill level of your sales people and their embracing of new technology and new ideas.

When I was starting out in radio sales I got to see and hear a lot of great sales trainers. One that I really liked was Don Beverage. Don would categorize sellers in one of four ways. They were “Commercial Visitors,” “Product-Oriented Peddlers,” “Problem Solvers,” or “Sustaining Resources.” See the snake in the wood pile when it comes to answering the question “Combined or Separate?”

If your sales team is made up of first three types of sellers, separate your sales force. If they are level four sales people, “Sustaining Resources” then you might win with a combined force.   But here’s one more twist. The very best sellers will be “Problem Solvers” with some of their clients and “Sustaining Resources” with others. Even Don Beverage was quick to point out that reaching the level of “Sustaining Resource” was being in rarified air.

So you know a “Sustaining Resource” level of selling is when the client believes in you so much that they pick up the phone and call you in BEFORE they take the first step in the advertising/marketing program. YOU are part of the team that will create and design the strategy and then plan out the tactical steps to get to the finish line and win.

So there you have it. Put on MacArthur Park by Richard Harris and spend the 7-minutes, 25-seconds and ponder what’s best for your operation.

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What Radio Could Learn from Vladimir Putin’s Dilemma

History never really repeats itself, but it often does rhyme with the past.

For the radio industry, today’s Internet is a challenge not unlike what the industry faced when TV began to take off in the 1950s. For Putin, the plummeting price of a barrel of oil is reminiscent of what happened in 1985 when the Saudis stopped protecting oil prices and focused instead on share of market. Then, as now, the Saudis decision is putting Russia in a corner.

Russia is dependent on oil and gas. The radio industry is dependent on the sale of radio commercials.

52% of Russia’s revenues and over 70% of its exports are oil and gas. 78% of radio’s revenues come from the sale of radio commercials.

See the similarity?

Gordon Borrell will be holding his 2015 Local Online Advertising Conference in New York City this coming March (https://www.borrellassociates.com/loac2015/) and the key note speaker will be investment banker Jim Dolan. In a comment promoting this conference, Dolan has been quoted as saying that valuations for companies with a strong digital presence will be much higher than for any company relying on legacy platforms for 50% of more of their income. (http://rbr.com/boring-in-on-digital/)

For Putin, 25 years after the last time the Saudis turned wide open their oil spigots the lessons not learned from past history have put this leader into corner. Radio has the lessons learned from the birth of TV.

Again quoting Dolan, “I think the smartest thing that legacy media managers can do is plow all of their free cash flow into digital products and services….it’s too late to knit a digital parachute when you’re falling off the cliff.”

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