Tag Archives: Mark Ramsey

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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Radio’s NOT Like it Used to Be

Marconi Wireless(Spoiler Alert: It never was, starting with day 2) When I hang out on social media – or imagine this, have a real face-to-face conversation – with my radio contemporaries that grew up listening to radio in the 60s & 70s, the conversation invariably turns to “radio’s not like it used to be.”

From the moment of its birth, radio has been one long experiment.

It took hold when Marconi International Marine Communication Company, Limited began to make money with wireless over-the-air transmissions. Marconi was in it for the money. He really cared little how it all worked. He wanted to build more powerful transmitters and cover greater distances. He didn’t sell his technology but leased it. He also trained and employed the wireless operators who used his equipment.

So, imagine you’re a wireless operator on Christmas Eve 1906 and you’re at sea monitoring your dots & dashes – all that you’ve ever heard come through your headphones – when at 9 PM EST on Christmas Eve you suddenly hear a human voice coming through your headphones. Then singing. Then a violin playing. And finally a man speaks a Christmas greeting. What would you have thought to yourself?

The man who did this was Reginald Fessenden. In addition to being a brilliant scientist, he also sang and played the violin. From his transmitting station in Brant Rock, Massachusetts his first wireless transmissions of voice and music were heard up and down the Eastern seaboard. He would repeat this again on New Year’s Eve.

In the United States the final commercial Morse code transmission was sent on July 12, 1999. The last message sent was the very same as the first message sent by Samuel Morse in 1844, “What hath God wrought”, and the prosign “SK”.

What brought this all to mind was a news item that has been circulating recently about a survey by Morgan Stanley that was released by Quartz.

The survey is a positive for radio. In a survey of 2,016 American adults taken last November, AM/FM radio use was #1 with 86%. Number two was YouTube, number three was Pandora and number four were “TV music channels”.

The first four were all advertising supported and thus free to the user. The fifth on the list was also the first paid service; SiriusXM radio (tied with iHeartRadio).

So one thing that hasn’t changed is that most people would rather access free-with-ads entertainment versus paid-without-ads entertainment when given a choice.

However, this survey has spurred a lot of discussion in the radio world. Broadcasters are divided on what this survey is really telling us. Owners/operators are saying that it shows “radio ain’t dead.” Broadcasters that have been consolidated out of the industry are saying “not so fast.” And to some extent, they’re both right.

As Mark Ramsey pointed out on his blog, “86% of respondents saying its part of their usage routine” is what radio folks would call “reach” and does not really address frequency of usage or “time spent listening;” two key radio metrics.

Conspicuously missing from the Morgan Stanley list is a service I use and enjoy TuneIn radio. I wonder why?

So where does that leave us?

I think it’s a twist on one of Henry Ford’s most famous quotes:

Whether you think radio is or is not, you’re right.

Radio owners/operators have it within their power to create the future for the radio industry. So what’s it going to be?

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