What To Do When Your Radio Ads Suck

I often talk with entrepreneurs desperate to get out of their annual radio advertising contract because it’s sucking thousands of dollars a month out of their bank account yet the promised flood of ravenous customers crashing down their door have not materialized.

Maybe you're been there, done that.

Listen, radio advertising is like a tornado – if you figure out how to control it, it’s like this giant invisible vacuum sweeping across the marketing landscape rending listening prospects powerless to resist, and sucking all the cash out of their pockets and filling yours.

Don't Wind Up Like the Bellowing Cow

However, the flip side is having no control -- the radio tornado can viciously turn on you and you’ll end up like the cow that’s been sucked off the ground, legs flailing, bellowing fearfully, and puzzled at life's betrayal and the source of havoc being wreaked upon its life.

Gina, the owner of a greenhouse and nursery, was feeling more than a little like the cow. She told me she was locked into a $4,000 a month annual radio advertising contract and had little to nothing to show for it.

She wanted to know if I could fix her spots?

Her radio advertising was out of control -- it was no far from break even there wasn't even a twinkle of a profitable ROI in her eye. Obviously, she wasn't planing on renewing the contract, she was even bitter. Heck, who could blame her -- how many small businesses do you now that can take a $4,000 monthly hit with no return.

Sorry, But the Branding Answer is a Dodge

Sure, she complained to her account rep wanting some solution but all she got was the old standby "branding" answer...

"It's a 'branding' campaign - over time, by dominating the airwaves your business becomes "top of mind" in its category and consumers will remember you when they have a need for your product."
I had to agree with Gina,
after nine months of a full “rotational” campaign running spots throughout the day and night, a 50,000 population community should be well branded and some results should visible.

In this case, it's my less than humble opinion that the branding answer is a shady dodge to avoid any responsibility for no results.

A Radio Advertising Diagnostic and Prescription

Her commercials were appalling 15 and 30-second “funny” quips about her store -- about half of them mentioned a product they carried but none of them gave a reason why they should come in buy something right now... you know like a sale, discount, some sort of offer.

Listen, there are lots of ways of fixing her problem -- too bad the radio guys don’t know how to do it. Here’s the direct response marketing approach I advised in this situation.
There were two critical things I had her do immediately.

1st – I had her think in terms of giving prospective customers a reason why they should come to the store right now. Have your commercials make some sort of offer.

2nd – I had her switch from 30 sec spots to 60’s and throw out the funny sh... er... a... stuff and use the “live radio show host call-in format.” These are commercials where you call in your spot to the radio show host and he/she gets to grill you about what’s going on down at your store. And even if it’s not really a live spot, you call in and record it with the host as if it were.

The spot might go something like this...

Radio Host: We have the owner of Gina’s Greenhouse and Nursery on the line. Tell us Gina what’s going on down there today?

Gina: Well Dick right now we’re unloading a semi truck full of Royal Empress Trees, the fastest growing tree in the country.

Radio Host: The fastest growing tree Gina? Just how fast do they grow?

Gina: The Royal Empress grows 10 to 15 feet a year and are 40 to 50 feet tall within three years. Plus, it has the most fragrant and gorgeous purple bloom.

Radio Host: So Gina you said you had a truckload of them?

Gina: Yes, Dick they are unloading 200 of them right now. I bought them from a nursery that was going out of business and had them shipped in. And best of all Dick I got them at an unbelievable low price. Less than 50% off, and I’m passing the savings on to all of your listeners that come in this week. Yada yada yada...

Anyway you get the idea.

Did it work?

Well, I know that Gina renewed her radio advertising contract for the following year!

The sales and marketing anchor principle for this story is test, test, test. You have to test all of your media advertising. Will it sale? Is it going to make your business a profit? Will the ROI fund your next round of business promotions?

Look, don't lock yourself into a long term media contract until you know your advertising works. Yes that means you're going to have to pay rack rates for your spots but frankly, it's a lot cheaper and more profitable in the end.


1 Response to "What To Do When Your Radio Ads Suck"

Susan said... March 13, 2009 at 11:59 PM

Love your writing style -- I can really see how those headline superlatives add to the interest and readability!

I'd be curious as to what type of radio channel was chosen for these radio spots (ie, rock, talk, news, etc.)


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