Times Are A Changing

31 10 2013

dashboardMaybe I should have used the title – Habits Are A Changing instead.  You see, I work in the radio industry and I spent the last 2 weeks in two different cities for two very different reasons and only one of which I will talk about in this blog.

My first stop was for a 2-day conference in Detroit, Michigan called the DASH Conference.  Why on earth would any one in their right mind attend a conference in the Motor City?   A city that earlier in the Summer filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. History?  Because it’s the motor city.  Home of the automobile.  The capital of innovation for the dashboard.  In attendance at this conference were car manufacturers, a few car dealers, radio broadcasters, media agencies, internet radio, technology and electronic companies.

The entire conference was planned, orchestrated and executed by the radio industry.  Now I have been to many a conference in my 14 year radio tenure and have seen plenty of ostriches with their heads in the sand.  I can say that there were no ostriches at this gathering. How refreshing to see that the majority of people in the room FINALLY, and collectively acknowledge that things are changing rapidly for radio and our average listener’s consumption habits.

Let’s begin with the catalyst for the exponential change we are seeing – mobile devices. Mobile devices have changed everything about our lives. They are able to provide us with content, when, where, and how we want it and they have changed and raised the expectation level of every other electronic gadget in existence – including the automobile. The expectation for connectivity in the car from a consumer standpoint is exponential. We want to be able to consume content nestled inside our mechanical cockpit on 4 wheels and we want it to be at the touch of a fingertip or upon the sound of our voice.

So what happens to radio? Well, for starters, it won’t be called radio in the future. Calling it radio will date you. The in-dash hardware once called a radio will be called something more encompassing such as a content management system (CMS), or car-puter, or a name yet to be dreamed up. The sound that once emanated from our car speakers and once called radio, will just be audio. Audio that competes with many more audio platforms within the dash.  Radio or should I say broadcast audio, will be an icon, or an app – an election within this new “infotainment” area where many more content choices live.

Currently, broadcast radio dominates all listening (92.4%)* with Pandora Radio (4.4%)** and Internet Radio (excludes Pandora, includes AM/FM station streams at 3.2%)** rounding out the remainder of the pie. Hands down, radio reaches more people and serves up more ad impressions than its closest competitor (Broadcast Radio – 3.7 trillion ad impressions vs. Pandora Radio’s 66.2 billion). But as cars get smarter and the connected car becomes the norm and not the exception, I again ask – what happens to this beautiful invention called broadcast radio?

While the DASH conference is a few years late in taking place in my opinion, at least it did happen. Kudos to the brain trust that pulled this conference off. And like any conference before this one…it isn’t just about what you learned while you were there. Your main focus should be on what you do with what you learned and how can it be used as a springboard to take broadcast audio where it needs to get in order to be a formidable future player.

I’m suggesting radio broadcasters move in with car manufacturers. We’ve all heard about extended families and how single family homes in many cases are multi-family dwellings now. I’m specifically talking about crawling in bed between the car and electronics manufacturers and creating a love child. If we don’t get close to them now and become part of the planning and conversations about the automobile dashboard, our future will become more challenging. I said challenging – not extinction. We absolutely have no time to sit on our laurels – we must collaborate and innovate.

Radio must take its best attributes and make certain they are a part of the DNA (gene pool) making up the future automobile dashboard. What I kept hearing over and over at the conference was that LIVE and LOCAL will be what brings listeners back when they tire of Pandora, Satellite or iTunes. But, that LIVE and LOCAL needs to include on-air talent that are recognizable, have ties with the community, who drive listeners to action, who have engaging content to share on-air and on-line, and who provide bullet-proof companionship. What will be less memorable and magnetizing to a listener will be syndicated shows and radio stations that focus on just the music. After all, you can get all varieties of music in the connected car – thousands of songs, artists and genres. Content will also be forced to extend beyond just audio and be a touch away for the listener.

Broadcast audio has a bright and exciting future in the connected car if we can become publishers and shed our one-dimensional “station” skins. Our localness and great content will keep us relevant. We have to also remember that the end user will determine if our content is worthy. We won’t get to make all the choices – the consumer is in charge, and we have to be great at everything.

*RADAR 115 (Dec 2012, for period Oct 11 – Sep 12
** RADAR 115 (for period Oct 11 – Sep 12); Triton Digital Audio Top 20, Oct 11 – Sep 12;


Sales 101 – The Most Successful Sales People Do Their Homework

31 05 2013


The majority of my week is spent in one of three ways:

  1. Sitting in front of clients uncovering needs or finding that one big, hairy, problem that keeps them awake at night
  2. Brainstorming ideas with Media Sales Reps that addresses needs they’ve uncovered while meeting with clients or prospects
  3. Crafting ideas to use as valid business reason to secure that initial appointment

You see, I am in the relationship marketing and management business.  It is my job to come up with creative ways to assist business owners in moving their customers up the ladder of loyalty using a myriad of integrated marketing tactics that could include radio, digital, mobile, video, social, experiential marketing or a combination of the aforementioned in addition to numerous others.

Today, we have many ways to research a client and their business versus years ago when it was limited to print, networking, and (if you were lucky),  a little bit of data from the internet’s infancy.
Here is the process I use the majority of the time:  Prior to sitting down with a client or the sales rep that calls on them, I do my own independent research on the client’s business.  My research always starts with an organic search within that client’s business category on Google.  For example, if the client’s business category was furniture, I would Google St. Louis Furniture Stores.  Then I would check for the following:

  • Did this client’s business show up?  If so, were they on page one?
  • Did any paid search show up at the top of the listings?
  • How about their Facebook page, did it appear in an organic search result?

Next, I follow the same process but actually use their business name (example:  Fabio’s Fine Furniture) in my organic search.  I go through the same drill as with the business category search to see where they rank, and what exactly it is that is showing up in the organic search.  At some point, I would spend time with their website, audit their Facebook page (if applicable), check to see if they have any customer reviews or feedback (Yelp, FB, etc…), see if they have been in the news lately for any reason, learn about their origin, their owner, how many locations they have, etc…If at all possible, I would stop into one of their locations if it were a business I had never or infrequently visited.  What about networking?  Are they on LinkedIn?  Better yet, a I connected to anyone that is connected to them.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Don’t squander it away by thinking you’re prepared.  Really, REALLY do the research.  I’ve sat in front of enough clients that actually make it a point to thank me and/or the sales rep for being so prepared during the appointment.   Being prepared helps you understand the needs of your client better and gives you a head start with potential solutions to fill the need.  It also sets you way ahead of the competition as you have shown an honest and sincere interest in their business.  Not to mention the confidence you will have during the appointment and the credibility you will build with the attendees.

By doing your homework and researching the client or prospect, you will be well on your way to building a productive relationship.  So I ask you now?  Do you have productive relationships with your current clients?  Do you exercise the same philosophy with prospective clients?  Have you done your homework?

Tip for Successful Local Internet Marketing

5 01 2013


Go Deep.  As advertisers begin to embrace local media web sites as great tools for reaching their customers, the tendency is to go with the big guys.  No doubt that in St. Louis, there are several glaring large sites that local radio competes with.  But, research has shown that you can often reach more local consumers at a lower cost by using a combination of smaller newspaper sites and local radio websites.  An advertiser may find that by doing so, will deliver to them the same number of click thrus or responses at a fraction of the price.

Another important fact to remember about radio station websites is that their site traffic is made up of very station and format passionate individuals.  What I have found with radio is that their best listeners (P1’s) are typically an advertiser’s best customer.

At the end of the day, these websites offer an audience you just can’t reach using the local newspaper or television sites.  Would your business rather be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond of engaged, passionate, brand loyal sets of eyeballs with spending power?

Change Doesn’t Discriminate

5 09 2011

I remember all the great stores growing up that couldn’t differentiate themselves enough to survive in our ever changing world.  Stores like Grants, Save-Mart, Kresge, Grandpa’s, Venture, Mohr Value, HQ, Circuit City and Bel-Scot.  If you grew up in the Belleville, Collinsville and/or Fairview Heights, IL area, you are familiar with all these names.

It is pretty ironic as I sit here on Labor Day and write about the demise of yet another chain store – Borders/Walden Books.  A chain that put little to no labor in making the most of what they had.  A BIG BOX store with all the potential in the world, but didn’t adapt to the changing times.

I absolutely LOVED Borders and grew up frequenting Walden Books inside St. Clair Square.  An avid reader who’s prized possession is my rather large book collection.

But I must tell you, Borders trained me to join their book club and never shop them unless I had a 40% off coupon.  Did that run them out of business?  Heavens no!  The amount of mark up in selling books barely caused them to blink an eye at this amount of reduction.

In my opinion, there were several things that led to their demise.

1.  Their on-line shopping experience lacked depth and was no match to Amazon.

2.  They had HUGE square footage in their stores.  This is what really kills me about the fall of the mighty Borders!  With all those think tanks they had to have working for them, why didn’t they utilize their space in a creative way that would make people frequent them more often to be entertained?  Sure, they had a coffee bar and some book signings, but boy oh boy did they miss the boat!  Borders could have made the atmosphere a bit livelier with LIVE music playing in their coffee bars, or a destination for book-group discussions.  What about putting in kitchens and having cooking demostrations around new cookbook releases?  What about having a local chef come in and create a recipe or two in front of a room of time-starved moms?  Same could be said for a small fitness class in the back corner where they could have capitalized on all the bigness of Yoga and Pilates.   Let’s not discount the fact that they were big into BlueRay and they weren’t giving those DVD’s away.  Why not set up a room with surround sound where customers could preview these movies before buying them?

3.  Did they ever get to know their customers?  Obviously not!  Had they have spent more time building that one-on-one relationship with their customers, things might have been different.  I certainly would have been more than happy to participate in a focus group on how to make my Borders experience better.

4.  Did they entrench themselves into their community?  No!  I have worked in the advertising industry for 12 years.  On at least a dozen occasions I approached Borders to partner with me (radio) and a couple other non-competing businesses for events, in-store tie-ins, etc…  All I ever got were deer in headlight looks and Marketing Directors who never had the autonomy to pull the trigger.

4.  They didn’t change with technology.  They sold the one thing (e-readers) that helped seal their fate.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t be in the e-reader business because that is how I and millions of people are consuming  media and books/magazines these days.  What I am saying is they should have insulated themselves by pushing digital downloads and their partnership with Kobo way before 2009.  I have been downloading books and publications since 2002 and I know several years before that you could do it.

I must admit, I haven’t stepped into a Borders for over a year until the last days of their liquidation sale where I purchased several books (souveniers) at 80% off. When I first converted over to 100% digital downloads, I felt like I was cheating on them and it felt good.  Unfortunately, there were millions of others that enjoyed the ease of buying and the experience that apps and digital devices offered much more than trapsing to a boring big box of books.

So long Borders…I truly believe that there could have been a happier ending to this book.

Short Selling

17 01 2011

shortMy title is short selling but it has nothing to do with the selling of stocks. I’m talking about short selling your client, your sales support staff and yourself.

Having been in sales the past 10 years, I feel I have enough evidence and documentation to support that many sales people think the sale ends after the client signs off on the deal. The time when they can hand the sales order or acceptance page off to someone else to follow up on, put the deliverables in place for and handle the granular details.

There is no denying that the sale STARTS after you close the deal. The hand-written thank you note, the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s by ensuring what your client purchased gets delivered. The frequent contact to touch base, make certain they have everything they need and manage their expectations.

I’m afraid that exceptional sales people are going the way of the dinosaur. Too many sales people have lost touch with what helping a customer is all about. Why? Because all they are interested in is selling. Would you believe that I recently had a sales person tell me that they didn’t have time to handle the little details of writing a script for their client’s business or getting questions answered in regards to their advertising campaign. She said her manager would prefer she be on the street selling while sales support staff managed the details.

Turn the letters S-E-L-L- into the letters
H-E-L-P- and you will write your ticket as a sales professional. Anything less than that will ensure you a very adequate, mediocre sales career.

No Such Thing As A FREE Lunch

2 07 2010

no-free-lunchAt least twice each year I hear the following from a credible strategic planner our owners keep good company with – “There’s no such thing as a free lunch…unless you diversify.” Now certainly I realize he is referring to our personal portfolios and our allocation of financial assets, but wouldn’t the same apply to our professional portfolios and allocation of human assets?

Here’s the situation – I’m an avid fan of Mark Ramsey from Hear2.0.
I have the utmost respect for him and I don’t miss the chance to read anything he has written or produced including his blogs, audio and video podcasts. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I tend to hang on his every word. His blog from today was a classic tongue in cheek. I had to read it multiple times because at first I thought he might be condoning the fact that on-air radio talent shouldn’t be required to embrace the digital world. By that I mean contributing on-line content whether it is in the form of a blog, social media or other interactive elements. You know, extending their on-air brand across multiple platforms to effectively connect and build a relationship with their listeners.

Last time I looked, our industry and many others are drastically changing. We’re in the new world and that means you need to do things you’ve never done before and you will be asked to do more than you have ever done before. The individuals that embrace and diversify their professional portfolios will write their ticket in this town. Those who do not will go by the way of the dinosaurs. Now don’t get me wrong, if you are requiring someone to become a writer and they can’t string complete sentences together and you spend more time proofreading what they’ve written than you do ragging them to do it, you lose – they lose – we all lose. What I am talking about is having them embrace the parts of the assignment that they do have the ability to excel at. In my industry that could mean blogging, or an audio podcast, a weekly entertainment video, a very engaging and interactive fan page or tweets about segments coming up in your show. The point being, you have to do something. The positions of being just an on-air talent or whatever it is you do for a living, don’t exist any longer. You have to diversify, get comfortable with being uncomfortable and start building relationships with your audience or customers beyond what you’re currently doing. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, this same “outside of my job description” attitude exists. I’m not saying let your employer take advantage of you, I’m talking about taking a good look in the mirror and sliding into that bullet proof vest that will make you invincible and a “we can’t live without this person in our organization” type of employee.

Sink or Swim

23 06 2010

I sat through yet another meeting today where an agency was only interested in placing a traditional advertising buy.  In this case, radio.  The account manager telling me this story was extremely frustrated.
I ask, how do you make the light go on for Agencies that have no feel for the reality of the new market place and are so obsessed with buying on a CPP and figuring out the ROI for an on-air only campaign?  You try to educate them to include a digital element whether it is a call to action display ad, downloadable coupon or social media element and they tell you “this isn’t real yet, let’s just do another radio buy.”  Honestly, these people are dinosaurs.  I absolutely respect them for the knowledge they have on placing “traditional” media, but this is 2010.  Running a commercial in this day and age knowing that the majority of people listening or watching have an ipad, laptop, or a mobile device in their hands and NOT giving your client’s brand the opportunity to extend the story or conversation by sending them to a call-to-action on-line is a crime!  To not run a commercial saying look for our ad on “such and such dot com” or go to our fan page, comment on our post and get “X” and push people to a tangible destination where they can mine data is mind numbing. 

Like it or not, whether you are a small shop, medium shop, traditional media account manager, or somewhere in between, the days of traditional 30 second spots is over.  Today’s creative ingenuity lies within the idea, the technology, the concept, the innovation and probably even most importantly, the consumer connection.  Word of mouth is growing exponentially and interactive communities have an increasingly louder and more influential voice than ever. 

Can you teach old dogs new tricks?  Remains to be seen, but I hope so…the new trick is immediacy.  It’s going to be ALL about faster response times and the whole idea of immediacy.  E-mail, text messaging, Twitter, facebook, mobile devices – all of these are setting the table for immediacy.  Loads of consumers wanting, and expecting immediate information, responses, as well as access to products and services.

This is a wake up call folks – Differentiate or Die.  It’s time to deliver more to the table than a :10, :30 or :60 radio or TV spot can bring.  It’s time to innovate, inspire, and bring the big idea that extends beyond the traditional media platform and involves a tangible, measureable, digital element that engages the targeted consumer with the brand.  The quicker you can learn to be a star in the new playing field, the better.  Don’t just put your big toe in the water – DIVE IN!  I promise you won’t drown.

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