Turnover among advertisers seems to be a disease within the radio industry. But what if we looked at advertisers differently? Could we stop the turnover?
First, we have to address the causes of turnover. I think it boils down to a few things:
- Clients are sold high expectations, then let down when those expectations are not met.
- Salespeople are so eager to make a sale that they will accept schedules that cannot possibly work.
- Clients (and salespeople) don’t understand what works on radio, so the creative is often ineffective.
- Our industry has high sales turnover. Clients just get tired of hearing from yet another new rep.
- Clients don’t understand the value of dominating a single audience and therefore jump ship to other stations when their ads don’t seem to work. They don’t give ads enough time.
- Clients succumb to high-pressure techniques but then swear they’ll never advertise with that salesperson again once the agreement ends.
The harsh reality is that most of these problems are caused by radio people. Because we are under enormous pressure to meet budgets (understandable), salespeople have less time to develop client relationships and to properly educate advertisers about what works and what does not. (And frankly, there are lots of reps and managers who don’t even have those answers themselves.)
Uneducated advertisers are our fault. We have to take the time to develop them, help them understand why repetition over time is necessary, how to build top-of-mind awareness, and how to run campaigns vs. running spots. We need to be willing to say no when we know a schedule won’t work. That’s hard, with so much budget pressure. Yet when ads don’t work, the advertiser blames radio and the station. And if we place the blame on them after the fact, we look like cowards. These are conversations to be had up front.
But beyond these issues, there is a factor I’ve never seen used in radio. It’s called “lifetime value.”
Last week I met with a radio group head and asked what the lifetime value of a small advertiser was. She paused, then said, “I’ve never stopped to think about that.” She then guessed a small advertiser on her stations was probably worth a million dollars.
The light immediately went on.
What if rather than looking at a small advertiser as an annoyance, you looked at them as a million-dollar customer? How would you treat them differently? What would you spend to acquire them and keep them?
I own a direct marketing business, and one thing those of us in direct marketing are willing to do is spend as much money as possible to acquire a quality customer, because we understand their lifetime value. If I spend $1,000 to acquire a customer, it seems high — unless, of course, you realize that customer over the next 10 years may spend a million dollars with me. Suddenly it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, as long as I’m finding the right customer. (That is a different discussion for another time).
In the direct marketing world, we also know our stats exactly. We can tell you how long the average customer stays and the exact time most will want to wind up their original contract. What if you calculated that? The data is certainly there.
For instance, in a membership program, a direct marketing company knows that someone paying $50 a month for a service will typically back out in month seven. Since they know that, they can work to prevent it: In month five, they’ll activate a client-retention program. Sending a little unexpected gift or reminding the customer of all the value he or she is getting — by providing even more value — will stop most cancellations.
What would the value to you be of a plan to stop advertisers from backing out or being taken away by others?
Another big issue in direct marketing is buyer’s remorse, and cancellation in the first or second month. That’s why most marketers send a box of gifts to thank customers for their business. People tend to be less likely to cancel after they get your welcome package.
What if your station treated customers like direct marketers do: creating a truly wonderful welcome package, building a retention program, and being willing to invest to bring in the right customers?
Recently a hotel pitching us for our convention business went all-out during a visit. They sent a limousine for us, they had our logo projected on the wall, they had a cake with our logo imprinted on it, and they had people placed around the property in costumes related to the event we were proposing. The same day we visited two other properties, but they did nothing like that. That first hotel stood out, and they are the one we want to do business with. They made the extra effort, and were willing to spend to get our business.
If you look at every radio advertiser as a gift, and one you need to invest in to keep, it will change how you sell, what you spend to attract the right people, and how you train your staff and your clients. And it will have a big impact on retention and turnover.