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Flying Blind On The Radio

Don’t Be Fooled. That Sales Rep Just Might Be Selling You A Bag Of Magic Beans.

Don’t Be Fooled. That Sales Rep Just Might Be Selling You A Bag Of Magic Beans.

Sure The Sales Reps Are Friendly… And Sure They’ll Promise The Moon.

The Truth: They’re Counting On Your Ignorance So They Can Sell You A Bag Of Magic Beans.

By Rich Harshaw

Note: About once a month I answer questions that come to me via email or via one of my call-in webinars regarding different aspects of contractor marketing. If you have a question, please email it to me at


We are looking to start advertising on the radio soon, and have been talking to some of the local stations. They have all agreed to “waive” the 15% agency commissions for us, so that’s going to save us some money. I’ve attached proposals from three of the stations; they look pretty good to us, but we’d appreciate it if you would look them over and give us any advice or opinions. Any feedback would be great!


Hi Robert,

Thanks for giving us an opportunity to look over this and give you some guidance. Unfortunately, the proposals sent to you by these three stations are all trying to lure you into making uninformed decisions.

The fact that they are waiving the agency commission is a smokescreen—don’t let them fool you into thinking that they’re doing you any favors. In fact, there’s a 99% chance these schedules are TERRIBLE.

For starters, read this article I wrote; it’s called “5 Ways to Totally Screw Up Radio & Fail.” And it is a tidy summary of how you are being treated.

Trust me, these people are not your friends.

The main problem is that they have provided absolutely no data on how much these spots really cost… beyond $X per spot. To really know how much a spot costs, you have to know how many people will hear it. For instance, if you bought a Super Bowl ad for $500 and it reached 100 million people, that’s a better investment than a $500 ad that reaches only 100 people.

The sales reps are counting on you not knowing how to analyze this, so they withhold the information (THAT THEY SURELY HAVE—THEY PAY BIG MONEY FOR IT!!!). You are flying 100% blind. It is literally impossible to tell if these proposals represent good buys or not.

They are hoping that when you come back to “negotiate” you will simply ask for a price reduction or some bonus spots. They’ve already built this cushion into their pricing, and they’ll whine and complain and “ask their managers,” but in the end, they’ll reluctantly give you some or all of what you’re asking for. They want you to feel like you’re winning the negotiation, even though there really has been no negotiation at all.

Hint: When they know you don’t know how to truly evaluate the schedules, they are probably not good deals.

Here is the best way to approach radio:

  • First, understand that radio is a FARMING activity first, and a HUNTING activity second: IMPORTANT—Read this.
  • Next, define a budget for a timeframe. $X for six months minimum, twelve months is better.
  • Decide exactly who your target market is. These stations you have are all heavily male-oriented… not sure that is the best bet for you. Would need to discuss it with you though. Should be based on income, race, and gender.
  • Have the stations prepare Arbitron rankers (like Nielsen ratings for radio) of the stations in your market FOR THE DEMOGRAPHIC YOU WANT TO REACH. This tells us the best stations to reach your target.
  • Have each of the stations that fit submit a very specific proposal to us—we’ll review it for you:
    • Not to get too technical, but we will ask them to present a proposal for your target (say Adults 35-64) that will allow you to reach a 3.0 frequency for a week….
    • Then we see how much RAW BUDGET it will take on each station to reach that desired frequency.
    • More importantly, we will ask them to include a cost per thousand (CPM) report for the schedule. This is how we effectively compare prices across stations. Without this data, we’re completely blind (like you are now).
    • Decide which stations are the best fit, then go back and beat the snot out of them for better prices. See who is willing to play ball, and who is trying to rip you off.

At the end of this process, I can Guarantee that you’ll end up with prices at least 50% better than what they have offered you now. The 15% agency commission that you pay to us to make your buy 50% more efficient becomes “chickenfeed.”

Anyway, that’s my two cents!

(That was my answer to the original question; below is some commentary for you on one of the original documents. Open it up and read my commentary below page by page.)

Page 1: Catchy campaign title “Be Winter Ready Campaign” really doesn’t mean anything. But it sounds official. Putting the client’s logo on the PowerPoint is a nice touch.

Page 2: This is classic BS. Really, read it. The rep is trying to sound like she is proving a total “marketing solution” instead of just selling radio. This is meant to distract the reader from noticing that there is no actual information in this entire proposal.

Page 3: I guess the rep is trying to educate the company on what they do well. Again, this is an attempt to distract from the laughable lack of quantifiable information about the buy found in this proposal.

Page 4: Did you read both of those paragraphs? Neither did anybody else. If you did, you would have seen that the listeners are 64% male (WAY TOO HIGH FOR CONSTRUCTION MARKETING!!!) and they love three-on-three soccer tournaments and blood drives. The ages and incomes of this station actually look pretty good, but the sales rep has not pinpointed that the sweet spot for home improvements is 45-64.

Page 5: Again, a major distraction technique being used here. They are saying that they will give FREE online impressions, which sounds good, but really isn’t worth that much. This is one more attempt to distract the reader from noticing that on Page 6 there is no measurable information.

Page 6: They are hoping the reader of this page is completely radio ignorant. They are asking $4,925 per month for…. what?!!?! Twenty spots M-W between 6 AM and 7 PM. Think about that for a minute—that’s twenty spots spread throughout thirty-nine possible hours of radio… and the spots are only thirty seconds long each (unacceptable). The “Added Value” spots are given for free precisely because they are essentially worthless—very few people listen between 7 PM and midnight. But the biggest problem of all is… drum roll please…. They never bother to tell us how many people will actually be listening to any of these spots. We have no idea. None. And when they’re afraid to tell you, guess what? They’re working against you, not for you. This is essentially like saying, “Give us $4,925 and we’ll give you a black four-door sedan with four wheels and a CD player.” What kind of car? What year model? How many miles? How can anyone POSSIBLY determine if this is a good buy without knowing how many people are listening.

Summary: Five pages of garbage to distract you from realizing that they’re selling you a bag of magic beans. Good luck.

Marketing Plan Analysis: 
Want to know if your marketing will work? We’ll perform a contractor marketing plan analysis and give you a number grade from 0 to 100 so you’ll know for sure. Just fill out this form and we’ll contact you to schedule a time to discuss. Important! Please DO NOT fill this form out if you do not intend to actually meet with us to discuss. We have to invest a substantial amount of time and work into preparing these reports. Thanks!

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© 2015 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.

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