You Can’t Blame Them For Trying To Get As Much Money From You As Possible. But You Can Protect Yourself From Getting Burned.
Written by Rich Harshaw
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in the woods (okay, Los Angeles!) who had a business he wanted to promote. He was very good at getting home improvement leads from the World Wide Web, and was ready to expand his business to make it bigger and better. Then came the wolf and banged on his door: “Little man, little man, give me $50,000 a month for my radio station and I’ll make you rich,” cried the wolf. The little man didn’t know what to do, so he forked over $200,000 to the big bad wolf over a 4 month period to see what would happen. The little man ended up with a hard bed, a broken chair, and a bowl of cold porridge. Meanwhile, the big bad wolf bought a new Audi and set of Callaways.
Later, the little man found a knight in shining armor who agreed to fight the big bad wolf. The knight researched alternate stations and found some that were much cheaper as a test and would deliver a better demographic. The big bad wolf didn’t like this, and upon discovery of said plan, raced his Audi to the home of the little man and told him that his network also owned those other stations, and he would help the little man get on those stations instead. The knight wouldn’t hear of it, and confronted the big bad wolf about why he didn’t recommend these stations in the first place. The big bad wolf had no good explanation. So the knight stabbed the big bad wolf with a huge javelin thingy. Then the little man lived happily ever after.
Always remember this: Advertising and marketing is the lifeblood of your business. So you don’t want to treat it lightly. Don’t hand it off to someone who’s more concerned about his ego or his wallet than your bottom line. Your contractor marketing and advertising has the potential to impact your business—for better or for worse—more than any other aspect of your business.
Advertising salespeople make commissions on the ads they sell you. That’s obvious. So realize that they’re going to try to load you up with as much as possible because it makes their commissions bigger. This might come as a shock, but there is a chance that they might try to sell you more than you actually need to get the job done. Or they might try to unload some crummy inventory on a bad station just to make their sales manager happy. To avoid getting taken, you have to understand what you’re buying so you can know if they’re pulling a big bad wolf on you.
It’s not like buying something like a suit. You walk into the suit store, you need to buy one suit. If the guy in the suit store attempts to sell you four or five suits, you smile politely and let him know that you only need one suit. If he tries to sell you something orange with green stripes, you know it’s not right. If he becomes pushy, you tell him to back down because you’re absolutely sure that you only need one suit in a conservative pattern. See, if you know you only need one suit, you just buy one suit. If you know you want navy, black, or charcoal, that’s kind of what you get.
How many radio ads do you need to make an effective campaign? That’s hard to say. What stations should you be on? Which day parts will be most effective? Some are definitely more expensive than others. So how do you even know what you need to buy? The list of questions you need to be able to answer is long. It’s not exactly easy to know what you need to buy in the first place, and that’s what makes it difficult to know whether or not the ad sales rep is proposing to you is what you really need or not.
That’s where the knight in shining armor comes in (that would be Monopolize Your Marketplace!). I’d like to give you some evaluation questions that you can ask the advertising sales rep to see if they really have your best interest at heart. The jaded part of me wants to say “to prove that they don’t have your best interest at heart,” but let’s go with the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
You can use these questions to find out if they’re trying to maximize your return or just fatten their commission check. Before you ask the sales reps these questions, however, you need to have a general idea of what you should do. In other words, you need to form your own opinion, draw your own conclusion about the best way to buy that particular medium….and then ask the sales rep these questions. If you need help with this, by all means shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the first question. Tell the sales rep that you have a certain budget for your advertising campaign. Say it’s five thousand dollars, or $20,000, or whatever it is. The number isn’t important. Just tell them what your entire budget is for your entire campaign—not just their station. Tell them what your entire budget is and then ask them this magic question: How would THEY spend your $X budget if they were in your shoes? Which stations? How much on each station? Again, make sure you’ve researched it out ahead of time so you have a good idea. Their answer to this question won’t mean much if you don’t know. If you do know, however, their answer to this question could be very revealing.
Let’s say that you’ve done your research and determined that you should spend $5,000 of your $25,000 budget on one particular radio station. You feel that $5,000 is about right, and that maybe as much as $7,500 would be within reason. Then you ask them the question, how would they spend your budget if they were in your shoes. Then let’s say that they suggest that you spend at least half your budget on their station, and only $5,000 on the other station that is their major competitor, and the rest should go to other smaller stations. See, that throws up a big red flag, doesn’t it? You’ve determined that they should get 20% of the budget, and they’re gunning for 50%. Obviously, you can’t fault him for gunning for half your budget. Now, however, you know that you can’t trust his opinion. Again, this is assuming you’ve done your homework.
Here’s another way to test the trustworthiness of your advertising sales rep. In this scenario, you don’t reveal your entire campaign budget. Instead you just tell him how much you want to spend on his station… Now here’s the trick. Make sure that the number you give him is actually about 50 to 100% higher than you actually intend to spend with him. If you were planning on spending $5,000 on his station, tell him you want to spend $10,000. Now, see how he reacts. Sales reps on the lower end of the spectrum will lick their chops and tell you that you’re an advertising genius and try to take your money. You might find out, however, that they try to steer you in another direction.
In related news, temperatures in hell are hovering around 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sometimes the rep will email over a proposed schedule with $10,000 that is just ridiculous. Too many spots. It’s like the advertising equivalent of buying 6 suits. You just don’t need to do that—it’s overkill, a waste of money. About half the time the sales rep will say, “Hey, that’s just too much money to spend in that short amount of time. You need to either cut your budget, or extend the amount of time that your ads will be running.” That makes you feel more confident in that sales rep, doesn’t it? But what if they don’t say that? Then you know not to trust that person.
Here’s the third thing you can ask the sales rep to find out if their opinion is worthwhile. Ask them about specific competing media. Again, do your homework and form your own opinion about the competing media before you ask. If you’ve concluded that a competitive radio station would be a good fit for your campaign, and the sales rep only has negative things to say about it, that should throw up a red flag. Here’s a sales rep that only has one thing in mind: a new Audi. Steer clear. Ask for a new rep who’s more objective. If the rep. mixes in a few jabs while giving you the positive stuff about the competitor, that’s fine—that’s just protecting the turf. But to pretend like the competitor is a black hole of doom while they’re the answer to your advertising prayers is just plain disingenuous.
There is one more question to ask a sales rep to find out what their opinion is worth. Ask them first, how long they’ve been selling advertising, and second, how long they’ve been with this particular radio station. Generally, the longer someone has been around and the longer they’ve been with the company they’re with now, the more likely they are to be objective. That is a generalization, but maybe it can work for you. If someone hops around from radio station to radio station every six months, that person is more likely to tell you whatever he thinks he needs to get the sale… because he’s probably starving!
The sales reps that are good, the ones who really do have your best interest at heart, can be a very good source of information. They can give you helpful suggestions and steer you in the right path when you DON’T know exactly the best way to proceed. Usually, these kinds of reps will be happy to work with you even if you’re not buying anything for them. They know that if they help you now, that you’ll be likely to buy from them when it is appropriate. That’s how they’ve EARNED their staying power in the industry and at their current job—by treating people the way they want to be treated. Imagine that.
The rest of the jokers, meanwhile, can wear the dunce cap in the corner while you search for solutions yourself.
Note: April is Radio month, a series of 12 articles all focused on everything you could ever want to know about making money by advertising on the radio.
March 31 – I Want To Punch Christine Cook In The Face
April 2 – Why You Should Immediately Allocate 10% Of Your Budget To Radio
April 4 – How Radio Stacks Up Against Other Media – The Pros & Cons
April 8 – The Nuts & Bolts Of Making Radio Work For You
April 11 – 5 Ways To Totally Screw Up Radio & FAIL
April 15 – How To Choose The Right Stations & Out-Negotiate The Sales Reps
April 17 – Client Success – Small Town Remodelers Experience Big Success On Radio
April 22 – Reader Mail: Should I Use Radio DJs For The Voice Of My Commercials?
April 24 – 2 1/2 Years on Radio… And Still Going Strong
April 28 – How To Write Great Radio Ads… & A Bunch Of Examples
April 30 – The Radio Ad That Made Listeners’ Ears Bleed
May 2 – Take The Plunge – Let Us Help YOU Get On The Radio
© 2014 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.