Can your radio station create raving fans? You have to.



(By Michael Doyle) Classic book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles “Fans in delirium” is one of my favorites to look into when I need to turn around a radio business. Entire groups of employees read the little book about a man looking for examples of excellent customer service.

With all the competitive pressures on the radio industry today, now is a great time to review its lessons and see how you can use them to accelerate your business. The basic tenet of the book is that the competition is stronger than ever (and this was written in the early 90’s) and that “happy customers” won’t stick around. You need to create happy customers and ultimately enthusiastic fans. I’m not just talking about sales here, or programming, I’m talking about building Raving Fans for your business.

With so many media choices, the loss of space on the dashboard, the elimination of the radio as a household appliance, how do you create Raving Fans? Apply the principles of the book.

1. Define your ideal customer experience.

2. Discover your ideal customer (and listener) experience.

3. Integrate your vision with their needs.

4. Build systems to ensure consistency.

5. Exceed expectations.

For radio programmers, it has to be more than the music you listen to. I have a setting on my iPhone called “infinite” which, when my curated playlist is exhausted, selects other songs that it thinks I’ll like. If all you do is play the same songs I can get on my iPhone, why would I come to you for music. The days of “more music – more music” radio are over.

The question you need to ask yourself (and your audience if you’re researching), “If you miss a day of listening to WXXX, do you feel like you’ve missed a lot?” In a world of Raving Fans programming, you need the personalities, information, music curation, interviews, and other content that makes the world decide to choose you. Steve Jobs put thousands of songs in my pocket – what are you doing special?

Are you going out into the world and reaching your listener? It is important. Do you answer the phone and talk to them? In an increasingly insular and pandemic-driven world of social media, high contact can still be a winning strategy.

Are you developing local talent that can entertain, spark interest, create empathy and interact with people?

When creating the “ideal customer experience”, don’t worry about what it will cost, focus on what you want the outcome to be. Begin with the end in mind. In the book, there is an example of a Chevy dealer who used Corvettes as “loaner” cars. This attracted customers to the (profitable) service and increased their sales of Corvettes (even lightly used ones). Who wouldn’t want to drive a Corvette all day?

From a sales and marketing point of view, do your customers talk about advertising with you to their friends? Are your invoices easy to understand? Believe me, your bills are confusing and worthless.

Are your salespeople holding the advertiser’s hand throughout the sales process? Are you delivering value to your biggest advertisers, not just the baddest? Do you have a way to measure success for customers, do they feel their opinions are valued? Remember that you are not selling a product (radio or digital), you have to sell what that product does. You are selling a service of showing customers how to use your products to achieve their marketing goals. To quote Don Beverage: “You can compare the price of a product, you cannot compare the price of a solution.”

As a manager or owner, have you even met all of your advertisers?

When I came to Rochester NY in 2000, I met as many customers as they wanted to see me and heard a lot of complaints. It started with the basics, we didn’t run their copy right, we didn’t charge them right, we had too much revenue. The list of problems was enormous, almost overwhelming. It was hard to hear.

I’ve been to radio appearances – and frankly, we didn’t look very good in public. Our personalities didn’t answer the phone, and one slept in the studio while on air.

I gave the Raving Fans book to all the staff. We then took a day to strategically discuss what the Raving Fans service would look like in programming, sales, promotions, traffic and the business office. The team crafted the plan and we aligned it with what we heard from our advertisers and listeners.

We increased audience interaction on the phone and answered to say “hi” and “respond to requests” even when we weren’t doing a contest. We hold weekly meetings to review poorly served ads, understand why, and resolve issues. There are two types of problems, people problems and systems problems. We fixed both.

We set up systems, deadlines, appearance expectations, training programs for each department. We did employee surveys and put up a suggestion box, and I read all the suggestions out loud, including the ones I didn’t like very much. We have created a program “employee” of the term, nominated by colleagues. We’ve set up a raving fan bulletin board so we can brag about each other. We conducted annual employee engagement surveys and collected feedback from our employees.

The future of radio is bright. The industry has a deployed staff of local advertising experts, still has the largest “ear share” according to the most recent Edison study. We can sell AM/FM radio, digital audio and a variety of digital products including video.

Many other people can also sell most of these products. Gone are the days of the “walled garden” protected by limited FCC licenses. Now you need to stand out.

“In a crowded market, integrating is a failure. In a crowded market, not standing out is equivalent to being invisible. –Seth Godin

I hear people thinking: how much will it cost to do all this?

The question should be: how much will it cost if we don’t? Perhaps the industry will become invisible.

For nearly 40 years, Michael Doyle, The sales manager, has hired, trained and developed salespeople and sales managers across the United States. The success of your business is tied to the success of your sales team. Contact The sales manager to: [email protected] .

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