Marketing: what went wrong. As a small market radio station, we… | by Brian Dickens Barrabee | March 2022

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As a small market radio station, we were constantly looking for ways to get noticed. More ears, more ad revenue.

But that was a disaster!

A listener: Photo by Pixabay

Radio was losing its share of advertising revenue almost by the minute. In a moment of madness, I had recently purchased a small market AM station in Maryland. I knew next to nothing about broadcasting, thus breaking the first rule of business planning: know what you’re getting into.

To mark, the station master, Mike our main DJ and Charlie, our sales manager probably met once a week to come up with marketing ideas.

Some of the ideas have been successful to varying degrees; like the classic car rallies we sponsored from which we broadcast (a remote) into the strip mall at the end of the block from the train station.

An even bigger success was the trade we made for advertising the Maryland Lottery by giving away free $2.00 scratch tickets to listeners who called in with answers to questions based on local history. The lottery paid for advertising time with free tickets

It is with our few hard-earned marketing successes in mind that To mark, our knowledgeable and creative station manager, told us the story of:

Byron Priess’ secret:

The secret is a book written by Byron Priess which involves a scavenger hunt involving a search for 12 treasure chests left behind by historical places found in 12 cities across the United States and Canada. Advice on where these locations were provided in the book written by Priest (1982). Anyone who found a treasure box brought it to Priest and exchange it for a gem.

Priest died in 2019 but his estate is bound to honor the promise made in his book.

So far, only 3 out of 12 boxes have been returned for the reward.

How cool, I was thinking!

My interest was further heightened when To mark suggested that we have a similar scavenger hunt for our listeners and hopefully get the message across that we are a community marketing force to be reckoned with.

Visions of new advertisers dance in my head!

Looking back, days were wasted planning the WSER “Treasure Hunt”

What do they say about hindsight being 20/20?

The marketing plan:

1 It was going to start on the first Monday in June and last until that Sunday..

2 The news anchor gave 1 clue per day but repeated the clue every hour with the local news.

3 The clues are becoming more revealing every day.

4 Anne, at Mark’s administrative assistant, would buy the fanciest and most durable jewelry box (for the cheapest price at Walmart in the mall where we held the classic car rallies – buy locally).

5 To mark suggested burying the box in the small station lawn near the small building where our transmitter was. He suggested we plant a cultivated daffodil in the ground over it as a beacon (so we remember where it was).

And here’s the best part; genius!

6 The listener who found the box could walk through the station’s front door and claim their “GEM” in the form of:

100 $2.00 Maryland Lottery Scratch Tickets!

Everyone at WSER was very excited when the first Monday in June arrived. Driving to the station, I heard Howard’s (the journalist) melodious baritone voice giving the first clue:

something about a small white building.

Vague enough to keep them tuned.

The unexpected results of the WSER marketing plan:

The week went by pretty quickly.

Ironically, our ad sales haven’t increased at all.

Well, it may take a little time.

A positive; no one claimed Treasure chest Again.

Things will work out when we’ve assigned the lottery tickets, I was thinking!

The phone call:

On Friday afternoon, the station’s business line rang.

It’s not the live line that succeeded Treasure hunter would like to use.

Anne patched the call in my office with the announcement that the caller was the Mayor.

I was connected, ” Mayor Huddlesack? » *

“What are you assholes doing over there at your station?” the Mayor asked in a loud voice.

I honestly had no idea what he was referring to, I was confused, ” What are you talking about ? » did I stutter?

It wasn’t everyday that I got called an asshole by a Mayor, I was thinking!

“There are a few high school kids here digging my lawn. They claim you sent them! the restless Mayor reported.

Oh shit!

I paid the lawn crew that mows the station postage stamp of a front lawn $250 to replace the lawn in the mayor’s front yard.

No one claimed to have found the Treasure chest.

The station team scratched all 100 tickets themselves after giving the contest another week. I think they only won $5.00 from the lot of them.

the Treasure chest is probably still there under the daffodil, if the new owners have the same lawn care company doing the front.

Yeah, I sold the station and the band that bought it from me sold it to someone else.

Nothing anyone has done has attracted a lot of people to listen.


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