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Give Clients More for Their Money

Rarely is dropping rates your best choice for creating value

With a stagnant economy, advertisers are applying pressure to radio stations to cut rates, offer better placement and drive better results. Ignore these requests at your peril.

When your account execs relay client demands, provide them with ammunition to assist with client retention. Fail to act, and one of your radio competitors — or another medium — may provide solutions and win your clients away.

iStockphoto/muharrem öner

Dropping rates may be the most time-efficient tourniquet but it is rarely your best choice for creating value for clients. Let’s explore other ways to give clients more bang for their buck.

Get creative

One surefire approach to better results is to ensure your clients are airing effective creative. Account executives and sales managers too often accept whatever a client delivers, whether proposed copy or finished production.

You don’t need a killer creative services director in-house; it’s never been easier to outsource spot creative to experienced specialists. Many small production houses are being run by talented, formerly well-paid creative services directors who lost jobs due to consolidation or downsizing in our industry.

I am happy to recommend a few or ask others to do so. Before you sign such a deal, ask for radio station and advertiser references and for links to spots you can hear. Step two in improving your client’s creative is more difficult but not impossible: Read or play the finished product to a small sample of the intended audience.

You can do this entirely online, if you like, by posting one or several spots, then asking your recruited panel to write down what they remember from the commercials.

You finally will have to admit something that, deep down, you know. Messages often are not clearly communicated in many of your spots. Entertainment or emotive factors also can make a significant difference.

After you’ve got your effective creative wrapped up, make sure you are scheduling spots properly with high frequency over shorter spans of days. Rather than airing 50 spots over 10 days, run all of them over five days; this will most certainly increase the recall needed to drive action.

Local celebrity endorsements for products, services and activities can garner a higher level of attention for clients. Sure, there are talent fees involved, but if you can provide a sought-after celeb to voice a spot and/or show up at an event, clients often will jump at the chance. You’ll have to go beyond your on-air pool of talent. Every city has highly recognizable athletes or other glamorous personalities, many of whom are game to earn extra money and enjoy the limelight.

Do you ever look at your logs to see where spots are placed in stop-sets? Here’s a shocker: More listeners will hear the first commercial played than the sixth one played in a stop-set.

This begs myriad questions. Are your clients getting a fair shake? Should you occasionally stack the deck in somebody’s favor if a renewal based on results is on the line? Do clients with the best creative deserve to go first? Should you charge a premium for this position?

I’m not sure there are correct answers, but these questions sure can create an interesting discussion at your next sales meeting.

Know your assets

You may have to play the “added value” game to keep clients happy.

Make an asset list for easy reference. Here’s a short one to get you started: Sponsorship billboards for news, sports, traffic, concert updates and other features; website section sponsorships mentioned on-air; banner ads; pre-roll on video, contests on-air and online; Facebook and Twitter plugs or endorsements; contextually embedded links from your site to a client site; naming rights for your studio, van, morning show or events. (Send me more ideas and I’ll share them with other readers.)

Although many clients may ask you to cut rates, your response must be market-based. If competitors are holding rate and your sellout rate is fair, there is no reason to acquiesce.

Instead, assure them you can make their investment provide a greater return by utilizing several or all of the assets outlined above.

In some cases, it may be feasible for you to offer a few special clients the opportunity to trade out a portion of their schedule for services or goods that you really may be able utilize. For example, you may need to shred 10 years of documents and just happen to have a client who sells that service. You then take part of their next schedule half cash/half trade.

While there is never a one-size-fits-all solution for clients, I can’t help myself in delivering a mantra I learned from my first GM many moons ago: “Great ratings solve many problems.”

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Contact him at [email protected].