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Stop With the Freebies

Sales peeps: Know what you’re selling, and set your price

Take a lesson from the big boys and incorporate sponsorships into your online presence. Here, Clear Channel’s WLTW(FM) in New York promotes the iHeartRadio Music Festival; note the multiple Pepsi logos.
I went on a few sales calls; our last stop was with a beer distributor. You can imagine how unhappy he was when he learned that the new GSM was finally putting an end to the station’s “bonus” policy.

The following version of his diatribe to our sales rep is a lot cleaner than the original: “Bull turkey! The last time I signed an annual with you guys, I got a thousand bonus spots, online ads were free and you gave me five free bar appearances. You think I’m gonna take this sugar-filled news from you sitting down?”

Why do radio station sales people give away the store for free? Because they can! It takes a strong general sales manager to change the policy and stick with it long enough for clients to reset expectations. The long and short of it is that, yes, this is a fight that can be won with stick-to-it-ness and compromise. It may mean dropping rates temporarily for certain clients, or coming up with special incentives such as weekend trips, but it must be done.

For skeptics, I can state only that I’ve witnessed many stations successfully make the transition. There is a basic economic premise that says a price can be reset if the customer can believe the logic behind it. And this is indeed a logical change because no businessperson truly believes a product should be free.

Let’s tackle online sales first, as this is a growth area for many, but traditionally poorly monetized by radio.

Plain and simple, no matter what your uniques or pageviews amount to, they will not be large enough to compete with the big guns. The traffic numbers from major national sites will kill you in your own city. However, your advantage is that you can tap into something they can’t: Local sponsorships, section by section.

This can include complete page takeovers with client branding covering the sides, logo at the top of each page and fixed pre-roll on any video that runs in that particular section.

Exclusively owning a piece of the action is a lot more appealing, and certainly more effective, than just buying banner ads at a cost-per-thousand from a big site. Be sure to include the client name when promoting the site on-air, and the fact that this is included in the price of their sponsorship.

For certain sections, station clusters may want to push the sponsorship concept across all the station sites. For example, weather on each site could have the same sponsor.

Can social media be sponsored? You bet! You must be careful not to violate the terms of service of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, which you can find easily on those sites. Your clients will be most interested in how you can help them obtain more followers. Accomplish this through contesting, personality endorsements and incentive campaigns; for example, “The first 50 people who follow PJ’s Nightclub on Twitter get free tickets to Thursday night’s dance party.”

Some say that SMS (text) has seen its day. Don’t believe them. While the media world may be crazy about Twitter, the average person is still texting like crazy. Reaching these folks on their mobile phones with real information and advertising can be quite rewarding.

Depending on how active you are with texting, you may wish to sell a sponsorship monthly or annually. Some texting systems allow listeners to sign up for scores and other bits of info, all of which can contain sponsor messages.

Because you have radio and websites, you are in an excellent position to help any company that uses photography or video to promote or sell what they do. Examples: Wedding and event planners have pics to share and use to sell their services; websites such as local sports blogs need traffic awareness; even golf courses love to show off their grounds. Your tactic is to get pics up on Instagram or on your own site and use those to drive interest in commercial products.

And those bonus spots? They are the bane of our industry. If you have to utilize inventory to lower cost per point, at least assign a reasonable dollar figure. Besides, at the end of the day, a client who pays nothing to get something won’t respect you in the morning.

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