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Try These Rapid-Fire Revenue Generators

Get back in the black with these strategies

Vince Benedetto Every radio manager has been there: that moment when all of the little tricks you’ve tried to make your sales target just aren’t cutting it anymore.

But there’s always another new idea out there, and several of the top small- and medium-market managers from around the country just may have the idea that pushes your bottom line into the black.

Perhaps it’s those public service announcements your station prides itself on airing. Don’t give away what you can sell. Instead of a PSA, first offer an ad deal.

You’re serving the community, of course, but Carol Floyd, the market manager/sales manager for the Cromwell Radio Group in Mattoon, Ill., says there’s no reason you can’t also be making a few dollars on them.

“When I came to radio, I was amazed at all the things we air for free on a daily basis,” Floyd said. “Any time someone asks us to air something for free, we have a preferred nonprofit package, buy one get one free. It’s small enough that they can afford it.”

A typical package costs nonprofits $125 or $150, which covers the cost of 10 ads, plus 10 more thrown in for free. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Floyd said.

Or maybe your market is a big military location, like Hampton Roads, Va., where Carol Commander is the director of sales for Saga’s Tidewater Communications cluster. That station group, which like others quoted in this story participated in a session about this topic at the spring NAB Show, has been bringing in extra money for several years with a “Military Hero of the Week” promotion.

“It’s 100 percent NTR,” Commander said, and it’s revenue that’s coming out of a different budget line at many of the companies that sponsor the promotion. “There are many companies that have an entire budget that’s dedicated to military, companies like Geico and big banks. They have a military budget that has nothing to do with their regular broadcast or print budgets.”

At Tidewater, listeners submit names for the contest, and the winner each week comes to the station for an award (sponsored by a local trophy company) and a gift certificate to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Commander says the promotion is good for an extra $40,000 a year from its title sponsor alone, plus additional sponsors.

Another source of non-traditional revenue that’s become increasingly popular for radio owners is to branch out into digital signage, giving advertisers the chance to put their message not only on your own airwaves but also on signs at the local arena, convention center or airport.

At the Bold Gold Media stations in northeastern Pennsylvania, owner Vince Benedetto took that idea one step farther, selling not only ad space on all the signage and monitors in the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino but also putting a radio studio right in the casino.

“About 12,000 people a day go by the studio,” he says. “You take streaming, your website, digital ads, and you can put together a very customized package that nobody else in the market is going to be able to do.”

If you’re in a market with no casino and no military base, how about home improvement? At Commander’s stations in Virginia, veteran DJ Mike Arlo is the face of the “Arlo’s Shed” promotion, in which a lucky winner goes home with anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 worth of “stuff you’d find in your garage.”

Carol Floyd The key for sponsors, Commander says, isn’t in the giveaway itself but in the leads generated by all the entries for the giveaway. The sponsors get contact information at the end of the promotion, “and obviously, we teach them how to use those leads post-event, so they can get more revenue that way,” Commander says.

Keeping advertisers (and potential advertisers) happy is an important piece of Commander’s sales strategy, which includes a “Brandsformation” workshop the stations hold periodically at an off-site location.

“There’s no ask involved,” Commander says. “It’s just how to take a good local business and turn it into a good local brand.”

There’s nothing a radio station does that can’t be named and sold.

Floyd says her stations “went through and created a grid, to make sure we know what’s expiring and what isn’t.” If sponsorships are falling off, “we have quarterly blitzes” to fill the grid up again, she said.

The session at the NAB Show also included ideas from the audience.

At Blackgold Radio’s “93.1 the One,” CJLD(FM) in Leduc, Alberta, owner Mark Tamagi says the station put up a performance stage in the lobby, “Stage One” and sells naming rights.

And don’t overlook the potential to unlock some extra revenue from something as simple as a station concert. At Benedetto’s Bold Gold stations, the annual “Thunder Bash” is free to listeners — but tickets are only available for limited periods at sponsors’ locations.

“Nothing tells an advertiser your station is relevant like when they call up to say ‘We ran out of tickets!’” Benedetto says.

Scott Fybush is a longtime contributor. Learn more about Scott via his website