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Relationship Marketing

The station began putting together its database nine years ago. And just like a prized rose garden, careful care and feeding is the secret.

This is one in a series of special reports for “Survival Guide 2: Radio’s New Media Leaders,” a supplement to the Sept. 24, 2008 issue.

Saga Communications’ WSNY(FM) in Columbus can use its Loyal Listener Club to make an attractive offer to its clients, said Jim Bezak, director of Internet services for Saga’s Columbus Radio Group.

For example, “We can guarantee 50 people will show up at a model home on Tuesday night for two hours. That may be more than they’ve seen all year.”

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He said a message to the station’s listener club database, or a subset of it, kicks off the promotion.

“We send an e-mail that says ‘Hey, thanks for being a member. We would like to invite you to this exclusive VIP party. There will only be 50 people there, we’ll have wine and hors d’oeuvres, and someone will win a cruise to the Caribbean.’ And it just happens to be at a model home.”

Bezak said it’s not only a win for the client, but for the listeners.

“They get the instant gratification of seeing someone that wins a trip right there, plus they feel special because they feel like they’re really getting involved with the radio station.” He said WSNY has done these promotions for dozens of clients. “It’s really worked well for us.”

The station began putting together its database nine years ago. And just like a prized rose garden, careful care and feeding is the secret.

“You have to make sure that you’re constantly massaging that database,” said Bezak. “It’s one thing to build the database, but to keep those people in there, to keep them active, is another.

“We’re very particular of what we send out in our e-mails. There always has to be a listener benefit. You can’t just send an e-mail to send an e-mail.” He said it’s also important to e-mail to listeners on a regular basis, so they remember they’re part of the club.

On the sales side, WSNY VIP parties and other promotions fueled by the database are no longer ad hoc sales. Hard and fast packages have been developed, where clients can opt for e-mailings targeted to specific Zip codes or other slices of the database.

“Depending on what the carrot is, we can get three, four, five hundred responses,” said Bezak, “and we can only choose 50 for the event.”

He said they have to “walk a fine line” on qualifying listeners for a particular event, but they sometimes require the listeners click a button to signal their interest in a topic like springtime home improvement before the VIP party offer is made.

Another benefit of the listener club activities is the research it generates. “It’s also a great way for us to find out, through a contest: What’s a hot button? Do people want groceries and gas for a year? Is it something else?”

The success of this Web strategy at the Columbus Radio Group has been signaled by a new hat Bezak is now wearing: director of support and training for the Interactive Department at Saga.