What Business Are We In, Anyway?

Whenever I run across an article like the one by Linda Coss in this issue [“Marketing Growth Hacking,” SMRN 6/7/2018], I wonder whether some readers will think that I’ve missed the mark, because the article has very little to do with radio directly.

I include such articles for a couple of reasons:

  1. The information might be put to good use as background knowledge to help serve your customers better.
  2. The information might be useful in your own business, but it requires an expansion of your thinking to realize it.

When it comes to Point #2, I always think about the classic 1960 book by Theodore Levitt, Marketing Myopia, in which he wrote,

An industry is a customer-satisfying process, not a goods-producing process. Businesses will do better in the end if they concentrate on meeting customers’ needs rather than on selling products.

Companies stop growing because of a failure in management, not because the market is saturated but because of myopia.

Railroads declined because they were “railroad oriented” instead of “transportation oriented”; they were product-oriented instead of customer ori-nted. They declined not because of cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones, but because of their own myopia.

Okay, got it: Railroads shriveled because they saw themselves as railroads, period. So radio will shrivel if we only see ourselves as radio.

Indeed, radio is catching on to the fact that in order to survive and thrive, it must be more than AM or FM. We’re talking a pretty good game—“content provider,” “multi-platform distribution,” and so on.

There’s only one problem: We are talking almost exclusively about product and very little about service—and sales.

Of course, for years and years, while we were still confined to our respective frequencies, the Holy Grail of sales was to become a true marketing consultant—credible enough to be able to weigh in on all the client’s media buying decisions. But with all the consolidation and the budget pressures that have arisen therefrom, the emphasis has shifted from long-term client cultivation to selling enough stuff to make the month.

It’s time to revive that “marketing consultant” mentality—a sales and service vision that is broad enough to match the multidimensional product world in which we live.

Beth Mann, of tiny Cadiz, KY, has become known far and wide in our industry for her ability to make money with digital. But nobody asks her how she makes money with it, assuming that it’s kind of an “If she builds it, they will come” process.

Well, we asked her how she does it—in Episode 36 of the Small Market Radio Podcast. It turns out that she spends as much time on the selling part as on the product part, and has developed a detailed sales strategy for selling her 17—that’s right, 17—different marketing channels available to her clients. The strategy is built on a simple premise: “We want to make it as easy as possible for our clients.” Her salespeople are well-versed in their various offerings, and work with the client to ascertain the best combination of those channels.

As many operators will attest, it is folly to build additional opportunities—whether a one-time Sports Book or an entire sports website—without a careful training/indoctrination process for the people who must present those opportunities to their clients. (Speaking of sports websites, Beth told me she has launched one, and she projects that it will out-bill one of her radio stations within the next four years.)

Listen to the interview in Episode 36 and Episode 37 of the Small Market Radio Podcast.

This is where you can mentally insert that graphic we’ve all seen of the businessman wearing a coat and tie above the waist and tidy whities below, with the caption, “Are you half covered?” (We’d show the picture, but (a) it’s incredibly banal, and (b) we’d have to pay for it.)

I don’t think we need the picture to make the point: The reason that most of us are not making money with our digital is that we don’t have a plan for making money with our digital. It’s time to apply the same out-of-the-box thinking that has led us to develop some great digital products to the marketing of those products to our clients.