Can You Create The Next New Expansion In Radio?

Posted on March 29, 2012

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Want to do something impressive that thrills your bosses?  Want to be innovative.  Read this article and think seriously about your future in the radio business.  If you are a market manager or radio company president, there has never been a better time to turn everything off and consider a truly new idea for your future and the future of your company.  And you will like it because the focus is on revenue generation.

When you think of the great radio brands of the last thirty years, you can almost draw an imaginary line between how the station was built to include really serving the local community and the larger than other station success the brand has had since launch.  Being involved and really superserving the local community is what built some of the truly great brands in radio because radio is best when it is personal, engaged and involved in what is happening.

THE GREAT BRANDS EVERYONE KNOWS

When passion runs high, great brands are built.  Just look around outside of broadcast:  Starbucks, Apple, Coca Cola.  What do these companies have in common with a strong radio brand?  High passion, involvement in the communities they serve.  In fact, you only have to look at Coca Cola to see that you can’t get so big that local community involvement is no longer important.  It does not get much bigger than Coke.  If you don’t know what I mean, do some digging and you will see that Coca Cola is very involved locally wherever they sell Coke or are thinking about increasing the selling of Coke.

What does all this mean when it comes to today’s radio world?  It means that companies can afford to think differently.  It means that radio companies can use creativity and what works best for radio to actually increase our revenue on a local basis instead of continuing to reduce the number of employees (and influence) we have until the business becomes a totally broken model that big companies will then sell off to the highest bidder in an effort to survive.

Think bigger or get smaller.  It is your choice.

How do you invest in growing the business and increasing your foot print in local radio markets today?  By creating non-traditional revenue ideas that allow you to expose opportunity outside of the traditional radio revenue your sales team seeks today.  You understand that this is additional revenue you should be seeking.  How do you get there?

I am going to give you a perfect example and a way to do it.  One example.  You are responsible for taking the idea and putting life to it.  You will be responsible for how many times you use this idea in a slightly different form to cash in an a totally new adventure for non-traditional revenue that opens up and stays open for years.  Are you ready to grow?

While almost all of the radio business is working hard to become more like McDonalds and get away from local dynamics because of costs associated with the operation of radio stations so they can pull more revenue with less and less expense, this article will suggest a second way to generate more revenue and grow your actual on-the-ground business for the future.  Maybe radio shouldn’t be focused only on cutting programming staff and reducing sale people.  Maybe there is another way?

And maybe you don’t have to be a big company to make it happen.

CONSIDER WHERE YOUR NEW REVENUE CAN COME FROM TODAY, TOMORROW

Consider building new non-traditional revenue streams and consider how you build them so that they serve two important purposes: Generating new influence and revenue in your local market with new clients that traditionally have not used radio and creating new continuous revenue opportunities in non-traditional revenue growth.  That means serving new “communities” inside your local market (and there are plenty).  That’s what radio done right does well.  You already understand it.

HOW TO DO IT

Let’s talk about the best way to do both of those things.  We can talk about how to do it with lower expenses as you grow and where to locate these new clients.

Radio usually uses an approach with non-traditional revenue that involves temporary revenue.  That’s not what we are after here.  We want revenue that grows so you have essentially new franchises in your market (new brands).

THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST

First, radio should absolutely consider breaking the business model and continuing your normal radio business with your existing sales team while launching a secondary business model for non-traditional “opportunities.”  It is critical to consider this because you don’t want to only shift money around – you want to create new money for your expansion.  Cut your radio sales team loose to focus on radio.

You need a new generation to sell the new assets you will now create in your market.  They don’t need to be tied to old thinking or the old ways of doing things.  You see, you are actually going to build a second model to compliment your broadcast services.

This second level or second model could be designed this way:

START AT THE TOP BY STARTING AT THE BOTTOM

We begin by hiring or utilizes a sales manager to oversee the hiring of a second sales team.  The person you select is critical because he or she will need skills to manage and motivate a sales team that will be asked to literally “earn their way onto the team.”  This second sales team would primarily be younger than your radio sales team and will be worlds apart from your “radio sales team” in terms of lifestyle, knowledge and profile.  They will look at your broadcast sales team as “old.”  In fact, these sales people will also be 100% commission non-employees.

Regular recruitment will be done by your new sales manager through the radio stations and other resources, but recruiting will be big and continuous because many of your young sales reps will fail.  You will pay the non-radio sales team a higher than normal commission because they will be responsible for a specific block and/or targeted profile of business and that is where their income will appear.  So, it is critical that they sell, sell, sell.  They are literally building their own business.

THAT’S STUPID; HOW CAN I HAVE SALES PEOPLE WHO DON’T WORK FOR US?

If you don’t think this is possible, I need to let you in on a little secret:  This is already being done in your market TODAY and hundreds of thousands of dollars are already piling up in someone else’s revenue stream because of just this kind of approach.  This money just isn’t going to radio.

Because the commissions are high and the “young guns” on your new sales team will see the opportunity that your old school sales team simply will think is too small, you can find youth-oriented sales people who will make their way and generate dollars for you.  You just have to have a strategy and work to support them with training, encouragment and motivation.

WHY NOT JUST LET MY RADIO SALES PEOPLE SELL EVERYTHING JUST LIKE ALWAYS?

Radio sales reps are good at selling radio.  It is my belief that your radio reps should sell radio.  That should be their focus.  This way you avoid shifting radio money to the places we will identify below  and avoid losing focus on increasing radio revenue in 2012, 2013, 2014 and beyond.  Besides, it hurts to say this but old people will not be the key to exploding revenue in the areas I will discuss below in this article.

A shift in your thinking and in generation might lead you to entirely new revenue.

WHAT WILL THEY SELL?

Oh, radio companies so latched onto expanding revenue by purchasing more radio stations over the last twenty years.  That’s easy.  More radio stations means more foot print and more revenue, right?  But what now?  How do you expand your foot print and bring on board new revenue streams to support local influence?

While radio is currently working to get smaller, the real advances are happening on the digital side of things.  What if you had a digital expansion that allowed you to truly grow revenue based upon wild success?   That’s where we are going with this.

DON’T MAKE A MISTAKE BEFORE YOU HAVE SUCCESS 

Many different kinds of businesses try to get into other businesses using the same old business model in their current style and profile.  This means they largely move money around to make their bosses happy.  It looks like they are expanding, but they are actually just “experimenting.”  You don’t want to do that.  You want your new sales team to have true opportunity to serve local communities and generate hundreds of thousands or more dollars while growing your foot print in your market.

At the same time, radio often turns on the non-traditional revenue stream of this kind or that and it is temporary.  That’s not what we are seeking here either.  We want to turn on and grow revenue streams so they continue to expand and grow.  To do that, you need products.  You need to build brands that compliment what you are already doing.  To do that, you need to be able to promote products that clients want.  And radio has advantages in launching something new that other businesses don’t have today.

We are immediate promotion machines.

THE FACEBOOK WORLD

Consider first what we might call “The Facebook World.”  It’s not just Facebook.  Look at your TV.  Reality TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and more all offer opportunity for what people truly want:  to be recongized.  People want to be validated.  Many people actually want to be famous.  The most successful products in social media, television and retail now have social media success stories because these desires drive participation and revenue.  You see it all the time.  And radio is perfectly positioned to take advantage of it on the local level.

THINK ABOUT WHO IS NOT BEING SERVED

Think about the kinds of communities in your market that are not being served on a social level.  Real estate, schools (parents), charities, sports, local businesses (mom and pops) and more.  You can actually brainstorm and come up with a large and impressive list.  These are entities that are not spending money on radio, but they have money to spend.  Why?  Because if you build the product right, the money will come.

What if you had focused local dot coms promoted by your radio stations and sold by your special sales team focused on these individual communities.  You create a blog style center to each website.  The inside of the blog is updated regularly by someone already on your staff (say, in your programming department).  What are the regular updates?  Let’s look at real estate as our example of a community-based site:

LET’S START WITH THOSE WHO WANT TO BE FAMOUS IN YOUR MARKET

Who wants to be famous in real estate?  Real estate agents.  Do they want to brag when they sell houses?  Why, yes they do.  They want to look successful.  Real estate lawyers.  Home inspectors.  Mortgage bankers.  Who else?  The list goes on.  What if there was a site in your market (promoted by radio) that allowed people to send email to the site and brag about selling a house, writing a mortgage, opening a new practice that serves certain types of real estate, lawyers that have made special deals with realtors, et all.  Your site publishes their “brags” (often including pictures).  Think about how the content (including pictures) would simply just COME ALONG.  It will actually grow itself.

Your real estate site would take on a life of its’ own. It would be a “free” site, but members should sign up by email.  That means having a community that is literally building a database for you.  Database is money, isn’t it?   And you could send your sales team out to sell advertising on the right and the left of the blog.  Local revenue.  That is just one example.

How many communities are not being served this way in your market?  A BUNCH.  So you start with one “community” site and grow it.  Then, you launch another and grow it.  You link them all together and link them to your radio station websites.  You get clients and bloggers to link to your individual sites as well.  Soon, you have a big brand.  And another.  And another.  And a sales team to sell it all.

USE YOUR STRENGTHS – DO IT NOW

The best part of this is that you already have extensive promotion vehicles (radio, websites, events, Facebook, Twitter) to make these types of businesses explode on the local level.  Once you determine that you can hire a seperate sales team that will not be old (like most of those in sales and management in radio – sorry), you start to see how the revenue opportunity could expand.

Add to this higher commissions and sink or swim 100% commission for this sales team and the fact that they will be able to sell ads on your station sites, non-traditional events in the market and your developing “communities” dot coms, and you can see where the potential leads.

Radio also has savy programming people who can post content and promote your new business communities on Facebook, Twitter, radio dot coms, blogs and more.  So, don’t fire them – use them.  Grow them.  Give them more value.

This opportunity is now.  It won’t stick around forever.  If you are late to this party, the party will be over.

Again – the model of non-employee sales people is already being done in your market as you read this.  Radio is simply not the one getting the revenue.  Doesn’t that seem wrong to you in an era where radio seems to be shrinking itself again and again and worrying about its’ future when it could be expanding and growing new revenue streams?

Yes, I have ideas about how radio could and should expand using the content providers already on staff at your stations and based upon revenue streams you can literally create from the existing super unserved communities in your market right now.  The question is this:  Would you like to have a bigger business in five years or a smaller business?

Loyd Ford

Americalist1@aol.com

You can check out my radio social media group/page on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/socialnetworking4radio.  Simply go to the page and then click “LIKE” to receive steady limited content on social media and radio.  It is always my goal to be helpful to radio because I believe in radio.  And I believe the people of radio are better positioned now than ever if they can stop the focus on shrinking the business and get moving on expansion for the purpose of generating a larger business foot print in their local communities and serving local (not national interests).

I also write a column on social media @ RadioInk.com.  Look for my name on the left-hand side of the homepage @ www.radioink.com.

Please share both of these resources with your radio team, company and friends in the business.

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