Profitable radio advertising
By James Thompson
By James Thompson
Back pain? No problem! Call Main Street Massage Therapy for all of your massage therapy needs, locally owned since 1989. When Everything’s In Line, You’ll Feel Just Fine!” Recognize the format? Just add a cheesy jingle, and you have 90% of all radio commercials in North America.
You’ll need to do better than that. The average Canadian is exposed to an estimated 4,000+ ads per day, all competing for attention in a media-saturated world, and the majority fall into this category of ‘copycat marketing,’ which leads to countless commercials that sound exactly like the one above.
Radio is worth getting right. Despite the introduction of satellite and cloud-music services, traditional radio is still very effective. According to a 2018 Numeris report, radio continues to reach 85% of Canadians aged 12+, and the average listener tunes in to radio a whopping 16.3 hours per week. Radio is still the best way of reaching people while they’re on the go— do you read the newspaper or browse social media while driving? Definitely not.
Advertising is selling on a large scale
So, radio works – but how do you differentiate yourself from the throngs of copycat local advertisers and actually make your commercials pay off? Many business owners answer that question through entertainment: puns, loud music, ‘funny’ scenes, and canned jingles, but that’s what causes listeners to rush for the dial between song breaks. You’ll avoid many advertising mistakes if you ask yourself this question: “If I was in front of a patient, would I act and talk like my commercial does?”
Imagine you had a potential client in your office, desperate for a solution to their pain. How would you win them over? Would you make jokes and sing songs—or would you immediately offer to educate them on how you can fix their problem? How about your delivery? Would you blast your message in a booming announcer voice… or just speak like a sincere professional who’s willing to help?
The answers to those questions are obvious if your goal is to help the client and win their trust (and their business). This is intuitive for many business owners, but then they completely forget about it when the radio station sends the commercial over for approval.
There is a dangerous myth that radio advertising can’t be tracked, and your ad rep might even encourage you to think of radio as a “branding tool” where return-on-investment is tossed aside. While it’s true that tracking performance is harder with radio than certain other media, there are still plenty of ways to test and measure your campaigns. The advice in the past was to use special phone numbers or text tracking – and that can still work – but there’s a way that fits even better with a complete marketing plan today: make a valuable free offer and count how many people claim it.
Leverage your expertise
Instead of playing a jingle or talking about your location, laser-focus your radio commercial on something actionable, like a valuable free offer. This could be anything, but a short, compelling informational report that offers a strong benefit to the reader is very effective. Write a useful resource that would interest your ideal customer. Give it a strong title, like “7 Steps To Restore The Pain-Free Back Of Your Youth,” and then ask listeners to visit a specific website or URL – separate from your main practice website’s homepage – to claim the free report in exchange for contact information. (Don’t forget Canada’s Anti-Spam Law.) You can then nurture these prospects with follow-up marketing over the long term, and monitor how many free report downloads translate to customers with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology.
You’ve accomplished two things at once with this strategy: one, you’ve provided value to the listener before they ever meet you, and two, you’ve tracked the effectiveness of your radio advertising. This approach will easily beat jingles and clichés, and if it doesn’t, then keep testing new offers, new time slots, new stations, and new commercials.
Three quick tips
- Make it about the listener. Communicate VALUE above all else.
- Production value is overrated. Don’t shoot for “wiz-bang” entertainment. Skip the jingles (or cut them very short), speak in the most normal tone possible, turn down the background music (or remove it completely), and don’t worry about “sounding like a radio ad” – it’s actually better if you don’t.
- Follow this tested advertising format: Problem: Identify your listener’s pain point. Agitate: Make the problem hurt more – talk about why it’s worth solving, and soon. Solve: Offer a convenient way to ease the pain. Talk about where they can get it (your special website).
James Thompson is a former radio salesperson and author of Profitable Radio Advertising and ProfitableRadioAdvertising.com. Visit his website for free chapters from the book, local advertising articles, and more.