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Direct response radio: 15 mega-profit tips for success
If you thought that direct response radio was fading out, remember the phrase coined by Mark Twain: “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Truth is, direct response radio is still a powerful and viable advertising medium and can be an integral part of an overall direct marketing strategy for many products and services.
The 2 secret truths of direct response radio for 2008
First of all, you should know direct response radio is growing, not shrinking. Last year, in both traditional and satellite radio, direct response radio spending jumped an incredible 53.5% with the top-ten campaigns spending an extra 25.7% more than the previous year.
Second, the growing number of satellite radio subscribers holds great promise to make it an even more powerful marketing avenue.This year SIRIUS/XM subscriptions rose 50% over last year and more auto manufacturers are factory installing satellite radio.
Direct response radio has powerful new advantages
One reason direct response radio continues to be successful is the cell phone. Before, a prospect had to scramble to write your number down. Now, listeners in the car can call your business immediately.
Radio has also become much more segmented Audience targeting is also easier since radio categories have become increasingly selective.
Rock music, for example, is now broken up into several formats like oldies, classic rock, alternative rock, pop/rock, and so on. Satellite radio breaks up those categories even further.
Radio marketing is also cost-effective. One company advertised their new catalog in both print and radio ads. The radio ad generated over 6 times the response of the print ad at a fraction of the cost-per-inquiry ($164.34 for the print ad; $16.19 for the radio commercial).
If you’re thinking about radio advertising, here are 15 tips I use to ensure profits and success:
1. Music or talk radio?Take into account not only the demographics (and psychographics) of the station, but consider whether or not the station is talk-radio based (“foreground” programming) or music based (“background” programming).
In general, foreground programming (talk shows, Christian stations, sports and news stations) tends to produce the best response and ROI.
2. Consider your product or service.Products with the highest response rates tend to be health/beauty/drug products, investment products, business supplies and tech products such as computers and cell phones.
If you’re not in these categories, however, don’t be discouraged. Call me and I can give you an assessment of possible risks and rewards for different product categories.
3. Ask if the station has an ad line.An ad line is a service provided by the radio station that enables callers to phone in and request contact or ordering information on a product or service in which they’re interested.
A great example is KBRT 740AM in Southern California. Not only can listeners call in to find out more about an advertiser, KBRT now lists their advertisers on the station webpage. The ad page even includes links to advertiser websites.
4. Avoid “two-step” commercials.Two step commercials are when your ad directs listeners to look for an ad in a newspaper or magazine. Instead, send them to a specially created direct response landing page and a Toll-Free number. You may also want to tease an incentive for visiting the site such as a bonus coupon, or limited-time offer.
5. Consider your placement.Many music stations only break once an hour for 15 minutes of ads, rather than spreading out ad time. Try to place your ad first in the series. They pull the best response. Ads toward the end of the break are 4 times less likely to be heard.
6. Consider opening your ad with music.If you’re advertising on a music station, one trick to keep people from flipping stations is to open your ad with music, then quickly fade into your ad copy. Studies show drivers distracted by the road will be less likely to notice the transition between music and ad and won’t flip the channel immediately.
7. Choose formats with growth, when applicable.Country music, Hispanic programming, religious programming and business/investment news are the four radio markets with the biggest growth. If your product or service fits one of these markets, consider using one of those stations.
8. Think about a “live” ad.If your station or network of choice has a popular radio personality, inquire about he or she making a live sales pitch for your product. You could increase response significantly over a produced ad. If the station or network doesn’t have a strong on-air personality, use a well-produced commercial, but in general I always opt for a live read.
Another option is to get a station’s popular personality to record the ad in the studio, then use it like a live ad.
9. Avoid using celebrity talent.With the exception of on-air talent, I recommend avoiding the use of celebrities. They are generally expensive and the slight rise in response may not justify the large added fee and negotiation costs.
10. Make sure your contact information is prominent.Dedicate at least 25% of your ad run time on the closing statement and contact information. If your prospects don’t know how to reach you, your ad will be a failure.
11. Use memorable Toll-Free numbers.As I mentioned in a recent issue of Direct Response, studies show there is a dramatic increase in response from Toll-Free numbers that spell out words, such as 1-800-DENTIST.
12. Consider a mobile phone text message.Another option is to use text messaging on cell phones. Instruct your listeners to send a text to a five-digit word (or its numerical equivalent). An automatic text system will then text back your contact info. You may even want to tease that a “savings code” will be in the message.
13. Produce your ads outside the station.You may be asked if you want the radio station to produce your ads. This is generally a mistake. They may promise high production values (and may offer to produce it for cheap or even free if the media buy is big enough), but a radio station will most likely create an “image” ad that does not follow proper direct response techniques, leading to a harmful decrease in your response—and most likely a failed ad.
Tip: The most successful direct response ads are 60-second and 120-second ads and 30-minute infomercials. In general, 15-second and 30-second spots will bring you less response.
14. Make sure to use a direct response advertising agency.Not only will a good direct response agency help you properly create your ad, it will help you research which stations are right for your product or service and help you negotiate the best ad rates.
You’ll also get the benefits that come from time-tested direct marketing methods like effective motivational copy, proper placement of the offer and response information, key strategy differences between sales commercials and lead-generation commercials and so on.
15. And as always, make sure to test!Be sure to create at least two ads and test response rates, just like you would a direct mail piece or Internet landing page. Testing will always help ensure you’re getting the best possible response for your marketing dollar.
A final note: marketers should be aware that radio can present a special problem—lack of time availability on the best stations. With the new resurgent popularity of radio, experts are predicting less time and higher rates for marketers. Be sure and do your ad rate comparisons or, even better, hire a direct marketing agency to negotiate better rates for you.
If you’re looking to expand your campaign into direct response radio, give me a call at 310-212-5727. My agency has created dozens of successful radio spots and can help profitably integrate a radio plan into your comprehensive direct marketing campaign.
Craig Huey is recognized as one of the worlds leading experts in direct response
marketing. He is the winner of 78 major marketing awards for breakthrough campaigns that led to multimillion-dollar sales.
21171 S. Western, Suite 260, Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: 310-212-5727 • Fax: 310-212-5773