Don’t Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Recently, an experienced Radio manager was describing the relationships between the stations within his cluster by using terms like “the big dog” and “a little pea shooter”. At first, it didn’t seem like a big concern because we all tend to use words to describe the stations that make up our local cluster. But as he continued his description of his cluster, it soon became apparent that terms like “the big station” and “the small station” could mean many things to different people. It also became apparent that this line of thinking could actually be harmful to your ability to effectively sell all of the stations within your cluster.

Lets begin with the fundamental problem of describing your stations with words like “big dog” and “pea shooter”. What criteria are these terms based upon? Is it the output power of the Radio station transmitter? Is it the tower height of the antenna? Is it the audience size or the revenue share of the Radio station? These types of terms don’t have a universal point of reference so they could mean different things to different people. That can lead to confusion. Confusion hurts the sales process. Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of the landmark book on Marketing, “Positioning, the Battle for the Mind” say, “A confused mind can’t make a decision”.

Some of you would be quick to respond saying that you would never use these types of descriptive terms in a sales presentation. We only use these terms “in-house”. Well, even though I’ve heard many sales people use terms like this on sales calls, let me show you why even using them “in-house” as you say is a problem too.

When we use terms like “the big dog” and “the little pea shooter” to describe our stations, those words reveal how we feel about each of the stations within the cluster. Terms like these betray our true perceptions of the Radio station’s relative position within our cluster. Consequently these true feelings about our Radio stations have an impact on the perceived value for our sales people and the advertisers. In their book Positioning, Jack Trout and Al Ries describe how consumers who have a negative perception about a businesses, will put that business name into their mental penalty box. Once in the mental penalty box, it is very difficult to get out.

Who wants to be on “the small station”? Who is going to go out and present “the little pea shooter”? Who wants to sell the station that is in the mental penalty box?

Sales people and managers alike will say that any station regardless of size can get results for the advertiser with the right message and enough frequency. This is an effective argument for the advertiser on a tight budget to use “the little pea shooter” station. They could buy lots of commercials every week, every month all year long. So why do “the little stations” go so unsold?

It’s a perception problem and that perception problem begins with us, the managers and sales people.

Resolve to quit thinking about your radio stations in terms of “the big station” and “the little station”. Resolve to regard each radio station as an individual business unit with its own goals, features and benefits. Resolve to learn how to present each station within your cluster with the same conviction and enthusiasm.

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