Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Six Digital Marketing Lessons I Learned Selling Country Music Radio

I had only been in the radio business six months when the new owners of WXTU decided to flip the format to country music. The first song they played was Waylon Jennings, “Are You Ready For The Country.”

I don’t remember much else about that day, except I knew I wasn't ready. I wanted to run out of that station on City Line Avenue in Bala Cynwyd and go hide. I couldn’t  imagine that anyone was going to listen to country music in a market like Philadelphia. The station, as far as I could see, was doomed and my new career with it. It was unfathomable to me that I would be able to sell enough commercial time to cover my minuscule weekly draw, much less pay my rent. It all looked very bleak.

I wasn’t the only person who questioned this move. The trades were full of skeptics. There was nothing cool about country music if you lived in the Northeast in 1984. That was music people listened to who drove pick up trucks and who didn’t live in big cities. 

The only person who truly believed it would be a success was the man who made the decision, the owner of the station, George Beasley.

As it turned out, George was right and everyone else was wrong. It also turned out to be one of the best things that could happen for my career. 

I got to learn more in the five years I spent there than I ever would have selling a format that was more stable and mainstream. I learned  - about radio, about advertising, about selling, about growing a business from the ground up - enough to fill a book. And here’s the real bonus that I have only understood in hindsight. I was also learning valuable lessons in digital marketing.

Yes - you read that right. There was no privatized Internet in the eighties. We were still living in an analog world complete with pay phones and assistants who took handwritten messages on paper that read “While You Were Out.” 

Yet I was learning the basic tenets of digital marketing. 

I just didn’t know it yet.  

Let me explain.

1- The Importance of a Tribe.  We didn’t call them tribes in 1984. We called them listeners. If our listeners liked what we served we had a product. And if they were passionate about that product we had a following that would translate into ratings which meant advertising dollars which resulted in a business.  

My skeptical self learned within a few months that country music radio fans are no ordinary fans. They are fiercely loyal and passionate about the music and the artists. They supported our advertisers because the advertisers supported their music. They validated our product. Which brings me to the second lesson I learned. 

2- Niche markets can create successful and viable businesses. WXTU lived on the tail of what Chris Anderson would later coin long tail marketing. Most broadcasters at that time were looking to deliver a format that appealed to the masses, one that would land them as a Top 5 station simply because very few radio media buys ever included more than five stations on it. Being at the top of the list – or the head of the tail - was the fastest way to make the most money.  What I learned from WXTU was that a strong, niche product with a loyal tribe might not make the most money - but it was clearly a viable business - especially when that tribe was engaged.

3- The Importance of an Engaged Customer. There are many in the radio business today who tout terrestrial radio as being the original “social media.” There is validity to that statement. The best on-air radio personalities have always enrolled listeners in personal conversations and promoted engagement in station contests and events. Before the Internet, the telephone and write-ins enabled that interaction.

Country music fans have always been more engaged than the average radio listener. They spent more time with the station. This was not just music they liked to listen to - this was a radio station they loved feeling connected to. 

That kind of engaged tribe is what every digital marketer seeks today.  

4- Data is nothing without the context of story.  Radio stations have always lived and died by data in the form of  ratings (in 1984 it was Arbitron - today that is owned by Nielsen Audio). Ratings are evidence of listenership and how you get to price your commercials. 

Even though WXTU presented a viable, niche format, its reach was not enough to be a top five contender - which meant ratings taken at face value would never get us on an agency buy.

So we learned to look for the story within the data – which in this case was that our listeners stayed with us for longer periods of time and thus were more actively engaged. That active engagement meant they were more likely to be listening when a commercial did air. In other words they were not tuning out - a challenge that is compounded in today’s digital environment with its deluge of choices. 

5- Be Agile. Radio stations are essentially selling air. Which means there is no shelf life for your product. If that morning drive spot is not sold today, you can’t add it on tomorrow and sell it then. So you learn to move fast and be agile. If something in the news happened that warranted a change in the playlist - just like that - within minutes - the music could change. If  someone wanted to get a commercial on that afternoon we could make it happen. Agility wasn’t an option when you’re selling a station that is not a “must” buy, it’s just a way of being.

The ability to be agile, to be able to move quickly at the same time we are thinking things through is necessary in the world of real-time marketing. I’m fortunate to have learned that long before it became trendy. 

6- Dare to be Different. The tendency of most business is to chase the trends. To look for where you can make the most money in the shortest amount of time and to choose the safest route to make that happen. George Beasley thought otherwise. He saw a hole in the market, believed he could make it work, and followed his instincts - despite the naysayers. He wasn’t afraid to fail. And as it turns out he didn’t. The station, while recently traded to CBS, is still alive and kicking in 2014

I learned a lot selling country music radio in the eighties  – and for the record I learned to like country music! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The First Thing You Need To Do To Improve Your Digital Profile

Improving your online digital profile is not as complicated as most people think it is. In fact, it starts with this very simple exercise I offer in my YOUR DIGITAL YOU workshops.

I ask people to Google  their name.

I know it sounds crazy, but I am always astounded by the number of people who tell me they have never done this before.

So go ahead.
Try it now.
Click this link and type in your name.

The second part of the exercise is to answer questions like these:

  • Do you like what you found?
  • Is the information recent or outdated?
  • Are the results telling the story of who you are as a  brand?

We go a bit more in-depth in the workshop, but you get the gist. If it's all matching up to the picture you want to paint then give yourself a big round of applause.

It's possible that it all happened by accident, but the odds are it's because you have been putting attention on your online self.

You get that people such as....

  • Potential clients
  • Prospective employers 
  • The referral you just got through your business partner
  • The cute guy you gave your card to at your college roommates birthday party

......are Googling your name to find out more. 

You're keeping up with life in the age of digital. 

Of course if you are like most people, you have not been giving it any real consideration. In which case I suggest, if you are in NYC on November 13 you sign up for my last in person YOUR DIGITAL YOU -  the blueprint - the workshop designed to improve your digital profile of 2014. 

If you can't make that date - be sure to sign up to follow this blog or my newsletter to stay informed of future workshops in 2015.

Whatever you choose to do - put some attention on this! Your online you deserves consideration as much as your in-person you does.

YOUR DIGITAL YOU can be brought in-house to your business or organization and customized for your industry. For more information on how that works email me today.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Tips To Better Manage Your Social Media Addictions

The other day a friend of mine told me she had something she needed to tell me. I tensed up. She sounded serious enough to have me worried that something was really wrong. 

“I’m addicted to social media. I have not said this out loud before, but its true. Addicted. In a bad way.”

Because I am a good friend, I did what good friends do. 

I listened. 

I didn’t judge. 

Besides, who am I to judge? I question my own addiction to Social Networks most every day. I have to be there. I’m a marketer. I’m an author. I’m a businesswoman.  So part of my time is justified for work. But all of it?  If I tell the truth - the honest truth - the whole truth - and nothing but the truth - the answer is no.

I am as guilty as the next person of scrolling a Facebook feed aimlessly in avoidance of doing work that might matter, of comparing myself to Twitter posts of people I don’t know, of looking to see who viewed my LinkedIN profile and didn’t reach out and then being so exhausted I need a nap after which I wonder why nothing is getting done. 

The question becomes - is that a true addiction?
The answer is - I’m not sure - but it might be.

My friend told me she had spent two hours on social media that morning. That made me feel better. While there is no doubt I spend at least that much time in the course of the day social networking, I generally don’t do it contiguously. Despite the fact that according to eMarketer we are both above the US daily average of 1 hour and 7 minutes I decided if we both had a borderline addiction, maybe mine wasn’t as bad as hers.

In any case, being the self-proclaimed Goddess of time management that I am, I offered my advice. 

Given her business - cold turkey is not an option. 
But putting oneself on a restricted diet is.

Which is how I have managed other similar addictions I have to things like shoes - which I am currently limited to buying only when on sale and no more than two new pairs a season. 

Here’s what I told her:

#1 Limit your social media intake to a half hour, 3x a day.  My days in radio and television have taught me to always live life in dayparts so I suggested morning, midday and afternoon drivetime - the theory being that different people engage at different times in the day. 

#2 Use a timer. No surprises here. Timers are my thing. Especially the old-fashioned kind that make an audible sound. For me it makes the time I’ve allowed seem longer. Plus it offers accountability.

#3 Turn off the alerts. On the phone, the iPad, the Desktop. There is no reason that everytime something happens in your networks you need to know that second. Just because someone liked the picture you posted of yourself in the seventh grade on #ThrowbackThursday - you don’t need to know that very second - much less respond. It’s distracting. It will suck you right back into your addiction and let’s face it - it’s just not that important! 

She liked the idea. 

I felt like a good friend.

Everyone was happy.

Then the oddest thing happened. 
As soon as we were done our conversation I got back on my computer and in less time than it took you to read this far I was on Twitter star gazing until my own addiction hit me squarely between the eyes. 

So I did what I had to. 
I listened to my own advice and have put myself on a restricted diet. If you notice otherwise, it’s a sign I’ve gone off the wagon.