From the Corner Office – June 2012

June 5, 2012

Peter SmythWith the publication of the latest jobs number, the economic talking heads are once again telling us to tighten our seat belts. It’s going to get bumpy for a while. The economy just cannot find a way to create enough jobs to lift our spirits and lower the unemployment rate.

Yes, we still look to be in fairly good shape when you compare us to Europe, but we still have work to do. So, what’s a business to do? More to the point, what’s a local radio station to do?

First, we need to adjust our business plan and our internal thinking. I have seen this in the television up fronts, where General Motors is refusing to accept price increases from the networks and in fact wants price concessions. It looks like GM is sending a clear signal that the world is changing.

In our own radio markets, how clearly are we listening to our clients? How aggressive are we about delivering real value to them at a fair price? Or are we falling into the trap of wondering when automotive budgets are going to return to previous levels?

In this world, past is no longer prologue to the future. Our focus, for managers, account executives, and even air personalities, should be on how we can help our advertisers solve their business challenges. Not how they can help us make the month.

I’ve said many times that only by becoming the preferred solution providers to our advertisers can we be assured of our continued success. Notice I did not say the preferred supplier of radio time.Even our best advertisers use radio because it helps them solve their problems. We have to effectively show the results that we can provide, not just our Arbitron rank. These days, we need to be able to help our clients and guide them through the myriad of new digital tools available. We need to gain their trust by understanding not only our assets but their consumers’ behavior.

The pressure will be on to create revenue, but in our efforts to attain short term goals, we should never be deaf to the longer term aspects of our client relationships. We need to change with them; if they need help with qualified leads, our integrated programs using both digital and on air can provide them exactly that. And we need to be concerned enough to follow up. We need to sit down after the fact and dig in to find out what worked, what could be improved, and what the sales results were for them.

It takes a salesperson who judges him- or herself by the success and growth of the client’s business. For too long we have conditioned our sellers to be focused on transactional aspects of selling, like efficiencies, reach and rate. We have not placed the same emphasis on good, productive business relationships with decision makers that are based on mutual trust and productive results.

Yes, it takes a lot of time, energy, study and enthusiasm to fill the role of a real business creator in this day and age, whether it’s radio or any other type of business. Our country and our industry had great success in the past when we had the wind at our backs. Now, with the winds blowing the other direction, we will see what practices and values truly win. And we will find out how good we can really become.