Much like a sales campaign for a radio client, stations must begin with the right way to customize their approach. Digital marketing services offer stations a chance to attract new business and grow existing accounts, but—just like a radio ad campaign—there is no one-size-fits-all model for establishing a digital solutions business. The sooner you realize that the quicker your path to a new profit line.
While some broadcasters, led by Entercom, Townsquare and Hubbard, have opted to build separate units for digital services, other companies offer clients’ an extensive menu within existing sales structures, calling in outside experts when necessary. Despite varied approaches, radio managers say clients are asking for help, and they want to be their go-to source for any and all digital needs.
“It allows us to offer a more comprehensive spectrum of solutions to our clients, which greatly increases our value to them,” says Jim Bryant, president of Hubbard’s 2060 Radio and a veteran radio seller. By selling digital services, which can range from ad placement to web design, he adds, “It broadens the base of a radio station’s prospective client list; we are no longer restricted by demographics or geography. We can now speak to all businesses, everywhere, and present viable solutions.”
To succeed with digital marketing solutions, seasoned marketing pros say radio stations need to recruit talented and experienced digital staffers, and make sure radio sellers are up to speed on online offerings. “It isn’t for the faint of heart,” says Bob Leighton, president of Leighton Broadcasting, which owns stations in Minnesota and North Dakota, along with a separate digital solutions company, Leighton Interactive. “It is a whole different business and you have to learn that business.”
At Hubbard’s 2060 Digital, for example, the company uses “digital brand strategists” to direct digital work and coordinate with the radio side. Someone from the “DBS” team goes along on sales calls with the radio reps, first outlining the digital options and then talking strategy. The 2060 unit also handles most of its work in-house, which helps keep costs down and controls quality, Bryant says. “This reduces our cost-of-goods, allows for hands-on management of campaigns, and clients enjoy working directly with the person who’s implementing their campaign,” he says.
At Cumulus, the company takes a slightly different approach. Local sellers are trained to pitch clients on all available services, “so they understand both the capabilities and, if radio is the base buy, why these services are logical extensions,” says Bob Walker, Cumulus Media’s senior VP of operations and co-head of programming. In some markets, Cumulus has digital content producers in place that can handle client work, while other functions are outsourced to third-party specialists. “Our clients know that radio works and, as they consider other ways to extend their mix, if they can do it with someone they trust and we have capabilities to do that, there is a certain peace of mind to that,” Walker says.
Among the many available services, radio executives say current popular options include social media management and video production. For instance, a number of Hubbard’s 2060 Digital clients want YouTube video ads. Such video ads can complement a radio ad campaign, notes Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell. “Video is hot and important. Advertisers love 1-3 minute infomercials. Radio stations can produce them and promote them on-air and put them up on YouTube.” And, citing the company’s recent local ad report, Borrell adds that local broadcasters who offer digital marketing cited social media management as a top request from clients.
Other in-demand services are advanced digital advertising capabilities, radio execs say. With ad technology creating opportunities to target digital ads based on location, behavioral and demographic targeting, as well as retargeting ads on third-party sites, radio stations can help clients fine-tune their digital advertising efforts. Radio teams can also help clients execute search advertising, as well as social ads, including Facebook.
Other frequent requests are comparatively lower-tech, such as help building a client database, email marketing campaigns and web redesign. Such small jobs can lead to bigger accounts. Cumulus’ Walker recalls that one local client in a mid-size market who wasn’t advertising on-air or online came to the station for help with a new website. After a web designer worked with the client to do a real-time redesign, Walker says the business signed on as an advertiser.
However, much like they vie for clients’ dollars for on-air and digital advertising, radio stations face competition for digital marketing services from other local media companies, including newspapers, as well as digital agencies. Some advertisers are also opting to handle their own digital work.
The best way to win digital solutions business is to demonstrate a radio station’s own successes and leverage ties, says Vince Benedetto, CEO of radio owner Bold Gold Media. “The most important thing a local media company has is its relationships with the community,” he says. With that knowledge, regardless of competition, a station could move to the front of the line with a solution to sell.
To really grow business, radio stations should both mine those existing contacts and look around their community for new opportunities, execs say. For instance, a small business that can’t afford a radio campaign could benefit from digital marketing support; it’s comparatively less expensive and offers targeting capabilities. When Leighton Broadcasting first started offering digital services through its Leighton Interactive unit, Bob Leighton said 90% of clients were radio advertisers. Now, he says, that figure is closer to 30%, with the majority of businesses exclusively contracting for digital services. “It could be a company with or without the radio station,” Leighton says.
Selling digital has the potential to lift radio sales as well. If a station can help clients find success with their internet goals, they may upgrade to radio campaigns. The sales process can work in the other direction as well, with a radio station stepping up to provide digital support for established on-air clients.
The way to really grow is to execute on both targets, says Entercom’s Michael Doyle, regional president of Sales. That’s how Doyle says his company’s SmartReach Digital unit is building business. “Our growth has come from new clients who start with a digital conversation, and add radio, and from getting our existing clients to see Entercom as a full service media company and incorporate a digital play into their radio buy.”