Thursday, May 22, 2008

Are You Ready For Radio?

By Wendy Burt-Thomas

So you’re finally getting your big break to promote your business on the radio. Are you sure you’re prepared? Follow these guidelines to help get your ducks in a row.

One little mention on the radio can do wonders for your business. But it takes a lot of preparation to get mentioned, to sound eloquent, and to be ready for the listener response. Here are some tips to help you through the process.

Getting on the radio

Who to pitch: Call the radio station to find out to whom you should be submitting your segment idea. It’s often the station producer, but you’ll need to ask for the correct spelling of his/her name, their title, and their email and fax number. Start by sending the pitch via email, then follow up a week or so later with a phone call.

(The best time to reach a producer is typically 10 minutes after the show.) If you’re leaving a message, be sure to leave your phone number twice and have a concise (about 30-second) pitch so you don’t ramble. Be sure to leave an upbeat message with lots of energy. Think of your pitch as a “mini-interview,” since it’s the first time the producer will hear your voice and they’ll likely make a quick decision based on their first impression.

What to pitch: Because radio is auditory, not visual, you’ll need to present an idea for a segment that isn’t prop-heavy. That means you’ll want to offer ideas for listener quizzes (with prizes, if you can offer some), funny or insightful information (depending on the radio station and its listening audience), and possibly a value-added bonus that can be listed on the radio station’s Web site. The bonus could be a coupon, list of tips or resources, photos or additional information on the topic you’ll be discussing. “When I do appear as a guest on radio shows, I always include fun listener call-in games,” explains Tanya Mitchell, Director of Training for LearningRx, a national brain-training franchise. “I always have prizes and offer valuable tips, self-evaluations and printable lists for the radio station to upload to its Web site. The radio station appreciates that I drive traffic to their site and we get a link to to drive traffic back to ours. It’s a win-win.”

Depending on your topic, you’ll want to offer interesting facts, statistics or news that is relevant to the station’s listening audience. Don’t assume the producer will automatically see the tie-in; spell it out.

Being on the radio

1. Listen to several segments the week before your appearance to understand the general tone. Is it serious or is there a lot of joking going on? Is there frequent banter or does the host let the guest speak for minutes without interruption? Know your key messages and use phrases that will allow you to easily segue into them.

These phrases include:
• “The most important thing to remember is…”
• “It’s crucial for everyone to understand that…”
• “That raises an important point…”

2. Look for ways to use specific examples rather than generalities when referring to the benefits of your product or service.

3. Practice answering potential questions with a coworker or employee who knows your business so they can point out key messages if you’ve omitted them.

4. Pay close attention to the host’s advice regarding where to place your mouth in relations to the microphone. Avoid wearing loud jewelry (such as multiple bracelets) and turn off your cell phone before the show.

5. If the host plans to come to your business to do the interview, ask him/her in advance about any sounds he/she would like to purposely pick up in the background. (If you work as a teacher, for example, they may want to get the sounds from a playground or music class.)

6. If the interview isn’t live, you can take longer than normal pauses before answering your questions because they can be edited out later.

7. If you’re sharing information about a product or service that sounds too good to be true, be prepared for the interviewer or listeners to be skeptical. “It’s natural for listeners to be skeptical if your product, service or results sound unbelievably fabulous,” explains Dr. Ken Gibson, author of “Unlock the Einstein Inside; Waking up the Smart in Your Child.” “It’s important not to be defensive if the host reflects the listeners’ doubts. It doesn’t mean they don’t believe you. That’s his/her job. I’ve become accustomed to parents thinking our results with kids with learning disabilities sound too good to be true, so I use phrases to turn the skepticism to my advantage. Use concrete statistics or well-known resources whenever possibly to add credibility to what you’re saying.” Gibson’s favorite examples include:

• “I might be skeptical too, if I didn’t see that 98% of the kids completing our program see three to four years of improvement …”
• “I realize it’s hard to believe. But let me share a specific example about a child who came to us that was getting Ds and Fs…”
• “I understand why parents have their doubts. But studies show that with special training, a parent can actually prevent reading problems by 90 percent and…”
• “I’d love to read you a few testimonials…”

8. Let your staff, customers or clients know when you’ll be doing the radio interview – especially if it’s at your place of business. Find out who would be willing to be interviewed as well, and let the host know in advance. (e.g. “I’ll have two sets of parents available to interview that day” or “One of my models will be at the studio that day if you’d like to talk to her about the clothes.”)

Preparing for a (listener) response

1. If you have a Web site, confirm with your Web master that the site is ready to support a lot of visitors. Although it’s not likely with a small local radio station, the last thing you want is for your Web site to crash.

2. Make sure your staff is prepared to answer questions if you become inundated with phone calls or emails.

3. Have a clear way to track coupons as they’re submitted in person or as discount codes via the Web site so you can track your response. Your staff should also understand how to properly process any coupons or discounts that were offered along with your radio segment. (Coupons should require users to fill in an email address in order to help you build your mailing list.)

4. Archive your radio segment to your Web site for online visitors who missed the live segment, as well as for future pitches to radio and TV stations. (You want to have an example to demonstrate that you’re a good radio/TV guest.)

The most important thing to remember is that preparation is everything. It will not only make you a better guest, but it will also help you relax, and a good interview will probably garner you a repeat appearance.

Wendy Burt-Thomas is a full-time freelance writer with more than 1,000 published pieces. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs to promote her two books for McGraw-Hill. Visit

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay Marriage in California - Marketing Perspective

It might just have been the best marketing move since Paul decided that you didn't have to be Jewish to become a Christian.

California's supreme court today made gay marriage in that state legal, not only for residents, like in Massachusetts, but for any Americans that want to go there and get married. Of course, a California marriage will not be recognized by most home states, but still, the appeal will be great for gay couples across the country.

When couples get married they invite everyone they know, gay and straight. The idea of having an excuse to go spend a weekend on the west coast is going to appeal to a lot of invitees. If you're going to travel to another state to attend a wedding, you're likely going to at least make a weekend out of it. You might take in some sights, buy some souvenirs, of course you're going to eat and shop. Many might even decide to stay.

This will likely be a big shot in the arm for California's tourism industry. In fact, when the matter of amending the constitution to overturn the court ruling comes to a vote, it may just be tourist related business that makes the difference in the vote.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Your Competition Could Be Your Best Friend

The book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne describes a business mindset in which you make your competition irrelevant. It's a great book, but I would revise that a bit to say that one can make one's competition an asset. Your competition can actually help you grow and evolve.

The lowest margin business products and practices are those which are readily available elsewhere. If you model your business after a lot of similar businesses, you can expect to work very hard for low margins. How do you differentiate yourself and find your competitive advantages? That's where your competition can help. If someone else is providing a product or service better, faster, cheaper to the point that there's little business coming your way, take the hint. Focus your energy and resources elsewhere. Don't get caught up in the "who can be the cheapest" game. Visit your competition. Talk to your customers and theirs. Find out what customers are looking for that neither of you have. It may be a simple matter of packaging. Maybe people want larger quantities, or smaller. It may be a matter of quality. If you're not competitive at the low end, consider going high end, or vice versa. You may find that customers that use your product or service have other interests in common that you can take advantage of through your product and service mix.

Be agile and be attentive. Don't get married to a specific mix or model, or as radio talk show host Bruce Williams used to say "Don't fall in love with something that can't love you back."

Another key aspect to product and service mix development is to always do the math. Don't just look at percentages of return, look at hourly rate of return. If you're making a 300% markup, but it only amounts to $6/hour, you're not doing yourself any favors. Your time, your energy, your resources are better spent elsewhere. Sometimes raising prices to reduce sales in a particular category is a good alternative to dropping it altogether. If your customers want to pay a slight premium for the convenience of picking up a dozen widgets while they're at your store as opposed to making another trip to another store, that's fine. But if you know you're not going to make your fortune in high volume widget sales, don't focus on it.

Your competition can help you customize your product mix and make you unique. They do so by pointing out the areas you should avoid. Let the other guy work for minimum wage while you come up with new ideas, new products and new twists on old products.

You may be able to take advantage of new technologies to do so. For example Verizon now offers a plug-in device for your laptop that allows you to access the internet from anywhere. How can you use that? Well, if you're a real estate agent, for example , you can make house calls. You can search the MLS with your client at their home or office for their convenience. If you use free online apps, like those offered by Google, you can even schedule showings, appointments, closings and access all the files you need from someone else's kitchen table.

The up and coming Trader Joe's did not achieve success by trying to "Out Walmart" Walmart. They kept the idea of bulk purchasing, efficient distribution and low prices, but went for an entirely different product mix. They offer brands and varieties you can't get at Walmart. They recognized the fact that even Walmart can't offer everything, so why not focus on the things they're not interested in? They take pride in being different and have developed a kind of cult following. They can't open stores fast enough to keep up with demand.

You can also create "one-stop shopping" through your unique network. Always keep information on your trusted business associates handy. The more time and effort you can save your customers, the more you will be appreciated, remembered and recommended. One thing your competition doesn't have is you. You establish these relationships based on your parameters.

It's not necessary to talk down your competition. What you think of them doesn't matter. Let your customers and prospects do the talking. They'll tell you what they like and what they don't. Don't get defensive or offensive for that matter. Get pro-active. Focus on the customer. Solve their problems. No matter what industry you're in, if you're in business, solving problems and fulfilling needs is your job. Butting heads with other problem solvers is a waste of everyone's time.

Distribution of Marketing Materials - Win/Win models

One of the most, if not the most expensive portion of your marketing efforts is distribution. Unlike free-market industries, the government protected monopoly known as the US Postal Service continues to get more and more expensive as it matures with zero increase in value. This has lead marketers and business professionals to seek new and creative ways to get their message out to their prospects.

Don't expect to get anything for free, but compensation doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of cash. Information is another valuable commodity and currency. Easy Street Designs has developed products specifically for mortgage brokers that enable them to offer information in exchange for distribution. The same principal can, of course be applied in other industries.

The "Divorce and Your Home" brochure is designed to be customized for the individual mortgage broker, with their photo, logo, contact info, etc. and offers insights into issues one should consider regarding one's home and mortgage if one is going through a divorce. The broker offers these brochures free to divorce attorneys within their network in exchange for the attorney's offering them to their clients. The attorney gets a free means of communicating valuable information to their clients. The broker gets free distribution. The same principal is at work with the "Understanding the Mortgage Interest Deduction" (for CPA's) and the "Financial Strategies and Your Home" (for financial advisers) brochures.

The key is to think of related businesses within your network and what information might be useful to their clients and customers. How did Easy Street come up with these particular ideas? They didn't. Their customers did. They asked, they received. Your network is not just about sharing leads and getting referrals. Talk to your network partners about marketing strategy and how you can work together, especially on distribution, and never forget that your customers are also a part of your network and an invaluable source of information.