When Is Advertising Season?

Mr. McKay:

I read your book with great interest. You indicated that it takes about 13 weeks for radio ads to begin to work. Our business is remodeling, specifically decks, patio rooms, windows and doors. The phone stops ringing from about December through February. Should that influence my radio advertising? If so, how?Thank you for any recommendations.

Jim
Ashland, OH.

Hi, Jim:

Are you looking for transactional business or relational business?

You see, it’s much more work to calculate efficient advertising for a company which is attempting to attract transactional, or price-oriented customers. First, that company needs to determine when the decision to buy is made. Many times it’s not even close to the time of the actual purchase.

Consider a business I just created for the sake of this example: Fred’s Real Estate Service. Fred sells houses. Fred knows that a certain percentage of houses are going to close in July. He also knows that homes in the process of being sold spend roughly four to six weeks in escrow, and therefore the decision to purchase is being made in May. Fred should probably start his advertising in April to affect his July sales. With me so far? Fred will have to calculate the sales curve for every month of the year, and apportion his advertising budget to give him more ads when more transactional customers are very conscious of the price of a new home.

You also know from Fishing For Customers that, as a long-term strategy, I recommend most businesses ignore price-oriented customers, and instead focus on the much more profitable relational buyers. A business which targets relational buyers needs to buy ads year round. Week after week you keep giving people good reasons to call your number whenever they need your services. Do this in your peak seasons… in your off seasons… in all seasons.

Many times business owners will say “I can’t afford that.” Perhaps. Perhaps not. A lot depends on which media outlets are available. You probably will find that you can afford the Ashland or Mansfield stations. According to Radio-Locator.com, WNCO-FM (101.3) and WNCO-AM (1340) are licensed to Ashland. In Mansfield there’s WYHT-FM (105.3), WVNO-FM (106.1), and WMAN-AM (1400).

You’ll notice that I’m not mentioning the Akron or Cleveland stations. They will not be an efficient choice. Why? They’re too far away and too expensive. Radio stations base the cost of their commercials on the size of their audience. Big regional stations are frequently a bad choice for small businesses, because their total audience (reach) is too big which drives the cost too high of advertising often enough (frequency) to impact listeners.

Should you be concerned whether the station plays Country music, or Adult Contemporary, or Hot Adult Contemporary, or Nostalgia, or even plays no music and offers Talk programming? No. All of those stations have listeners who own homes. And these homeowners are interested in making their houses more “homey” through the addition of decks and patios.

How many jobs do you need in a typical month to keep your crews busy? Adjust the numbers to reflect your circumstances, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say 10. If only 2% of a radio station’s audience responded to your ads, an audience of 500 listeners would be sufficient to produce work for your crew for a month. It’s likely that each of the local stations we’re considering will have many times that arbitrary 500 listeners. And that’s good, because you’ll need to make the phone ring next month, and the month after that as well.

So you’re not looking for the biggest station(s), but rather for the most affordable station(s). You may be already doing business with one or more of them. Consider all of the rest as well. Ask what kind of discount they’ll give you for a schedule of 20-25 ads per week, year round. You’ll want those ads to run roughly 6am-7pm, but it doesn’t matter into which days of the week the ads fall. Any reasonable distribution will work.

How many of those stations can you afford to use, year-round? Revisit Chapter 8 of Fishing for Customers for guidance.

When do you start? Now. If you’re on the air by February 1, the listeners of whichever station(s) that you’re using should be quite familiar with your company by the time they’re doing their spring cleaning and are beginning to wonder what a patio would look like in their back yards this summer.

Understand one very important point, though. If you’re attempting to attract relational customers, you can never stop advertising. That means when the phone stops ringing next December, you’ll have to grit your teeth, hunker down, and get through the slow season.

Fortunately, a good relational campaign will keep working better and better the longer you use it. You’re investing today for a reasonable return tomorrow, and a handsome return ten years down the road.

Best Wishes,
Chuck McKay

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