10 Most Common Mistakes That Lead to Direct Response Radio Failures

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It's easy to make a mistake when launching a direct response radio campaign. Here are the 10 most common ones leading to failure.

1. You should never overspend -- but you'll also hurt yourself more by being flat-out cheap. Radio is a new medium to most DR marketers, and sometimes the cost of spot prices will surprise you. Spend wisely, but know that radio may require you to spend more than you would in a TV test to get an accurate read -- and a strong game plan for rolling out.

2. We know that you're a TV expert -- that doesn't mean everything you know about TV applies to radio. Radio is consumed differently than TV. Radio stations are everyone's longtime invited friends, and have a higher trust factor than most other media. Your objective is to penetrate that trust factor, by studying audiences and determining which listeners are the best for you.

3. Simple math: More production value + more creativity = few orders. Strange as it may seem, keep the cute bits and humor out of your copy. Single-person reads, testimonial beds, a compelling offer and/or company spokespeople are the only elements that will generate calls on radio.

4. Two-week tests may tell you something about radio -- but it won't give you the full potential. You are introducing a brand-new concept to listeners. A two-week test may start to generate some calls, but a three- to four-week test gives a much better picture of your potential ROI. And no campaign will work without heavy frequency to kick off your test.

5. It is easier to sell 10,000 units on radio at $100 than it is to sell 100,000 units at $10. Buy radio for the long-term customer value. Radio's top benefit is the loyalty of the customers it will generate for you. Every successful DR radio campaign has been built around the high lifetime value of the new customers it generates. Don't buy radio expecting to generate 1 million new customers over a short time -- buy it expecting to gain thousands of high-spending new customers.

6. Testing one station does not prove that radio as a medium won't work for you. It only proves you tested the wrong station, time or creative. If you don't want to spend your entire test budget at once, that's perfectly reasonable. But plan for gradual testing of all possible variables to find the way to succeed.

7. FREQUENCY. FREQUENCY. FREQUENCY. Radio is a frequency-driven ad medium. Buying a scattered, Run-Of-Schedule test is usually ineffective. It is far better to heavily saturate one or two dayparts during the daytime and know that your target is being bombarded with your message.

8. Even experts don't always get it right the first time -- plan ahead for success by modifying failed tests. If your first test failed, then examine the factors! Offer, talent, phone numbers and many other things can be changed for success.

9. Don't balk at ad rates when they are higher than you expected -- understand the true value of the audience you are buying. Radio spot rates can be very overpriced, but you need to learn when higher prices also can yield the right listeners. Buying Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh or a No. 1-rated local personality can make an enormous difference in sales for the right products.

10. Don't be afraid to ask questions -- but be prepared to really listen to the answers that are given to you. Before embarking on a buy, do homework on your competitors. If they have used radio, then you can ask local station reps about them. Log onto a station or program's Web site to learn about how they relate to their audience, both editorially and promotionally. Ask about prior test and rollout budgets so you can properly prepare yourself. Ask station traffic managers when your competitor's spots will air, and then tape-record them for study. And ask as many experts as you can find, until you feel that you have gained the proper expertise and can be confident in radio.


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