Why your direct response radio campaign might have failed

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A memorable client of mine once lamented, "The great thing about this business is that there's so many ways to screw it up." And while it is noteworthy that she made that comment based on her experience before testing radio, it was a statement that very much applies to radio. There are a few essential elements to remember in order to help maximize results for your radio campaign:

1) Dumb down your creative - Spell out specifically the problem that your product/service addresses, and describe why your offer is the definitive "magic answer." Nothing more. Establish an emotional tie to the listener (testimonials are a huge help), but keep your language simple when you do so. Listeners just want their problems solved. They do not always need of the details as to why. And above all, make sure your call to action includes an incentive to have a credit card ready and your phone number or Web site at least three times within the final 15 seconds of the ad.

2) A call center that is not trained for radio leads is a waste of money - Radio offers the most qualified potential lead of any medium. After all, they did respond sight-unseen to an offer where they had no visual impression of a phone number or Web site. Why waste this? Make sure your call center representatives are familiar with the product line. Anecdotes from the reps about their personal experiences with the product can increase closing ratios significantly. Have many answers about the product already prepared in the call center script. Your script should touch on the emotional and practical need for the product. It was an emotional connection that prompted the call in the first place. Do not treat this as an "order-taking" script; it is a more detailed, hands-on close. And have your upsells ready for a quick segue - radio listeners really are more apt to be upsold at least 1/3 of the time if the offer is good. Without correct preparation, revenue will be unnecessarily lost.

3) Put your media buy into proper perspective - In a dream world, everybody gets it right the first time. Since even the most sensibly planned campaigns can fail, please remember a few basic rules of DR media buying -

a. Frequency is more important than reach. If you can't afford to dominate a station, at least dominate a daypart.

b. Testing two weeks can tell you if a creative has life; four weeks can give you a better perspective of potential ROI.

c. Buying a flight with mostly rotators may seem like a low-cost risk. Usually though, all it means is that many of your spots will run with erratic frequency and fall into evenings and overnights.

d. Remnant can be a great way to test inexpensively, but remember that it was still unsold inventory that may not offer the necessary frequency or consistency to make your offer work.

e. Testing on smaller stations, unless you are paying only a few dollars per spot, rarely gives you solid results. Direct response, like any other form of sales, is a numbers game. You will only get those numbers by testing networks and/or Top 30 market stations. If you are going to test only fringe times, make sure you only do so in Top 10 markets or on networks - it is the only way you'll get a large enough audience sample who may actually care about your offer.

Radio can fail if not tested practically. The many companies who are making it work are doing so because each element of a campaign is viewed as a test. Every time some new piece of information is learned, good or bad, direct response radio campaigns are improved.

Joe Rashbaum is president of Radio Solution Company, a radio direct response agency and consulting firm. Reach him at trscompany@aol.com.

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