Tips for Making Radio Ads Work

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Radio listeners are highly responsive. And radio spots are powerful, cheap and simple to produce. Yet radio remains one of the most underused and poorly handled weapons in the direct marketing arsenal.


It's difficult to sell a product directly from a radio spot. But if you have a product with wide appeal, you can use radio to generate calls for your phone reps, build a direct mail list or send traffic to your Web site or store.


Here are a few pointers for creating simple but effective direct response radio ads:


Use a straight announcer pitch. People are working, driving, cleaning the house and doing all sorts of things in less than ideal listening conditions. So keep it simple. Forget the funny stuff. Just have an announcer talk directly to listeners. This has the added advantage of being more personal and less expensive than spots filled with actors and sound effects.


Identify and solve a problem. If you're selling an herbal product that gives people more energy, first identify the problem (lack of energy) then offer your product as the solution. "Feeling tired? Achy? Don't have the energy for the things you used to enjoy? Try new Vita-Herb. Vita-Herb will boost your energy, erase those aches and pains and let you enjoy life again."


Make a dramatic promise. This strengthens your solution and makes it more appealing. "Vita-Herb will make you feel 10 years younger in just 10 days!" The more dramatic and specific your promise, the better.


Guarantee results. Just as a promise strengthens your solution, a guarantee bolsters your promise. Again, be as specific as you can. "Try Vita-Herb for yourself. If you don't feel 10 years younger in the first 10 days, just send it back and we'll buy you a bottle of your favorite herb supplement. No questions asked."


Offer something free. Since time is short and you can't see what you're getting on the radio, it's hard to make direct sales. It's far more effective to offer information or samples to generate inquiries, then make sales through more traditional means afterward. If you're selling a Posture Perfect Mattress, you could offer a free video. When you send the video, you could include a $100 savings voucher. You can follow up with direct mail, phone calls and additional information and offers.


Drive listeners to your Web site. This is an alternative to generating inquiries by phone. The trick is to capture information when people arrive at your site. If you're selling a self-study course on starting a business, you could offer a free report on the 25 fastest-growing businesses. Then give people a Web address that takes them to a special page where they must enter a name and address to get the report. This way, you'll build a database for more targeted marketing.


Present a clear call to action. Don't be subtle. If you're offering a free brochure on a weight-loss product, the announcer can simply say, "To request your free brochure on losing weight, call 1-800-LESS-FAT." If you don't tell people what to do directly, simply and specifically, they won't do it.


Use a memorable phone number or Web address. A number such as 1-800-ABCDEFG (for a reading program) or Web address such as www.faxbook.com (for a brochure on fax machines) can be remembered easily and acted upon. To fix it in your listener's memory, repeat it at least 3 times.


Force response with a time limit. "Call in the next 30 minutes for your free, one-week sample of new Hair-Gain Hair Restoration Formula." If people know they have to respond immediately, they will. If they think they can wait till later, you probably will never hear from them.


Focus on response. Don't settle for awareness. And don't rely on repetition, no matter what the radio sales rep tells you. You should be getting measurable response every time your ad runs. If you aren't getting response, your ad isn't working. And repeating the ad won't help.


WARNING: The advice most radio reps provide is profoundly bad. I know because my first job was selling airtime at a top-40 station. Our marching orders were to bring in orders, not to help clients make money. We preached frequency, not efficiency.


So here are two more suggestions. First, don't work with radio reps directly. Hire a radio buyer who specializes in direct response. You'll get better advice, better placement, better prices and better results. Second, find out more about radio spots by visiting the article archive at www.DirectCreative.com.


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