Thursday, February 8, 2007

RAB07, Day 1
The first day of RAB turned out to be a good one with, not surprisingly, a lot of useful information about what is going on in the business and how to improve the bottom line. The most amazing thing about a lot of this information is that it can be used in almost any sized company and not just in radio.
After registering and checking out the exhibition hall, I grabbed all the latest editions of the trade mags: Advertising Age, MediaWeek, SmartMedia, and Radio Ink, which featured Jeff Haley, the new chairman of RAB, on the cover. I didn't read any of the articles - I will do that Saturday night on down time - but I did take a quick spin through them.
I then rifled through the bag I received to check out all the pamphlets and other materials which were included. Most of the material was stuff I've seen before: Lots of promotional handouts about traffic and billing systems, a whole lotta folks trying to sell radio stations things that they may or may not need, and Holland Cooke's great newsletter, which I should probably subscribe to at some point.
However, there was something different in there this time, a promotional catalog from a company called The Monster Mural. This company produces blank murals for special events which a radio station hangs on a wall and then has kids paint inside the lines. They have birthday themes, patriotic themes, zoo animals, and all kinds of other things. Wow, what a neat idea, I thought. Then I saw the price tag: $500 to $1,200 per kit. For bigger radio stations, this isn't a big deal. But for small ones, it could be. A neat idea though.

I attended three of the seminars. The first talk I went to - "Winning Habits: Getting Back to the Basics of Radio Sales" - was presented by Jerry Frentress of Frentress Sales Training of Louisiana. I liked Frentress' style - humorous and pointed without being overwhelming or obnoxious. Right out of the box, he asked for empathy: He was recovering from a recent stroke and apologized ahead of time if he mangled his words at all. He did trip over a few, but other than that, we would have never known the guy had had a stroke. What a trooper.
Frentress also was nice enough to have his entire PowerPoint presentation printed out for everyone, with blank spaces near keywords so we could guess the answers. Typical sample: "_______ at the phone!" The answer was "smile," with Frentress noting that a receptionist should always smile because you never know who could be coming in the door. While on the phone, sales reps. should pretend clients are in front of them. One rep. he knew kept a mirror on her desk to look at herself to see if she was smiling. That kinda stuff.
"Winning isn't everything. Wanting to win is," he stated, quoting Vince Lombardi. Frentess also stressed improved training, extensive prospecting, and the proper use of body language and communication during the sales process. He said you needed passion and enthusiasm in order to succeed. Do you look like what a business wants to invest in? Are you professional?, he asked.

Rhody Bosley of Bosley & Associates in Maryland presented "Improve Your Closing Ratio" with a bit of wit, a bit of it dry, and a thorough overview of the sales process. Bosley got his start in radio with the late Curt Gowdy at WCCM 880 in Lawrence, Mass. of all places, and then later settled in Baltimore for a good stretch of time. An order a day keeps the boss away, he noted, and then presented some basics about marketing, prospecting, and sales. He then proceeded to The Six Cs of Marketing: Customer, Characteristics of the product, Core Constituencies, Competition, Channel, and Communication, and then explained why each one was important to the sales process.
Bosley noted that if sales reps. ask the right questions, they will come to the right answers to close the sale. He also stated that radio stations are consistently behind the curve when it comes to marketing to retailers. Bosley said that if you walked into any store right now you would find spring items on the shelves waiting to be sold, not winter items. Well, possibly some closeout items. But retailers are looking to sell spring stuff now, not winter stuff.
Upon exiting the meeting, I began chatting with a guy involved with Hispanic radio marketing in Dallas. He said he found Bosley's talk "a waste of time." "I didn't learn anything," he stated. While I thought the talk was a bit dry, I think there was a lot of good information there.

Holland Cooke was next, presenting "Revenue, Right Under Your Nose." I really dig this guy. Since I've seen him on C-Span and at other conventions, I know of his work. He is really funny and pulled out a whole bunch things out of the hat, noting that almost all of them had been done before. Cooke also admitted that the ideas weren't all his own but stations were all using the ideas.
He pitched creative ideas to get dentists on the air, how to and not to promo professional sports teams and how to use gender numbers to promote different aspects of your station. Cooke called repeating Rush and Sean on weekends an insult to listeners with listeners often stating that it seems like programmers are assuming that no one is listening on the weekends. He suggested some of the syndicated home improvement shows or paid programming or brokered time strategies with lawyers and others to boost revenue and localize content.
Cooke had some colorful slides including a bus billboard for a furniture store called Sofa King. The tagline? "Our prices are Sofa King low!" Say that three times fast and you will get why it was so hilarious.
Cooke also went on a little rant about HD Radio, calling it the AM Stereo of our time, or rather, a bomb. There are a 1,000 HD Radio channels but are there 1,000 receivers yet? Noting that the transmitters were extremely expensive, he wondered why anyone would want to buy HD radios to hear multiple channels broadcasting the same old formats. This is something I agree with completely. Cooke pointed to one example of a station which allowed teenagers to come in and broadcast whatever they wanted on the HD channel, no parents allowed. They interacted with a Web site and poof, Very cool stuff. Find him on the Web here: ["Holland Cooke"].

Later, I had a couple of beers and some munchies and got to chat with Cooke for a bit, who was ingratiating and friendly [not surprisingly], along with a Wall Street Journal radio rep. and a guy from ABC Networks, before heading back to the motel.

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