A catchy headline, to be sure, but that's what the "Cash for Clunkers" government program could mean for radio. But not if radio reps are going through the "business as usual boogie." It's why radio stations that play the same drops and positioners, month after month, sound dated and out of it, when they should be keeping it current by integrating big local and national events (Sarah Palin, Michael Jackson, etc.). The same thing could be said of the sales department. How can sales management think differently in order to generate much-needed new revenue?
In one of Tom Taylor's Radio-Info emails earlier this week, he quotes Gap Broadcasting's Erik Hellum about the "Cash for Clunkers" program. Hellum posits that "CFC" could be a shot in the arm for radio, based on his notion that perhaps most consumers don't know much about the program and how it works.
And that leads me to a few important observations....
First, Paul Jacobs sent out a great piece on "CFC" and related opportunities a couple weeks back to Jacobs clients, based on the same notion that there's cash to be had. Paul consistently looks for new ways for radio to take advantage of its inherent strengths - in this case, local automotive biz. Radio sales managers - and whatever DOS's are supposed to do - ought to be constantly strategizing to find new revenue sources, especially in an environment where the government is heavily involved in just about everything that falls under the heading of manufacturing, finance, and consumer spending. It's critical to be able to understand how changing policy and turbulent times can translate into financial opportunity, as opposed to planning the first quarter sales trip, the client golf outing, or the one-day sale.
Second, there's a way for Hellum and everyone else to not have to wonder whether consumers know much about "Cash for Clunkers" - but to go with confidence to local auto dealers. In less than a week, just about every manager reading this blog could field a Listener Advisory Group or two. Bring in your listeners to the station's conference room for some Dominos pizza and soda, and do a little dive into their worlds. How's it going in this crap economy, are they in the car buying mood, any change in that American car vibe, and what do they know - if anything - about the "Cash for Clunkers" program?
Videotape these sessions, get Jason the Intern to edit a neat little two minute video, and you've got something to show the local car dealers that - believe me - they have no way of knowing themselves.
And more sophisticated stations can go one step further by pulling together a quickie web poll among database members, asking all of the above questions, while also identifying listeners who may be in the market for a new car or truck. If you don't think having a list of prospective buyers means much to your local car dealers, you're missing a major way to make your station - and radio, in general - more valuable and proactive than the local newspaper (assuming you still have one), the Yellow Pages (how are they still in business?), and the sales folks at the Fox TV affiliate.
Do you think the auto dealers are getting a whole lot of help, guidance, research, and insights these days from their corporate nameplates? Think again. Your station can provide the research, and with it, the strategy. And for hardly any expenditure.
Finally, if you're wondering when that digital department down the hall is going to start producing revenue, here's a great way for them to contribute. Build a microsite for your "CFC" initiative, complete with FAQs about the program, and resources that auto dealers can consult in order to learn the best ways to reach customers - sales packages, appearances, dedicated videos, personality participation, and all the other tools that can help your station or cluster stand out and take a leadership role. This is how you monetize your digital efforts.
Radio has to do more than talk about its reach, its bargain basement rates, and its legacy status. In fact, all of those things are conspiring against the medium in 2009. Simple, effective, creative solutions that generate results are the only language that retailers - especially car dealers - understand.
We know how to do this, but it's not going to just happen without proactivity, effort, and imagination. Creative, current solutions and clever tactics are the only way to move the sales needle in order to salvage some degree of respectability in the last half of the year.
It's time to think differently.