Is radio still a viable marketing tool?
By Kim Patterson
There was certainly a time when radio was the king of advertising; if you needed to get your business name out there, you turned to radio. Pretty much everyone had the radio on in the car, the house, at work and even out in the backyard.
These days, there are countless ways for businesses to advertise, but with so many options in the running, it can be hard to choose where to invest those marketing dollars. Some companies have moved away from radio advertising, favoring more digital marketing alternatives. But is radio still a smart investment?
Tom Junck, owner of Combined Pool & Spa in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, says the medium is still relevant, but you have to be strategic. “We use it to drive traffic Friday, Saturday and Sunday for our larger advertised events,” Junck says, whose business does four to six large events a year. “That is the only time we use radio,” he adds. “It does not work for us to use it by itself.”
Junck says radio is only about 25 percent of his spending for advertising specific events. “We do it in a short period of time, usually three to four days in a row at the most, so you can blast the airwaves and get the frequency. That tends to work the best.”
Using radio advertising at key points in the year works for Junck but some dealers choose to put funds into radio advertising when they feel the listening audience is higher. Kara Weed of Ultra Modern Pool & Patio in Wichita, Kansas, has often used this approach. “We mainly do it from May to August when people are outside and listening to the radio versus watching TV,” Weed says.
Weed says doing the ads herself goes a long way toward converting radio advertising into store traffic. “I record the radio ads, so it’s me as the voice and I introduce myself every time,” Weed explains. “So we’ve made it a little more personal by putting a name with the business person who’s here.”
While radio may still have some nostalgia and charm when held up to modern marketing, there are drawbacks to advertising this way. Weed says it’s hard to know if it’s working. “I’ve got a couple examples where someone came in and said, ‘Where’s Kara? I want to buy a hot tub, and I heard her on the radio.’ We’ve had some comments like that, but I don’t really have a good way at this point of tracking it,” she says.
Junck worked out a basic formula to track radio marketing effectiveness. “For simple math, if we do a $10,000 marketing budget for an event over a four-day period, $2,500 of that would be radio. We would expect to do $100,000 in sales in that four days for a 10 percent acquisition cost, but we know over the entire month, our marketing budget is typically about two to three percent for the month of total revenue,” Junck says. “So the 10 percent is high, but we feel that customers come in for days and weeks afterwards saying they heard we had a sale going on.”
According to The Nielsen Company, a globally recognized data analytics firm, statistics show that radio still has viability as an advertising medium. Nielsen reports that 93 percent more Americans tune into AM/FM radio each week than watch television or use smartphones, tablets or computers. Americans use radio five days per week, compared with three days for streaming on smartphones and tablets, and two days for streaming on a computer. At the same time, Nielsen reports, streaming audio offers consumers even more ways to listen across many of those same devices.
“People watch more and more Netflix or record their TV shows,” Weed says. “They watch with fast forwarding. But we’re on the radio. They can’t fast forward. So you can actually get more of a message.”