Industry Views

Pending Business: The 40% Factor

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imThere is something about 40.

40% of Q1 2023 podcast advertisers did not return for Q1 2024, according to Magellan AI.

40% of small businesses failed within the first three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

40% of all workers were prepared to quit their jobs two years ago, according to a McKinsey Study. 43% of email professional recipients open email on a mobile device, according to Statista.

44% of sellers quit the pursuit after the second call according to Scripted. Really? Almost half of the sellers reading this column give up after the second call? That statistic must be wrong.

Consider your typical sales day – prioritized, focused, clear goals established, with all seasonal and timely deadlines plugged in and ready for execution. Successful sellers put as much time and focus into planning and organization as they do into the sales process. So, why quit the process after the second attempt? There are only three reasons any experienced sellers would give up after the second attempt.

1. Poor targeting.

2. Unrealistic expectations.

3. A negative business condition requires a new approach.

Reason #3 is the answer to why I listed the 40% factor. Professional sellers and managers sometimes lose touch with the realities of local business conditions. Attrition has always been the enemy of local sales, yet managers and sellers rarely plan for it. Budgeting and analysis are easy paper exercises. Old fashioned ear-to-the-ground market “research” is equally important. Those who learn to balance the formal and the informal find themselves winning the battle of the 40% factor.

As we approach the second half of the year, with elections, seasonal sports, and major holidays ahead of us, time to sharpen our pencils and tweak the projections for the remainder of the year. And always remember your pencil should have an eraser.

Happy Selling!

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Talk Radio Questionnaire

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imTime to thank the lawyers in the Donald Trump trial for once again proving beyond any doubt the power of talk radio.

1. Sellers – Get ready for Mother’s Day and Christmas rolled into one.

2. Managers – Prepare a fresh new page in your talk radio media kit.

3. On-air talk radio talent – Don’t throw away that lottery ticket, your number could come in.

4. Media consultants – Hit the brakes on making TV as an automatic first choice for your political campaigns, we’ve got a story for you.

5. Owners – Play your cards right and that talk radio format may have jumped in value.

It has been widely reported that jurors selected for the Donald Trump-Stormy Daniels trial were presented a questionnaire with the following question, “Do you listen to talk radio?” “If so, which programs?” Now wait just a minute all you jury profilers out there or fans of the TV show “Bull.” This is big, but I have a few questions of my own:

1. Why would any lawyer be interested in the radio listening habits of a (potential) juror?

2. Why specify “talk radio?”

3. What’s with the need to know about specific programs?

4. What’s the definition of “listen?” Daily? How long?

Maybe it’s time to recognize just what all this means to great talk radio talent and marketers.

I’m sure by now you have figured out where this goes – influence – as in talk radio hosts, the original influencers.

The very nature of a jury selection questionnaire screening for talk radio listening and specific programs is fascinating. Did an attorney conclude that talk radio shows influenced a potential juror’s feelings, opinions, perceptions (the very currency of talk radio) when it comes to Donald Trump or Stormy Daniels or any other key player on the legal stage?

As every seller knows, talk radio talents were the original influencers and continue to drive sales every day. To the local sellers and managers in the New York DMA pitching Sid Rosenberg, Joe Piscopo, Mark Simone and the other great local talents, imagine experienced legal teams evaluating the influence of their daily shows on potential jurors. Same for the nationally syndicated talent heard in the New York DMA. Talk radio lives and is influencing in the Big Apple!

“Do you listen to talk radio?” “If so, which programs?” that line of questioning should now become part of your daily marketing testimonial. After all, if teams of well-respected lawyers feel talk radio listening can influence the decisions of jurors in one of the most historic cases ever to be tried in our country, imagine what talk radio can do for your advertisers!

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Dizzying Media Headlines

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imThe media headlines are dizzying these days, yet they all share one common thread. See if you can solve this puzzle.

1. The “Golden Batchelor” is getting divorced, three months after tying the knot.

2. Netflix is changing their film strategy, that according to The New York Times, may mean fewer big advances to stars.

3. NCAA Women’s basketball final delivered more TV viewers than UConn’s back-to-back championship finale vs. Purdue.

4. Retail media networks are real and could replace terrestrial radio as the true purchase influencer.

These headlines reflect what great radio programmers learned a long time ago, and what smart sellers practice every day. The concept is elegantly simple: give the people what they want, and the rest will take care of itself.

The “Golden Batchelor” was targeted at the 55+ audience. The biggest demographic watching traditional TV. The finale drew over 6 million viewers and gave millions of seniors hope for romance at any age. Give the people what they want, and the audience and advertisers followed. The breakup, well maybe that leans more Dr. Phil, and he is starting his own network!

Netflix has a new film boss, Dan Lin, and according to a recent article in The New York Times, he wants the Netflix film lineup to have a wider appeal to more of us 260 million Netflix subscribers. Sound familiar? Give a bigger share of the audience more of what they want.

Pioneering radio programmers learned that strategy before Netflix was a business model.

Start with Top 40 music radio, go to the all-news model and park your pick on your favorite pioneering talk radio talent. Listeners got what they wanted, as audience and advertisers followed.

Nearly 19 million watched as Caitlin Clark tried one last time to drive her team to victory. Her final push wasn’t enough to defeat a determined South Carolina team. It didn’t matter to the millions who tuned in and the advertisers who were smart enough to jump on board. Give the fans a superstar from Iowa named Caitlin and an audience of millions will follow.

Don’t look now, but that old-school pitch of radio being the final purchase influencer as the radio plays in the car on the way to the store, is fading fast. I can’t tell you how many times I made that classic pitch, until I heard “Attention ______ shoppers” as I pushed my cart down the aisle.

Retail media networks are now online as well as “on-the-air” in store, and we are spending more and more time shopping online.

What does it all mean to you, the seller? Simple! Just find what your advertisers want and sell it!

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Baked-In?

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imIs that host read you are pitching “baked-in?”

No, I am not talking baked in the content, as in before the break with all the produced commercials. I am talking about “baked-in” the audio that will live on as long as that show is available.

Still confused? You should ask someone who has handled an actual audio podcast avail. Some advertisers and their ad agencies are shaping the future and “baked-in” is a fundamental element of the new-think that is pushing the needle on podcast CPM, while your team struggles to compete for low CPM based on old school models that are dropping like flies.

The good news is that host read is still the gold standard that moves the listener to action. The bad news is radio station sellers are hanging onto older strategies that have little room in a future filled with millions of audio podcasts that contain no music and feature comedy, news, talk, opinion, lifestyle, sports, politics, entertainment, financial, medical, legal, self-help, religion, even foreign language – as in nothing but the human voice and a little production.

Sound familiar? I call it the great sales equalizer: the host read.

So how can this magical host read have such a dramatic impact in this super-crowded environment, yet be so underappreciated on radio stations coast to coast? Let us look at the three legs of the sales stool that have never changed.

1. The seller. Most radio sellers are presenting the host read the same way they did since their first order. What is new, different, and exciting in the way you present your talent today?

2. The audience. Size matters, intimacy matters, performance matters. Can you demonstrate how your host-audience relationship fulfills those criteria and generates a response for your advertisers?

3. The inventory. Why do we still have the same number of host reads in every hour of a show? Anyone have the courage to vary the inventory or pricing throughout a show?

The podcast world is leading the way to a future filled with:

1. Baked-In host reads.
2. Pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll price differences.
3. Commercial inventory limits.
4. Impression delivery options that demonstrate clear accountability.

There is a bright future in audio sales that will look and feel different from what we take for granted today. Make sure you are on the right side of the wave and not stuck in the mud.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Demo Talk

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imAttention news/talk radio sellers! Get ready to meet your new best friend… and it is not who you think it is.

Take a guess. Could it be a mega budget opening up from an advertiser targeting 55+?

No. How about your closest competitor admitting defeat and conceding it no longer makes sense to compete?

Close, but this could be better. This is the part where your new best friend becomes such a giant ally, making your demographic pitch so valid, you are left stone-cold speechless. This is where “The Golden Bachelor” answers the double “Jeopardy” question and you could become the next Ken Jennings of news/talk radio ad sales. Give up? Here is the story line.

The New York Times article “TV Networks’ Last Best Hope: Boomers” saluted, validated, recognized, and just about honored the news/talk radio 55+ audience value proposition. We could be talking about a new day for news/talk radio sellers.

When the highly resourced sales teams from linear network TV begin telling the same demographic value story that news/talk radio sellers have been telling forever, well then, it is time to start popping the champagne in your local sales department.

It seems that linear network TV programmers are finally conceding the 60+ audience is the remaining core audience for your favorite network television programs. According to the article, franchise programs like “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The Voice” have median viewers over 64. Wait, what? Dr. Meredith Grey and the crew at Seattle Mercy are now appealing to seniors? It may have taken 400+ episodes, but the last man standing is indeed grey! The sellers at NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX could start singing from the same demographic page as news/talk sellers and the harmonics are sounding wonderful.

Please don’t be silly enough to think this will ever get truly competitive. No friends, this is where everyone wins if the selling stays at the value level. Media habits are changing at mach 4 speed, and nobody knows the change part of the business better than the terrestrial radio business. From fragmentation to consolidation, we’ve seen it all. Is the best yet to come?

Smart radio sales teams will embrace this opportunity. Do you still pitch the “older demo” value proposition with the anecdotal Grace Slick is 83, Mick Jagger is 80, and Elton John is 76? Time to start talking about the scene where 70-year-old Jerry Seinfeld says to 74-year-old Kramer, “I’m movin’ to Florida! You comin’ with me or not?”

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: The Agony of Complacency

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWhat happens when the world-wide leader is for sale? When they stopped spanning the globe 25 years ago, I thought the budget cut would help the leader. I could still hear the great Jim McKay describing the agony as Vinko Bogataj rolled down that ski slope in utter defeat. There were so many different images of the thrill of victory, but for most of the 37 seasons of “Wide World of Sports,” the agony of defeat was forever connected to that helpless Yugoslavian skier.

Maybe the real story of Disney/ABC/ESPN’s “Wide World of Sports” is lost in the silo of being first in on the marketing ladder and not recognizing opportunity.

The world-wide leader was the first to televise Wimbledon, the Indy 500, and who could forget the Pro Bowlers Tour? Not recognizing the need to expand into targeted sports coverage, pre-empt competitive efforts, and experiment with new media may be a flaw in an otherwise crown jewel. Did Mickey Mouse see the “Rugrats” coming? You mean history repeats itself when the successful get complacent and positive paranoia is the domain of the dot-com entrepreneurs?

Ok, it’s getting a little heavy here. This column is about sales and marketing, not business theory or case studies. Or is it?

The lessons here are classic and are a direct connect to your commission check.

ESPN is searching for answers, and when billions in ad sales, cable fees, streaming subscriptions and theme park attendance isn’t enough to goose the growth curve, well, Houston, we’ve got a problem. But let’s learn how to work with what surrounds us.

— What are the biggest challenges to your business base?

— Can you identify the challenges in your control, and which are not?

— How would you rank your competitors?

— As your local ad market shifts into more digital advertising, who are the winners?

— Can you name the five biggest digital-social media ad spenders in your market?

— Do you keep updated on new ad marketing opportunities presented to your clients?

Forgive the blurry lines that connected the dots in the Disney-ABC-ESPN story. The business lesson, however, is clear. Sellers can only control what they are asked to sell. But when complacency sets in at any level, take a time out and rethink your playbook.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Pulling the Rug Out from Under

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWhen was the last time you went shopping for a quality living room rug? Not an oriental, because that is just too easy. We’re talking high quality living room rug that will blend in and stand the test of time… and the dog. Next to fighting with a credit card company, it’s the worst shopping experience ever.

Try this at home when you have nothing better to do. Chances are you want to find the rug of your dreams, so you check out the major department stores. Up the escalator, walk through home furnishings and an employee may or may not be available. Most likely not, so you head to an adjacent department, and someone sends someone who barely knows the product and selection.

This scenario is repeated at most major department stores today, so off we go to our favorite furniture store where rugs are an accessory, like belts in the men’s store. No go here. Time to head over to the carpet, tile, and rug store.

Employees here are a bit more available and knowledgeable, but the quality and selection are just not quite right. Time for the expensive specialty store where expertise and service are #1 and so is price. $10,000 for that!

Time for the online experience to take over with countless purchase options, reviews, and confusing virtual reality options. This is getting painful. The attempted purchase is frozen in frustration. What does this have to do with what we do? Live and learn.

— Are you always available for your advertisers? When business is soft you lob in a mandatory attempt and move on. When business is through the roof, are you quick to return a call or open a new door?

— Do you simply walk through the same motions, or reflect the energy and enthusiasm of an exciting program lineup? Think of the rug seller, flipping through those rugs. Boring!

— Do you earn the price or just blame the boss? Since day one, some sellers find it easier to blame the boss instead of earning the value proposition.

— Are your advertisers frozen in frustration? Feel free to use the phrase that pays. Defrost that frozen decision maker before your competitor does.

A great program director once told me, the best on-air talents observe life with a pad and pen. Their notes come to life when the mic goes on. The same is true for great sellers and managers. Every purchase experience can improve your next call.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Recruitment 3.0

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imIt’s that time of year. College graduates are pushing out resumes. Are you open for entry level sellers? Any turnover on your sales team this year?

In April, we reviewed new data impacting today’s college graduate entry-level sellers. 97% are open to jobs unrelated to their new degrees. 56% of Americans, as in their parents, do not believe a college degree is worth it anymore.

There’s more. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, a survey by college healthcare provider Timelycare, shows 53% of (2023) graduates want a full work-from-the-office environment, while only 21% are good with total remote. Are we saying entry-level sellers WANT to work from the office? These young people want the commute, politics, and distractions of the office workplace environment. Are you kidding me? The good old days?

The survey results do make some sense when you stop to realize most of the new grads spent a good part of their COVID-impacted college lives logging into classes, missing several semesters of lecture hall instruction and dorm life.

Now comes the closer: these isolation years caused these new grads a lack of “soft skills” or what we used to call social skills. Recruiters, colleges and universities are now coaching these new grads in everything from “How to Start a Conversation,” to proper in-office dress, to eating at the same pace as your business lunchmate.

Not kidding here, all you 50- and 60-something sellers and managers. This round of recruiting entry-level sellers is totally about “How To…” and you may want to consider video and an eBook once hired.

Let’s face it, with AI coming fast, the future is here and like everything else in sales, there is no clear “How To…” handbook. But recruit we must as nothing happens without a seller. Loyalty is quickly fading as new, younger sellers want a different experience.

Let’s prepare a starter list for recruiting entry-level sellers in today’s world. Here are 10 suggested questions and concepts to cover the basics:

— Why do you want to join our sales team?

— What do you think is the most important quality a seller must have?

— How would you define a sale?

— When was the last time you experienced rejection? What did you do?

— Give me an example of a recent success in a competitive situation.

— If you could do anything professionally, what would it be?

— I am going to hand you my pen. Sell it to me.

— What is the difference between a Winner and a Champion?

— What do you think the most important thing an advertiser wants to hear from a seller?

— Tell me what specifically brings you to sell for _______?

I’m sure you have your own recruitment strategy/profile. Is it current? For the seller, that younger team member may be different from what you expect. The best seller I coached was an Art History major.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: Obstacles to Sales Productivity

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

imWhat will hurt your chances of sales success more, graduating from a low-ranked college or attending too many inefficient sales meetings?

Not exactly a trick question, but enough to make you stop and think.

Remember when having a top-tier college degree was all that mattered? A recent article in the L.A.Times recalled the classic 1999 study that proved where you received your college degree really didn’t affect your career, except for maybe the networking part, maybe not. The bottom line is you don’t need a degree from Harvard to earn a respectable income as a top seller or manager in the media industry.

On the other hand, attend or lead too many inefficient sales meetings and the result may be a career killer.

The recently released 2023 Microsoft Work Trend Report is a wakeup call for every seller and manager in any business, especially ours. The top five “Obstacles to Productivity” in the report read like a what-not-to-do if you are a leader or hope to lead a sales team in the future. There are even a few warning signs if you are a team member struggling to cope with rudderless sales meetings. Let’s review some takeaways from the report and learn how to right the ship before you take on too much water.

— Goals. Every meeting should have clear, simple, actionable goals presented in an easy-to-understand form. The seller should know exactly what action points to implement to improve performance. Can you check the box?

— Perspired or inspired? Every week I talk to a seller working for one of the larger broadcast groups who feels the ready, fire, aim of product overload. Many radio station sellers can sell anything in any market that belongs to the company represented. Would a sales rep at Home Depot in Florida sell you a snow shovel with the same expertise as a rep in Buffalo? How come the biggest companies in the radio business barely surviving on the NYSE don’t learn from the companies that sell at almost $300 a share.

— Soft sales = more meetings. Seriously? In the age of Zoom, Teams, etc. the 2023 Microsoft Work Trend Report still identified “Too many meetings” as one of the top 5 obstacles to productivity. Can we all just hit the pause button on old-school command and control meeting overload? There is a difference between re-skilling and repeating old material. There is a difference between re-strategizing and re-selling a rejected concept.

The AM radio business is in the emergency room in desperate need of a fresh approach to sales. FM radio could be next. Are you looking forward to your next sales meeting?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com. Steve Lapa will be moderating the “Generating Revenue” panel at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University.

Industry Views

Pending Business: You

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

I’m one of the lucky ones. In my marketing work I get to speak with radio/audio sellers and managers around the country at companies privately and publicly owned, as well as that increasingly rare breed – the radio station owner/operator. They all share one common fault. Yes, I said fault. Can you guess what it is? Probably not, because you too may share the same fault.

I’m one of the lucky ones as I was warned about this early in my career. Before we look in the mirror, let’s recall what Harry Beckwith said in his 2011 book, You, Inc. His premise was, “The first thing you sell is yourself.” Having trained hundreds of high achievers, my experience is that premise is one of the most subjective statements you will ever hear. How do you sell yourself with grace and humility? How does your ability to sell yourself stand head and shoulders above the next seller on the Zoom call or in the advertiser’s office without over-the-top braggadocio? While on calls with one high achiever, there was always a pause point where that seller took a side bar that started with, “Believe me, I’ve been working for ____ for __years…..” Sound familiar?

After a few calls on the same advertiser, the tenure pitch gets stale. The focus on “me” gets confused with building credibility through proven performance. Sorry, but You, Inc needs an update.

You see the missing link – the fault most sellers and managers share – is the lack of investment in “You.” In plain English, most sellers and managers fail to invest in themselves. We fail to recognize it takes a financial and time investment to keep our skills sharp, our minds focused on performance, and our teams coordinated with a win-win attitude.

There is a reason why high-level tennis professionals work and compete under the watchful eyes of well-compensated coaches and trainers. Pick a competitive career, from sports to entertainment, and somewhere in the mix you will find a coach, mentor, or trainer paid to help improve performance. But rarely will you find a seller or manager in the highly competitive radio/audio sales space investing in improving performance. Sorry to all you managers reading this, but who is coaching you?

Books, seminars, videos, online programs were and are still part of “stay sharp, stay current” training. Sales and managing sales departments is a moving target with change built into every day. Recruitment, strategy and digital dynamics move ahead with or without you. It is never too late to understand the investment necessary in “You” to keep sales and sales management skills improving every day.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com. Steve Lapa will be moderating the “Generating Revenue” panel at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University.

Industry Views

Pending Business: How Would Elon Musk Price Radio?

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

Theory vs. practice is always a fun exercise. What happens when someone is bold enough to step out and break the mold to achieve their goals? Do you stop and learn, or do you simply stay in your comfort zone and take a pass?

The headline was “Tesla Drops Prices Again” and they beat their quarterly sales goal. Do you drop your prices to make your sales goals? We are not talking about summer specials, weekend paid programming, or sports packages. Tesla made flat-out price reductions to roll the dice on volume, confident in the product and the marketplace to drive volume for the second time this year.

Ever visited a Tesla store? You will be shown a price card. Every time I asked a question, they tapped a keyboard. No real selling, just facts. Let us do a deeper Tesla-style analysis.

 

Why drop prices when you have nearly two-thirds of the EV market? Is it because your competition is gaining on you? Because you will miss your quarterly projections and you don’t like losing? Because an incentive to buy is about to expire (government credit)? Because you are a world class disruptor? Because you know by lowering prices you will own the news cycle? Because there is still room for old school price wars to stimulate demand and distract the competition?

Survey says, all of the above. How about the opposite? What if Tesla’s strategy was like what most of the radio managers and sellers reading this article would do? The “urgency” trigger. “Buy today, because prices will go up on ______.” The radio/audio “urgency” pitch strategy is so predictable – seasonal, political window, a change in management policy, sell-out level. Heck, Teslas are on back order and they still dropped prices. WWED? What would Elon do? Probably fire us via Twitter. Back to earth and our highly competitive radio/audio world. Here are the takeaways.

— Know your competition. My current experience in one of America’s largest radio markets is price strategy IS driving volume and helping a great radio station make goals. The higher-rated competitor is standing still as the business shifts.

— You don’t have to be loud to be a disruptor. Sitting Bull won by knowing how to sell his idea. He organized, collaborated and was patient. He won by quietly disrupting then got loud when the timing was perfect.

— Do your homework. “Urgency” as a price lever has been around since the Mad Men ran Madison Avenue. Have you ever reviewed how your urgency plan can be maximized? Or is the strategy played out?

— Who Cares? If you lower rates today until New Year’s Eve, will the rate reduction create enough local market buzz to drive the volume to beat your goals? You can always raise rates once your foundation is comfortably in place. Oops! Did I just demonstrate real world grid card selling?

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com. Steve Lappa will be moderating the “Generating Revenue” panel at TALKERS 2023 on Friday, June 2 at Hofstra University.

Industry Views

Pending Business: What’s a Sale?

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

Photography - BroadcastingLet’s take a lesson from arguably the greatest college basketball coach of all time: John Wooden.

The coach wanted every UCLA player on the same page, so he took time in meetings to explain the proper way to put on those old school basketball socks. You know, the ones that came up to mid-calf, usually double stripped at the top. There was a clear method to Wooden’s genius. Taking meeting time to show budding superstars like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton something so fundamental achieved several goals.

 — Fundamentals count. There is nothing more basic than how to properly put on your socks and mastering the basics wins.

— Short cut the basics and you will suffer. Having worn those socks through thousands of school yard games myself, rush the process and painful blisters follow.

— Every player starts every practice, every game the same way.

Every year I would conduct one sales meeting asking my team to answer the question, “Can you define a sale?” I know, that’s way too basic for sellers earning six figures. It’s an embarrassing waste of time for the tenured sellers who had proven themselves in the field every day. Was I wasting the time of those newer team members who were looking forward to the highest commission rate in the market?

Try it. Chances are you will get so many different answers your sales team will seem like a Cirque du Soleil act.

There IS a simple, legal definition of a sale. It all starts with an “exchange.” Once you dissect the definition and focus on the dynamics of the “exchange” you will understand how and why a sale is a process that needs constant care.

Most sellers and managers move right past that critical dynamic. You know the one that requires confidence from both the buyer and the seller. That one dynamic, the exchange between confident buyer and seller goes back to 1626 when it was rumored Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island for 60 guilders or $24.

There is something to be said for getting all sellers on the same page by starting with the basics.

John Wooden’s record 11 national championships still stands. I figured if it worked for the greatest college basketball coach of all time, it could work for me. Emphasizing the basics should work for you too!

Enjoy the Madness this March.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com

Industry News Uncategorized

TheVerge: Why iHeartMedia’s Conal Byrne is Bullish on Podcasting

Conal Byrne, the CEO of iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group, spoke with Nilay Patel about the podcasting industry at TheVerge’s recent Hot Pod Summit. In the wide-ranging interview, Byrne says iHeartMedia’s structure with its radio group part of the Multiplatform Division and podcasting part of the Digital Audio Group does not limit how the two interact. “To be clear though, there’s a whole lot of fluidity between these segments.Conal Byrne - iHeartMedia One thousand or so of the sellers that I mentioned sit in the multi-platform group, and they certainly sell all the assets we have. We have this mantra at the company that ‘Any seller can sell anything any day of the week wherever they live and work,’ and that has rung pretty true. That’s driven most of our growth in podcasting over the last two, three, four years at the company.” He also credits iHeartMedia’s history as a radio company with educating him about how radio personalities have developed the art of conversation. “But I have learned firsthand and talked a lot about the extent to which broadcast radio talent has honed this craft of conversation over the last hundred years and certainly the last few decades, and the extent to which that has driven our medium, just sheer talent hitting the medium, but also with an awareness of the medium.” Read the full story here.

Industry Views

Maximizing Impact for Sponsors

By Michael Berry
Host, The Michael Berry Show
KTRH, Houston – iHeartRadio
Independent Syndication

Beard - ForeheadGrowing up in a small town, “word of mouth” was the most powerful form of advertising. It could make – or break – a business.  Malcolm Gladwell’s important Tipping Point book explained that movements, pandemics, and other things that “catch on” do so because of the influence of “connectors” – people who are asked for their opinion. Today, the media world likes to call them “influencers.”

For 17 years, I’ve entertained listeners on the radio and on podcast. Our show has built what many in the industry tell me is an impressive business model. Like Gladwell, I created our own vocabulary and I am strident in enforcing the use of it. Because words matter. I explain to companies that they are our “sponsors,” not “advertisers.” I explain that they put their name behind our show, just as I do for them. In a commercial break stop-set that will be several “commercials” for “advertisers,” but only a couple of my “endorsements.” I don’t speak for a company unless I believe in what they do and how they do it. Likewise, I encourage listeners to send me feedback on their experience with my show’s sponsors. I forward those to the sponsors, either with a request that they address the shortcoming in the service or an attaboy for a job well done.

Listeners tune in to radio, particularly talk radio, to hear the opinions of the host. The host’s opinion matters. If he shares his opinion on movies he likes, foods he enjoys, political candidates he supports, that opinion can affect what the audience does. It is also true that – if his recommendation is trusted by the listener – it can affect the choices the audience makes when they buy something or hire someone to perform a service. But it has to be an “endorsement.”

The radio industry, for many, many years, failed to recognize the value and power of an endorsement. Sellers would sell advertising to clients and get the on-air talent to read the copy points the client (or agency) wrote. Often listlessly, just reading. That is not an endorsement. It is not a host suggesting to his audience where he would personally buy a new door for his home, or take his wife for dinner. If, however, the “read” (a term that reflects that the host is simply reading words someone else wrote) were instead an endorsement, he wouldn’t need all those details. Instead, with just the name of the company, and the owner, and the phone number, as well as what category they are in, he would be able to speak for 30 seconds about why that business is special, why he would (and hopefully has already) use them.

An endorsement is a stamp of approval. It says you believe in someone or something. If an endorsement is really an endorsement, it doesn’t need new copy points to be “freshened up.” It doesn’t include discount offers, seasonal sales, “get in quick before they run out” scares, or other silly tricks Americans long ago learned to ignore. Using that language kills credibility. If I ask you where I should buy my car, and you have a dealer you believe in, you’ll refer me to them, and, if you really like them, call them yourself and ask them to take care of me. “Hook me up” as the kids say. I’m not going anywhere else after an endorsement like that.

Radio (and podcast) has a big future, because of the connection audiences have with hosts. Why abuse that connection? Why cheapen it? Sales reps should understand that and make it part of their pitch. My best sales reps literally dial up companies in industries I identify and start with the question, “Do you listen to The Michael Berry Show?” If the answer is no, I don’t want them as sponsors. I want folks who understand why I’m controversial, why my audience listeners, what my values are.

Radio and podcast’s future is dependent on a sound business model that understands what makes us special, unique, and better than other forms of media.

Here is my list of suggestions to sellers and hosts, in hopes of facilitating better results for show sponsors:

— Sellers should never pitch a client without asking the talent first.

— Talent should not endorse a company without researching and approving them.

— Talent should tell sellers what sorts of things they WANT to endorse. Guns, cigars, home improvement, cars, medical. The best endorsement is something the talent will use himself. An avid gun owner is going to present a very compelling (and effective/profitable) endorsement for a gun range he visits once a week. Look at how weight loss sponsors have profited when the host follows their program and endorses it on air.

— If a sponsor isn’t committed to a yearlong relationship, don’t do it.  It ruins credibility to change the endorsement inside the same category. Again, credibility is everything.

— Talent should develop personal relationships with sponsors. They can help listeners this way and the sponsors become show content.

— The value of talent to the station is far more than just ratings. Half my audience is 55+, so the 18-34 or 25-54 rating is less useful to me.  But when show sponsors stay on air for 10 or more years, it is a ringing endorsement that what we do works. They vote with their dollars. The whole point of ratings was to show agencies how many people listened, in hopes that that vast listening audience would respond to the commercials they hear, thus monetizing the show, right? Why not go straight to the “dollars in (from the sponsor), dollars out (listeners spending money with sponsors)” model?  Show sponsors who get tangible results from their partnership with talent don’t cancel their buy.

— Openly discuss how much money a talent brings into the station. The programming side of radio loves to talk about things that don’t generate dollars, while the sales side is often disconnected from the actual product they are selling.  Fix that.

Michael Berry is a longtime, high-ranking member of the TALKERS Heavy Hundred. He’s heard daily on KTRH, Houston and across the country on his own independent network.  Michael Berry can be emailed at michael@michaelberryshow.com.

Industry Views

Pending Business: How Are We Doing?

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

Talkers Magazine - Talk radioHow might we better serve you in the future? How would you rate our service?

These are two common questions you will see on many restaurant info cards as you pay for your meal. After all, the restaurant business is fundamentally based on great food and great service at a reasonable price. Think about this: If either of those two basic components, food (product) and service are missing, you are outta there!

Our radio/audio sales business is based on the same thing: great product and great service at a reasonable price. Yet, why is it you will never find yourself or a manager asking those questions as a part of your regular follow-up or follow-through routine? Oh sure, there is the ever-present pre-sell, “How can we help?” as your advertiser mutters, “lower rates,” under their breath. But seriously, no one above or below your pay grade can process or properly evaluate the answers to the two service questions posed, let alone act intelligently on the response. Could it be we still think our sales and management roles are rooted in show business and if we put on a great show delivering great ratings the advertisers will follow?

Some advertisers will show up, others need to be sold. With Zoom, Teams, programmatic, AI and other initiatives gaining more and more traction, the service improvements in salesmanship is becoming a lost art.

Time to hit the pause button, step back and learn from our friends in one of the oldest business categories on planet earth: hospitality. Let’s learn.

— Ask for feedback as you “serve.” Since my first meeting, my mantra for sellers and sales management was and still is, “How are we doing?” Go back to your winning and losing sales calls. Even managers should review meetings that did or did not move sales and ask, “How can I better serve______?”

— One step at a time. If you could improve just one thing to better serve an advertiser, what would it be? What could it be? Do you even know?

— Do you care? Ouch! Now that is a hard core, in-your-face question. Comfort zones are just so easy to occupy, we rarely push forward.

My real-world experience happened years ago when I asked our advertisers what we could do better to serve them. Many host-read advertisers wanted times sent to them in advance so they could hear the talent in real time. Every one of those advertisers became longterm fans. Do you send your advertisers host-read times in advance? Sometimes, it’s the little improvements that win big dollars when it counts.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com

Industry Views

Pending Business: Your Trial Balloon

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

Talk radio - Talkers MagazineIf you float a trial balloon, expect it to be shot down.

And to make the story driving the news headlines a better metaphor for our sales world, it should be noted that gathering information is always part of our mission. Sellers and managers should be floating trial sales balloons all the time.

Consider how many times we talk to our best advertisers to float an idea, a package, picking up a known talent or play-by-play rights to a popular team. But here is where the news story and our sales world take different forks in the road. Although the woods are full of downed sales balloons, it’s a good thing. Because in our sales world downed trial balloons mean we’re trying new things, communicating with our advertisers and not rocking along in the comfort zone. It also means some of these trial balloons make it to reality and become innovative ideas and viable sales opportunities.

I have certainly floated my share. There is a strategy behind floating a trial sales balloon to help you get the result you need. How do you improve the odds of a trial balloon becoming a sales reality? Here are some field tested tips:

— Determine your goals before you start. It’s so important to know what you’re looking for. Pricing input? Viability? Excitement? Sometimes sellers are so excited they misread the advertiser’s enthusiasm level. The reverse is also true. Sellers can be lukewarm as they focus on the transaction ahead instead of the first stage advertiser input.

— Ask permission. This is very important yet most sellers and managers never think about the advertiser reaction. What if they just don’t want to be surveyed? Always ask first.

— Confirm the confidence. Be sure everyone in your loop understands the trust you show in seeking their input.

— Keep your “ask” simple. You are asking for input. The simpler the ask, the cleaner the input.

— No commitments. Be clear the conversation you are having is early-stage preliminary to test the waters only. You are not even close to asking for a commitment, just sharing ideas and looking for input.

— Who wants to know? Be ready with the right answer.

Sellers and managers have been in the trial balloon business since the first ad was sold. Be sure to review your pre-flight check list before launching that next trial balloon.

Steve Lapa is the president of Lapcom Communications Corp. based in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Lapcom is a media sales, marketing, and development consultancy. Contact Steve Lapa via email at: Steve@Lapcomventures.com

Sales

Pending Business: The ‘Who Cares?’ Test

By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
President

 

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Time to sharpen up, drill down and pass the “Who Cares?” test. This is where we take a hard look at how you present your on-air talent for host reads.

If you are like most sellers or managers, you look for a comfortable rhythm in your proposals that works for your style and now fits the cut and paste culture. There is nothing wrong with time-saving technique — except when the shortcuts take you to an outdated comfort zone. In radio sales we all get hypnotized by what worked for years. After all, we are creatures of habit and why mess with past success? It’s a challenging but important part of radio sales strategy.

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