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2021 will be an inflection year for many radio broadcast companies.

Radio advertising buyers are expected to spend more and will continue to shift the lion’s share of their marketing budgets to digital. Advertisers are also demanding a greater level of service, reporting and proof of return on investment. Digital is a great amplifier of radio and vice versa, and when effectively combined within an integrated solution, can produce 1+1 equals 3 results.

These trends are leading radio sales leaders to ask the following questions:

  1. What do my advertisers value?
  2. Do we buy or build digital capabilities?
  3. How do we differentiate amongst a growing sea of integrated solution providers?

Alexander Group’s Media practice recently facilitated a virtual Media Advisory Council session with 60+ radio sales executives and industry experts to provide insights on these questions. The roundtable examined how leading radio companies are effectively transitioning from selling advertising spots and dots to selling and delivering digital marketing solutions.

The Four R’s

Rates (pricing), results, reporting and relationship. Long gone are the days of relying solely on relationships and competitive pricing to land deals. Radio advertising buyers want assurance of results before a deal is inked and require ongoing reporting. Advertisers are also hungry for digital education and will no longer tolerate sales reps that know less about digital than they do. One SVP of strategic business initiatives and HR shared, “We’re now getting on calls with clients regularly to talk about how we’re optimizing campaigns.” The “set and forget it” digital deal is no longer an option. Education, insights and reporting are table stakes. He continued, “It’s a race, and we’re all trying to gain market share as fast as possible. Our clients are trying to figure this out too, and we want to create long-term relationships with them to withstand the transition.”

Buy or Build Digital Capabilities?

Do both, if you can. One chief digital officer commented that buying digital capabilities may get you there faster, but may cost more and could create cultural divides. On the flip side, building internal capabilities may get you further but will take longer and not everyone will make the transition. He stated, “One-third of sellers don’t get it/don’t want to engage in digital, the middle third get it but don’t really engage, and the top third are the ones carrying the team. If you can optimize/activate that middle group, it will produce great results.” The strategy that this integrated radio company chose is for digital direct sellers (bought capabilities) to focus on converting new logos and breaking into untapped verticals, while the integrated sellers (built capabilities) are tasked with expanding digital within the existing customer base. Thus, the question is not buy vs. build, but rather, how to strike the right balance between the two.

Differentiate Through Trusted Guidance and Being the One-Stop Provider

Digital marketing services are bought – traditional radio advertising is sold. Recognizing this paradigm shift is imperative, as is acknowledging that advertisers have countless vendors constantly contacting them, claiming to be able to provide all of their advertising needs. The first step is understanding your advertisers’ overall business objectives, not just their advertising goals, and providing them with education and guidance to make smart business decisions. Once engaged, make it simple and seamless for them to work with you, and only you, across all media product types and channels. Be the singular entity that will help them achieve their brand building and conversion goals, constantly report on results and work under the assumption that they are moving along the digital learning curve as fast, if not faster, than you are.

In Conclusion

All in all, 2021 looks optimistic for radio ‒ the market appetite is there and the mandate is clear: lead with digital marketing services combined with radio advertising to deliver 1+1 makes 3 results. Media Advisory Council special guest, Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, said it best, “This is a moment of opportunity – coming out of a crisis, recovery is upon us – and advertisers who will spend more this year plan to spend a lot more. Two-thirds of them are holding their money in abeyance waiting to be influenced.”

Alexander Group will be holding a third and final Media Advisory Council session in our radio sales series in February. We will share findings from a recent radio sales survey where radio sales executives weighed in on their sales strategy, structure, role design, compensation alignment and investment areas to drive new business and minimize churn. Register today to gain additional insights on how to tune your sales engine.

Session 3: Transform the Revenue Growth Engine | February 24, 2021 | 10-11am ET

Register for our upcoming events, or contact an Alexander Group Media Sales practice leader to participate in our media sales research.

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