Steps to Take Before Offering Digital Services

You’ve undoubtedly noticed a dramatic increase in digital sales over the last several years.  Large radio groups were the first to see the writing on the wall that told them they needed to expand their sales offerings to include more digital products.  There are many options out there that your station can offer your clients from targeted banner ads, social media marketing, pay-per-click, SEO services, websites, CRM tools, and the list goes on and on.

Gordon Borrell said in his “2022 Annual benchmarking Report” that, “Our forecast this year is that local digital advertising will grow 9%, to $92.8 billion, accounting for two-thirds of all ad spending. By 2025, we expect it to account for 72% of all spending.  About 14% of digital advertising remains within local markets, spent with locally based media companies offering local businesses a cornucopia of marketing products rather than just one. Even in the smallest of markets, it amounts to millions of dollars up for grabs. The most aggressive media companies get more than half of this obtainable revenue in their markets. Top performers dominate digital sales so much that they leave dozens of local competitors fighting for the scraps.” – https://borrellassociates.com/releases/2022-annual-benchmarking-report.

Here’s a look at what local ad buyers are buying, according to Borrell Associates.

What ad buyers are increasing & decreasing.

As you can see, radio is down, but digital continues to increase.  While some stations offer a surprising range of digital offerings, others are just dipping their toes in the water with a product or two.

It can be an overwhelming endeavor to start selling and implementing services that you’re not familiar with or much less proficient with.  Many stations jump into these waters too early and get frustrated and waste valuable time as they learn these new services.

Not only are you and your staff learning something new, but you’re also getting pushback from your sellers who know much less and care much less about it.  And then once you get your salespeople on board, there’s educating your clients on the benefits of these new services.

Therefore, we recommend starting your journey with your station websites.  The experience will provide you with the perfect platform to grow your digital footprint while learning what works and what doesn’t.  And you’ll generate more revenue from selling the website.  It amazes me to run across radio stations offering website design services, SEO, and graphic design. Meanwhile, their station website looks like garbage and performs poorly, providing little reason to return daily.  The station or group wanting to instill client trust in their digital catalog will have a “rock star” website.

Digital is About Content

The first place to start selling your station website is content.  Because if there is little reason for visitors to frequent your website, there’s no reason for advertisers to be there.  Your website has to draw visitors back daily, if not more often.  What different kinds of content will do that for your audience?  There is unlimited potential when it comes to content.  We’ve created other podcasts on this subject: Generating Revenue from Sponsored ContentContent Ideas for No-Staff Radio Stations, and Building Traffic with Evergreen Content.

Don’t look for new shiny tools to sell.  Focus on your content and get the biggest bang from that.  We’ve seen radio groups focus on content like local sports news, and it became so popular that it became a brand that required a separate website to grow fully.

If you do not have anyone to create content for your station website, it’s time to start looking for someone as your “Digital Content Director.”  You’ll need them when you start offering more digital later, and during these first steps, they will be learning to become a bigger part of your digital team.  Know that going in so you can find the right person for this position.

Promote Your Content

When content is added consistently to your station website, ensure that it’s properly promoted.  This can be online and on the air.  Your Digital Content Director should handle online while your Program Directors properly implement the on-air promotion.  The effectiveness of these promotions should be tracked often to ensure your website is growing visitors.

Digital Inventory List

Once content is added consistently, decide where your clients could position themselves alongside your content to get value.  A “Digital Inventory List” is essential because it shows every available option and the pricing you have for each one.

For example, every page on your website may have a 728×90 top leaderboard ad space and 300×250 sidebar ad space.  On some pages, there may be additional spaces for sponsorship opportunities.  Or, you have specific content pages that only include sponsors and not the regular run of site ads.

Every possible sponsor location for an ad client to occupy should be provided in your Digital Inventory List, even those outside of the website, like newsletter sponsor, streaming sponsor, social media mentions, podcast sponsors, etc.  Here’s an Excel spreadsheet to get you started: Digital Inventory List (Excel).

Training the Sales Team

You likely have some very talented and experienced sales reps on your team. However, if radio is their comfort zone, learning a new industry can be a tall ask.  Asking them to sell your station website in addition to a smorgasbord of other digital solutions at one time will surely overwhelm them.  This is another reason we recommend easing them into digital by focusing on your station website.

One of the main questions I get asked is, “how do other stations sell digital… on its own, or bundled with commercials, etc.?”  I’ve seen a few stations start their digital selling by offering the website with every radio buy.  The client can turn away the website component, but the pricing is the same.  Most will take it and eventually see positive results from it.

It’s only natural.  The power and effectiveness of cross-platform campaigns have been proven time and time again in marketing. If you want to lose weight, it’s not all about not eating.  You must combine a change in diet with exercising and eliminating bad habits like alcohol.  A multi-faceted strategy is much better than one action. So, if we can combine multiple solutions over a longer partnership, everyone comes out better.

Set Goals and Beat Them

Speaking of strategy, there is no strategy unless there is a goal.  If losing weight is your goal, there has to be a limit to which you’re satisfied at completing the effort.  So, make content goals, page view and unique visitor goals, newsletter signups, social media followers, banner ads sold, and online sponsorships.  Add more goals to this list but make goals and ensure everyone is working toward hitting them.

A major part of goal setting is reviewing your stats consistently.  You might be surprised how little website analytics numbers are referenced each month.  A Digital Content Director can be the point person for this.

Know The Competition and Beat Them

If Henry Ford never had competition, we’d likely still be driving Model-Ts.  Competition is what makes our products better.  There is much digital competition because digital is everywhere.  Regardless, your station is poised to be more trusted than someone who knocks on a client’s door that they have never met, much more over an anonymous phone call or e-mail.

We have one client who told us a story about one of their clients who passed by buying the radio station and bought Google Ads instead because they were pitched as covering a wider area and placed across many different websites.  The General Manager showed the client the number of visitors their content-heavy website received each month combined with how many local impressions his ad would have received from visitors within close driving distance to his business.  When the client compared those numbers to what he received from Google’s targeted campaign, he realized that he paid three times as much and received far fewer impressions, none of them resulting in a sale.

It’s important to note here that GM was constantly monitoring page views and ad impressions to have this actionable data to sway the client.

If you have local competition, constantly monitor them by simply visiting their website.  If they update it daily and promote the content well on-air and over social, they might prove to be a more difficult adversary.  But, if they are slack on their online efforts, start this process not so that you’re not left behind.

Wrapping Up

As you can see by this graphic from Borrell Associates, combining digital with radio is the way forward.

2022 Ad Expenditures

Your existing and prospective clients are buying digital now because they need it. When a local business opens its doors, it must get listed so that people can find them, they need a website so people can get to know them, they need to build a reputation so people can trust them, and they need social media so that they can stay relevant in the community.  What better way to learn these skills than doing them for yourself?

When you’re eventually approached by a client to help them with their digital footprint, you’ll explain that they need content.  They’ll need a vehicle to promote it like on the radio and over social.  They’ll need to make goals and review their analytics often to see how they are doing.  And they’ll need to know what their competition is doing if they want to beat them.  Your client’s journey will be different from your station’s, but the roots will be the same.

If you start your digital journey with your website, the insight you’ll gain will give you better information to help your clients with a more expanded array of digital services.  You can’t do this from the bench, however.  You must be fully invested in completing the digital transformation if you want to grow your revenue well into the next decade.

We’d love to assist you on that journey.  If you need help making the next step with your station website, please reach out to us.

Jim Sherwood serves as the chief creative, brand strategist, lead developer, meticulous project manager, and station collaborator for all Skyrocket Radio sites and projects. Jim is a 30+ year radio veteran with a resume spanning several small, medium, and large markets including roles as Digital Content Manager, Program Director, Production Manager, and Morning Show Host.