It's All About Loyalty, Part 2
March 6, 2012
What is loyalty and how do we win it?
Well, let's start with you. Who are you loyal to? What products or services do you feel a loyalty towards? Take me,for example. I feel an immense loyalty to my brother. For one, he is my brother, but two, he is a really good guy. He is always there for me when I need him. He understands me, knows what makes me laugh and can help me feel better about myself when I'm having a down day. Also, I am a loyal Pandora listener. Why? It consistently gives me exactly what I want; the music I am in the mood for with a few pleasant surprises, and it doesn't clutter it up with commercials for products I don't care about. I am also loyal to Facebook. It gives me my friends at the ease of a keystroke and the freedom to share what I want (or don't want) and communicate with whom I want.
See the common theme here? I. Me, me, me. It's all about me and because they cater to me, I am loyal to them. To build loyalty in someone, you must remember it has to be all about her or him. It's a me, me, me world out there, and if you aren't understanding and addressing that in your programming, you will not be able to build loyalty.
So, what does this mean in radio terms? Yes, we are a mass medium and don't have the same ability to customize to the specific individual as the internet can. But, we do have the same opportunity to focus our product to cater to a specific audience and serve them on an extremely meaningful level. Specifically, it means as a radio station you have to know who your listeners are and what is important to them. You also have to understand why they want to be loyal to your station in the first place. Why do they come to you? The obvious answer is "the music." But, it is a different world now. They do still come to you for your music, but unlike 15 years ago when you got your music either on the radio or CD, they now have hundreds of ways to get their music. So, in 2012 music can't be the only answer.
What else? "The morning show. They make me laugh." Or "I love Kendall in the afternoon. She always has the latest gossip!" Here is something you have that Pandora or the other 99 music sites don't have. You have a key loyalty building block -- personalities who can talk to a listener as a person and make her laugh or inform him or make her feel connected to the world. Think about it this way: When you are at a party and you first meet someone who you feel really gets you or is interested in you, you remember them, right? They stand out in your mind in a good way. What about that a** hole who talked about himself for 20 minutes? Couldn't get away fast enough could you? How about that nice but dull girl who didn't really say anything of interest to you? Sure she was nice, but do you even remember her at all? Remember, it's all about me. If you are catering to me, interested in what I'm interested in and giving me something I want, I'm going to feel some loyalty to you.
Your promotions are also an opportunity to build loyalty. If you have a female-targeted radio station, you are going to be speaking her language with free shoes or designer purses. You will be HER radio station. There is social media. What a great outlet to speak to your listener in a direct way. When you talk to her on Facebook, what do you say? Are you talking girl to girl about the latest "Twilight" movie? Or, are you doing generic posts about station events? These are small things, but each one is an opportunity to build loyalty. If you speak to her in her language, about things she cares about and show you understand what matters to her, you will build loyalty. She will feel like your station is a friend since you offer her companionship, gossip, cool stuff and you simply make her feel good.
In the old days, playing music people liked, having a morning show that could do stunts that were remembered (diary recall) and giving away high-ticket items got you ratings. These things probably can still win ratings. Or, there is the school of thought that nothing but music is going to get you ratings. Cleaner is better. Listeners will tune you out less. You win. But, will you win in the future? The battle for the future is more complicated. Ratings aren't loyalty. The real battle is going to come down to loyalty.
Imagine that he has Internet readily available at his office or in his car and he is deciding whether he wants to listen to something on the Internet or you. What will it be? Or, imagine that he has his house wired so Pandora can be on in every room effortlessly. While he is cleaning the garage, is he going to listen to you or an outlet that gives him the exact the music mix he wants with little clutter?
If he feels a loyalty to your station, there is a good chance it may be you. He is excited that you are giving him the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl. And, he feels like your jocks are his friends because they get what he is all about and make him laugh. Even though Pandora gives him music, it doesn't make him feel as good as a laugh and going to the Super Bowl. Radio is a mass-entertainment platform, so while we might not be able to customize at the same level that the Internet can, we can do a great job of catering to an audience. Make understanding your station's listeners a priority and gear everything you do toward who those people are and what they want. That is the key to loyalty.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Focus on your specific audience, study them, understand them, have everything your station does speak to them and build loyalty. I've seen it work. But, it comes with a price tag, which causes a quandary in today's economic climate. I'll address that quandary in the next essay.