May 8, 2012
In the incessant rush to all things digital -- from streaming and social media networking to online marketing -- it's becoming almost too easy to overlook a salient reality: Some relative "old school" efforts still work. One such example is direct marketing, which Rick Torcasso asserts is still more effective in impacting a radio station's ratings than its online counterparts. Here he explains why...
What made you decide to get into direct marketing?
I've been in radio business for 40 years. I started as a DJ in 1971 in Fresno at KYNO, a Drake-Chenault station. That was my first real radio job. I moved around a lot as a DJ. After the first 10-15 years I became a PD for about 10 years. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how to increase the listeners' affinity to our radio station. Unlike a lot of PDs in the '80s, who all talked about what songs they played, it has gotten to the point where that doesn't really doesn't matter anymore. All radio stations are playing pretty much the same music within their format; the differentiation comes down to non-preemptive talent, and other than that, differentiation in how you market yourself and get your message across so that listeners have an affinity towards you over the competition.
Through trial-and-error over the years, every time we did direct marketing it moved the needle. As time wore on, it kept becoming more and more clear to me that, even in the diary world, the most efficient way to really grow recognition for your value on behalf of listeners was using direct marketing. It just always seemed to work for me.
In 1998, Mark Heiden came from Eagle Marketing and I moved from CBS to start Point-To-Point. Obviously, we still believe direct marketing is the most efficient and effective form of marketing. We're not doing it not just because it's a good way to make a living. We really believe in it because it continues to get results. If you learn how to do direct marketing the right way, it's very cost-efficient -- especially in a PPM world. It replicates what Arbitron is doing to recruit people.
Have the characteristics of what comprises successful direct marketing changed over the years?
It has changed a lot just because of the environment, going from Arbitron's diary method - where people had to basically recall listening -- to PPM, which requires real usage. That has changed direct marketing in a number of ways. One way is the way we use data and physical geography to target people. But the most important thing is how the message has changed.
An effective direct marketing message used to be "Here's what we are, where and what we stand for, or play." Today it should be, "Here's why you should listen to us more often." That's a big difference; it's not the same message ... and it gets better results. Of course, it's not that simple. It takes a certain level of empirical knowledge to create a meaningful message.
Be it direct mail or telemarketing, if your campaign induces interest on behalf of a person about what you do, they'll spend more time with your message. That in turn grows recognition for your values, which in turn increases usage. It's all about that. Because in the PPM world that's all that matters; usage is king.
In a PPM world, the listeners actually have to use you more often, not recall you more often. So your direct marketing is used either to reinforce recognition about your value to your P1 listeners, which helps to set up a barrier against current and future competitors, or you the want message to induce greater usage on behalf of secondary or tertiary listeners, to spur them to use you more often at your competitors' expense.
You continue to believe that "snail mail" can still be effective in an e-mail/Twitter/Facebook world?
We still use direct marketing that goes into a mailbox, because we want people to spend time with the message. We want them to hold it in their hands. We've found that it's still the most effective way to induce more interest and make people spend more time with it, as opposed to an e-mail, which can be thrown away with the click of a mouse. Plus we know that people who participate in surveys about radio usage are information-seekers about radio and will grab that mail piece and, if we do our job right, absorb the message.
With that said, we do use social media, such as personalized URLs connected to direct marketing pieces. Certain social media can help enhance customer loyalty, but the reality still is if you want to move the needle, you need something that best holds the consumer's interest for a long time, something they may even want to hold onto -- especially if they're survey-friendly information-seekers.
Do you have trouble reaching teens, who are far more interested in electronic/digital communication?
Actually, Arbitron does that for us -- although they're having a hard time finding enough males in young demos ... and frankly, they're having a hard time finding everybody. But we still look at where Arbitron is finding younger demos, then all we really have to do is take their cues and use what information they provide in ratings to find those demos.
The fact of the matter is when we do direct marketing, we find the same people Arbitron is finding. They use direct marketing via telephone and/or mail because they eventually reach the people who are willing to take radio listening surveys.
Does direct marketing work with younger listeners?
A lot of our clients are Top 40s and do very well with direct marketing. The good thing about PPM is that unlike a diary, where you have to get 18-year-olds to remember what they listened to over the course of just one week, with PPM, they don't have to do anything but wear the meter - and they could be doing it for up to two freakin' years, so the impact in reaching these young people is substantially greater.
So you don't have had to combat any new perception that traditional direct marketing isn't as effective as online marketing?
It certainly hasn't been hurting our business. Most good programmers and broadcasters know the benefit of direct mail; they know that direct marketing contributes to marketing efforts probably more so than any form of marketing.
People are still rather inexperienced with social media. Sure, it's easy to market to them and you can continue to do talk to people through social media, but I don't think that really has contributed to an increase in ratings. It may contribute to a greater use of websites and build a bigger database, but when it comes down to it, social media is a big net; it's not really focused on those people who like or want to take listening surveys.
No matter how many people you reach through social media, if they never participate in a radio listening survey, it'll never matter in the ratings world. Direct marketing that illustrates your value to the consumer and grows an affinity to your station -- which is targeted to listeners who participate in radio listening surveys -- makes the difference.
Have you had to deal with radio stations that are at least considering social media marketing because they're under tighter budgets?
We help our clients with many social media elements. We can certainly create strategies that touch base with various goals and objectives. But other than providing solid strategic guidance, you don't need an outside firm to execute social media campaigns. They're cheap and easy once you know the laws and your own goals.
The fact of the matter is your radio station should already be running some kind of listeners' club for your P1s -- and you should already be sending out e-mails on an ongoing basis. Stations have been doing that for years. But you ask the PDs of those stations if all that work really impacted their ratings ... odds are they haven't seen it yet. You can have the biggest database in the world, but if you don't efficiently reach those who say yes to Arbitron, you're not going to move the needle.
Again, I'm not saying utilizing social media is a bad thing or a waste of time. It has its benefits, but you certainly don't need an outside company to do that for you.
Are the traits to successful direct marketing different according to the station's format?
It can be different -- not just by format, but by station objective and goals. What's the relative advantage for someone to listen to you over everyone else? Sometimes the answer to that for a Top 40 station may be the same a Country station, so the message should be the same. The key is to blast through the clutter with something that is expertly customized. To do that we need to really clarify and define goals and objectives for the station
Thing is, when I ask a PD or GM what the goals of their station are, and they say, "To get more ratings," that raises a red flag. That's a result, not an objective. You want more ratings? No kidding! Everyone markets to get more ratings. It'd be better to go down a street and find a primary listener and ask, "What would you say about this station ... what's the reason you listen to it?" Our goal as marketers is to increase recognition for values on behalf of your primary listeners and especially on behalf of your competition's listeners.
It can be a very unique identity for each station. One PD might say, "We own mornings in the market; we have Kidd or Seacrest and we want people to know that guy is on our station. Here are reasons they should listen to him." That's a real value for that station, which gives us a real goal to create a direct marketing campaign.
Another station might say, "It's all about the music." It might be a Country station that offers a benefit of playing a certain kind of Country not heard anywhere else. Knowing what your strengths are is a great first step. What you ultimately do with marketing is reinforce your strengths with your primary listeners while increase recognition for reasons to use your station more often with your secondary and tertiary listeners - or the competition's primary listeners. Therefore, you increase ratings at their expense. Especially in the PPM world!
Politicians are currently using attack direct-mail pieces to attract their own kind of "listenership." Would it be beneficial for a station to use marketing to attack a rival -- for instance, by stating that it's full of syndicated jocks who have no local connection?
No. In radio you need to reinforce reasons someone should use you over anyone else. The thing about political attack ads is very simple: They're trying to grow fear - as in, "If you vote for this other guy, here's all the bad things that are going to happen.: That kind of marketing is all about fear, but radio is nothing about fear; it's about entertainment.
In an election year, it may be wise for News/Talk stations to use fear that if you don't know what's going on, you may make a mistake in the way you vote. That may be a good campaign depending on the market and station's equity. Still, even with News/Talk you have to go beyond that; you need to humanize your appeal in some way.
Music radio has the luxury of humanizing through association with stars and musical artists. News/Talk has to take the extra step to humanize through its on-air people. The highest-rated News/Talk stations know that it's more than just information and weather and traffic.
But isn't "humanizing" essentially being local? If so, why wouldn't a direct mail piece saying "we're local and they're not," work - at the very least - to attract more secondary or tertiary listeners?
That's a good point to bring up. It could work. But let's put it this way: If you think your relative advantage is having a local set of on-air attractions who are really plugged into a marketplace, while the other guys at a generic station are a bunch of people from somewhere else in country ... if that's your value, you can reinforce that strength on a direct marketing piece or through telemarketing.
But the question you would have to ask yourself is that really an advantage? I'm sure in some cases it is. If your local morning guy is so connected to the market - such as John Lanagan in Cleveland - while the other guys basically know nothing about Cleveland, that's a comparison to be made, but I wouldn't suggest it would require a real special message.
The issue comes down to the same issues: Marketing has to 1) induce interest and 2) demonstrate why they should listen to you over anyone else. But do you really think a lot of people would listen to you just because everyone on the station is local? You better be sure -- and in some cases, like The Ticket in Detroit, it is. But do you really think you're going to kick the other guy's ass if he has Ryan Seacrest? Not unless your local jock is truly spectacular and has long been branded in the market. You need to be careful and ask yourself if your guy really has more to offer than a Seacrest - or any other offering across the street, even if it is coming from outside the local environment. Some of these guys tracking from 2,000 miles away are pretty damn good.
Have the decreasing use of landline phones and an increasing number of cell phone-only households made your telemarketing efforts more difficult?
Telemarketing has been impacted by all those things, but that's a simple question that produces a complicated answer. First of all, Arbitron still has to find people using phone marketing and frankly, we find same people Arbitron finds, just like we do with direct mail.
Once again, simply put, the only people who matter as it relates to ratings are those who will participate in a survey about their radio listening habits. If your marketing dollars are about increasing ratings, then use Arbitron's methods as your example on how to execute a meaningful strategy.
Aren't you concerned that the business management wouldn't be too keen on their employees being distracted by an at-work station promotion?
As far as calling at-work places, we isolate those businesses most likely to listen to the format for which we're calling. We do that through data from millions of calls over the years. So, there's a solid compatibility element from the start. We've been doing it for many years and we haven't had any complaints. Often times, the boss answers the phone. Remember, about 80% businesses have less than 30 employees; it's more likely that we'll call a dry cleaners than a big corporate office - and if they don't like the call, all they do is hang up.
Granted, when you make phone calls, you do get a lot more people who tell you to go to hell than be interested, but guess what -- Arbitron goes through the same thing. Think the majority of the people they contact about participating in the PPM ratings want to carry a meter around for next two years? I guarantee they get a lot more no's than yes's.
Let's talk sample size: What's the appropriate number of people you contact for a direct mail piece or telemarketing project?
It depends on the market. For instance, some markets are a lot more telemarketing-friendly, while others will require you to make a lot more phone calls. I don't want to give specific numbers here, but you're probably talking about getting four people for every 35 phone calls. It's around a 10% response, which is about what Arbitron is finding.
It also depends on demo you want to reach and the geography of the market. That's what makes direct marketing so efficient. By targeting a base using PPM methods, we find the right people in the right places. Reaching the right person with a compelling message is more effective now than any time in the past. That is because if that person is survey-friendly, he or she is likely to hold that meter for an extended period of time. PPM is up to two years, while the diary was one week!
More important, people participating in a survey about radio listening are interested in radio and become information-seekers. So when they get something in their hands about a radio station, they spend time with the message. All the reason we spend so much of our time defining the message in what we do.
What kind of long-term goals do you have ... do you have fun doing this?
Mark Heiden and I started this company. Mark is brilliant and I'm very happy to have him as partner because his strengths are different than mine -- and because of that, our company has been successful. The other reason we're successful is that it's always been about integrity and getting results. We make sure our clients, at the end of a campaign, can say we did good job, that we made their jobs easier by getting results.
Mark and I used to do it all by ourselves. Since then we brought in other people so I don't have the day-to-day dealing with clients anymore. Rob Klemm, Tim Bronsil and Susan Bacich work directly with clients - and they have same kinds of character that Mark and I set out to have: strong integrity, a full understanding of direct marketing's reach, and an ongoing ability to innovate and strategize at a high level for our clients.
I don't do the day-to-day thing anymore, but what makes me feel good is that after doing this for 40 years, I'm proud to help clients do well, and I'm really proud Mark and I (Point-To-Point) have a group of people who do all the right things clients can count on.