Sync & Swimm

Marketing, Stocks, Sales, Radio & Rants

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Radio: There’s No Esteem Like Low Esteem

Radio has a perception problem, but it’s not with our customers (listeners), it’s with ourselves—Check out this latest data from Arbitron about listenership using metered markets.  Radio Delivers

 Radio listenership has actually grown over the last 20 years.  Radio is still the way most new music gets to the masses.  Radio is still a major part of people’s lives, and as a business a successful station still commands 30 to 50 percent margins.  Unheard of in any other industry.  Radio has an issue with self-esteem

The problem lies with us.  When new facts and figures come out about the power of live, local radio, we don’t believe the data.  It’s like we beg the popular girl in high school to go out this us, and when she agrees, we find ways to talk her out of it!

If I pull rating information from 15 years ago our FM had an overall weekly Cume (overall listenership) of about 85,000.  Today we have closer to 100,000.  Keep in mind Springfield, Ma lost population during this time, and we actually dropped almost ten market positions. 

So, we have more listeners and more revenue than 15 years ago, yet the radio industry still feels it’s not worthy to sit at the grownup table.  This inferiority complex has been going on since the 50’s.  Why would anyone want to listen to local radio when they have TV? Why would anyone want to listen to radio when they have satellite?  Why would anyone want to listen to radio when they have Pandora?

The answer then and now has always been the same.  Content is king.  Crap content is still crap no matter how it’s delivered.  If radio would concentrate on serving the local community with great content, they wouldn’t have to worry about every new form of entertainment that comes along.

The problem is the industry feels guilty.  Most stations offer canned voice tracks that don’t engage a local audience.  So when a Slacker or Pandora comes along, the radio industry feels threatened that this will be the tipping point.  The time when listeners finally realize, “wow—local radio doesn’t really care about me anymore”

Live, local, relevant radio will survive when collectively it cares about the product and serving their cities of license.

You Should Have Learned This When You Were Twelve

 Unscientific observation.  Our education system doesn’t teach students what the real world is about, especially when it comes to searching for a job.  In the past ten years I’ve posted dozens of job positions, and most job seekers just don’t get it.  I mean REALLY don’t get it.  So if this Blog entry gets in the hands of anyone who is looking for employment let me give you some ideas that will put you ahead of 90% of the competition–(The fact you are reading this is a great sign!)–So  here are my top ten favorite tips.

(1)-Dress up.  Shined shoes…Clothes in style…Combed hair—Even if you are going for a truck driving  job.  Show that you care. (I know, I shouldn’t have to say this, but you would be surprised!)

(2)-Show up on time.

(3)-I don’t care what you heard in college—ONE SHEET RESUMES!  If I can’t scan it within 3 seconds, it goes to the bottom of the pile.

(4)-Follow up.  Another surprising fact–95% of job candidates do not follow up.

(5)-Send a handwritten note after the interview.  Only about 1% actually do  this,  and it makes all the difference in the world..Make sure its hand written.  Typed envelopes will sit on a busy executive’s desk for weeks–Handwritten ones get read immediately.

(6)- Don’t complain about your past employer.

(7)- Don’t complain about anything for that matter.

(8)-Show how you can help the bottom line or eliminate expenses–All that really matters in business.

(9)-Don’t lie on your resume–It will be discovered.

(10)- Don’t post stupid things on Facebook that make you look like an idiot.

Do all ten of these things and I guarantee you at least get a 2nd interview–Good luck–(Now go delete all those ridiculous Facebook pictures)

It’s Not Easy Being Green

I watched the Muppet movie with my daughter this weekend.  Those Disney folks are brilliant at combining adult emotional cues in with the entertainment of kids.  Most of the shows on the Disney channel capture both audiences extremely well..The result? Parents actually don’t mind watching shows with their kids—Brilliant.

The Muppet movie really made you relive the 80’s, while introducing a whole new generation to Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang.  Most of our memories are linked together by the glue of sound.  Sound and smell are the two driving forces of long term memories that evoke emotions–

Let’s go back 15 years.. Click on this link…Close your eyes…And remember everything that was going on in your world..

Click Here

Did you try it?  The movie actually used this sound bite while introducing the 80’s robot. The real year you remember this from though is  1996–Everywhere you went you got a free America online disk.  You and your friends were  on America Online, CompuServe or Prodigy.  Bill Clinton was bidding for a second term.  9/11 was still five years away. 

 Yes the power of sound.  A certain song can make you relieve the first day of school, the entire 7th grade or  remember your first kiss.   Yes I’m a radio guy, so maybe you think I’m not partial.  I’m also a marketing guy, so I know the way to get someone to trust you, and perhaps buy from you, is to invoke emotions.  People like to pretend they are logical, but they are not..

Find a way to pierce the heart, and trust will follow– Just like Disney did with the Muppet Movie..Now go out and relive a little of the magic of your youth

Mine Is Bigger than Yours!–The Ballad of Black Friday

I dare you to try and enjoy  “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” without seeing  285 Black Friday commercials—This year Wal-Mart even used AC/DC’s “Back and Black” as the official Wal-Mart song for the day after Thanksgiving–With one hour left until Black Friday comes to a close, I thought I’d write an open letter to Wal-Mart about how they could change the entire Holiday shopping fiasco with a single act of Black Friday rebellion.

However, before I do, let me explain why the most famous shopping day of the year has gone hay wire.  The day after Thanksgiving used to be the cherry on top of a retail year–an extra jump start to the holidays. Slowly it became a necessity for a store to make a profit for the year. Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sears and Macy’s were the big boys, opening up around 6am.  Well, 6am became 5a, than 4am, and now its midnight the night before–and every retail store in the country offers earlier and bigger sales.  Anything to lure holiday shoppers in.  It has become a “mine is bigger than yours” retail jungle. Not to mention the Black Friday bomb threats and shoppers being maced for rioting.

 I chose Wal-Mart because they are the biggest, and most Black Friday shoppers seem to end up there.   (And usually there is at least one story about someone being crushed trying to get the GI Joe with the kung fu grip)

So, here is my idea for America’s biggest retailer.  Take all that advertising and say, “As America’s largest retailer we have decided to change the rules for Holiday shopping”.  Than proceed to come up with a new day.  My choice would be”Blue Monday” (Wal-Mart’s colors, plus they could use Foreigners’ “Blue Monday” since they seem to like classic rock)…Wal-Mart could change thinking and shopping habits.  If  Monday won’t work, use another day.  Maybe the Friday before Christmas.   Think about the message.  “Our  shoppers mean a lot to us–Black Friday has become inconvenient and dangerous…this year spend it with your families,  because Wal-Mart is introducing  “Blue Monday”-(Or whatever day is decided on).  Offer sales on Black Friday, but do the deep discounting on Blue Monday.  I bet some shoppers would even save some of their budgets waiting for Wal-Mart’s sale day. 

I’ve been criticized about this Blog taking complex issues and making them too simple.  Life is much more complicated.  It doesn’t have to be–every great idea sounded ridiculous in the beginning.  Let’s make 2012 a year where we get back to basics and make life simpler.  Something needs to change—or pretty soon Black Friday sales will begin on the 4th of July.

You’re welcome Wal-Mart!

The Pick and Roll

What can Springfield learn from Hershey Pennsylvania?  Have you ever been to Hershey?  Close your eyes and think about  the trip.  Even if you never have been, I’m certain you heard about  about those lamp posts shaped like candy kisses…Like  a life size game of candy land, that image will stay with you the rest of your life.

Back to Springfield.  My friend Todd Demers and I were having lunch yesterday,  and we started brainstorming about how we could create that Hershey feel in Springfield.  As we brainstormed, two things quickly surfaced.

(A)- Springfield should be known worldwide as the city of Basketball.

(B)- There is no easy way to get from The Basketball Hall of Fame to the downtown–Rt 91 is basically the Western Mass Berlin wall.

Using the premise that little things leave the most lasting impressions, we came up with the following–(1)-All the light polls downtown  should be shaped like basketballs–Expensive? Yes.  But with sponsors, and maybe a reach out to the NBA,  not out of the question. (2)- The PVTA sets up a half hour schedule that goes from the Basketball Hall of Fame to all areas of interest downtown–(Including all the hotels)–You know that you could  go out of your hotel room at the Hilton,  and get anywhere in the city–Every half hour.

We call  this new service…Wait for it… The Springfield Pick and Roll.  A basketball term that describes exactly what we are doing–Picking people up and rolling them through the city.  The word of mouth alone would make this successful..And every media outlet would jump on the story.

Crazy?  Yea, but crazy enough to work.  Picture the original board meeting in Hershey about the light posts—“You want to put Hershey kisses where?”

Isn’t It Ironic? Dont Ya Think?

 The great Halloween storm of 2011 was to be  the final proof–The  #1 reason way local radio is alive and well,  and why 95% of American’s tune in at some point during the week–Yes even with Pandora, Satellite, IPods,  Spotify,  and dozens of other options that fight for ears and eyeballs.  Radio is still a local medium that shines brightest during times of crisis–Over here at the radio ranch, Adam Rivers broadcasted live for 15 straight hours to make sure the information got out to the people.  Our competitors?  Well some did ok, some phoned it in, some never showed up, and some just  plain sucked–Their time to shine and they dropped the ball.

So where does the Irony come in?  The stations who got it done in the Hartford area are now being penalized because Arbitron/Hartford is dropping two weeks with of PPM data because of the power outage.  So when (some) of  radio was at its best, the meter wasn’t running…What?  Thousands of little battery operated radios falling on deaf ears?  No cell phone, no power, no information–Except a few radio stations who take their license serious..

Radio has a responsibility—Keeping the public informed is priority #1.  The radio stations who kept the local communities of Springfield and Harford informed during this disaster don’t get any credit?—A dark day for Radio and PPM

Create a S.P.L.A.S.H—(Part I)

Does  your message make  a  S.P.L.A.S.H?  Ok..My last name is Swimm, so you know my copywriting philosophy has to revolve around some type of water reference–So I will not disappoint…Does your message make a Splash?–I will get into these in much more depth in the upcoming weeks, but for now I will keep it real simple—Your copy should:

STell STORIES

P–PAINT mental PICTURES

L— Can you use LAUGHTER?

A— Does  it ADDRESS the AUDIENCE?

S— Do you have a  SLOGAN?

H–Do you hit HOT  Buttons/invoke emotions?

Aren’t acronyms fun?  Lot more where this came from—Stay tuned and we will dissect these and have some fun in the process….In the meantime concentrate on the most important—Tell stories and paint pictures.  Do you remember learning to drive?  Close your eyes and re live it.  Do you remember how you felt?  Were you scared? Excited? Did your teacher (Probably your Dad) have patience?–Are you back there now?  How about Your Grandmother making a pie before Thanksgiving. Can you smell it?  Can you here her voice?—Or how about your first kiss?  Paint pictures, tell stories, use emotions–make  it interesting–Tap into the theater of the mind..Words mean things–Make them work for you

Would You Tell Your Best Friend?

No, I’m not proposing some ethical question because your friend’s wife is cheating on him…The question I raise has to do with your advertising message. No matter what type of advertising you do, would the person reading, seeing, or hearing the message want to tell their friend about what you have to say? Example: “John, you just have to get over to Mega Mart–They are so conveniently located, have been in business for 40 years, and they have all the names we know and love”–Guess what? This is pure crap–But it sounds like a commercial doesn’t it? Aren’t commercials supposed to sound like commercials? NO!

Commercials’, texts, tweets, posts, are supposed to be interesting! Interesting and about the recipient. People don’t care about your product or service–They care about themselves..Same example from above..
“Hey John—I noticed you still have a tree down in your back yard from the storm–Need a hand with it?”–“Thanks I burned out my chainsaw–I just need to get a new one”–“Really, Mega mart has a sale on husqvarnas this weekend”

Now if the actors in this commercial don’t sound like they are acting, it could be a winner. Same Mega mart ad, but geared to real life. Same goes with tweets and posts. Always make it about the listener/viewer. Cut through the clutter, make it interesting, but most importantly, make it real….The next time you are ready to hit the enter button on any type or advertising message, ask yourself if you would ever compose a letter to your best friend with the info–If you wouldn’t, work on the copy.

Consumers want value and not to be screamed at with cliché marketing messages. The 2011 shopper is far more savvy they you give them credit for.. They see right through 1950’s “Madmen” tactics…(Although I do love the show!)—Stop making it about you..People don’t care unless it’s about them.

You Can’t Cut Your Way to Growth

When will people learn that in business revenue drives everything—Everything—If you put every worker in America on some type of commission plan, we would never have another recession. If you fix the top line, the bottom line takes care of itself–eventually

The problem is revenue requires training a sales force..investing money…waiting for the crop to grow. That takes a lot of patience, time and money. In with our “next qtr” mentality, that does not help the bottom line now. The best way to affect the bottom line today? Cut expenses. Makes sense right?—Sure it does if you only get rid of the bloated fat, but we are way beyond that in this economy.
I think a few examples and analogies are needed:
Company A $100,000: revenue
$50,000: expenses
$50,000: profit How to get to $75,000 in profit quick? Cut expenses by another $25,000……Done—magic pill—Everyone is happy– (except those laid off, and the people who have to do twice the work) But here is the real problem—You can’t cut your way to growth. What will now happen is the sales reps will discount and a new norm will be set—A dropping tide lowers all ships. It is like when you feel your pants getting a bit tight because you put on a few pounds…You know that feeling..Bloated, binding—generally uncomfortable. Then you go out and buy a new pair of pants a bit larger in the waistline—A new norm has been set—You no longer feel fat, so now a 40 inch waist is the benchmark—This happens every few years until you wonder why you are so fat.

Same with cutting expenses and the discounts that usually happen at the same time as a company panics and tries to hold onto market share..After a while they look around and there is no staff, and pricing is half of it once was…”Didn’t we used to charge twice as much”?—yea….back in the “good old days” –Once a new norm has been set—It’s a slippery slope…

…Now how do we find a long term solution and end up in a much better place with a little patience?….Increase expenses by $25,000 with sales training and marketing….What? Increase expenses? That’s blasphemy! Stay with me. With the right program, $25,000 in marketing and sales done right should produce at least $50,000 in additional revenue. …So now we have this scenario
Company B $150,000: revenue
$75,000: expenses
$75,000: profit …Same outcome. One takes a year to get to, one happens instantly.. But look what you are left with for Company B….You didn’t discount..You still have a full staff….And you made the same profit as the expense cutter. As an added bonus when the economy turns around Company B is going to leap light years ahead…And wait to Company A tries to get prices up again—Good luck!..

I understand that some times, hard decisions have to be made immediately..But face it….Most companies have already made the rounds on laying off the non-essential workers and expenses. The saddest thing in business is when a company cuts, cuts, and then cuts some more—And then—they go bankrupt anyway

You are not Nostradamus

What if you had all the powers of the Amazing Kreskin,  combined with Nostradamus, and you even got a hold of that little sports book that Biff took back to the future. With all these skills at your disposal, certainly you could time the stock market right? Wrong! Let me tell you the one most honest truths of the Universe–You can’t time the Stock Market.

I was listening to a couple guys at work today talking about how they wish they got into the market sooner, or whether they should get out now..And how their “Financial Guy” needed to look over our new 401 k selections.

 You can study charts your whole life,  follow trends, watch the earnings reports, and even talk to the CEO on a daily basis…But as soon as you pull the trigger on buying the stock, some idiot 3,000 miles away can set off a car bomb and cause the market to crash….You can’t predict life.  Don’t even try–Just stay in the game–good times and bad.

 I’ve been trading stocks for about 16 years.  I’ve made 300% on some–and lost it all on others..I owned Apple at $5 a share, and sold at $15 in 1997—I thought I was the smartest guy on the planet–3 times my money! Yea, well guess what?–I would be worth over a million if I just left it alone–who knew?

 Here is the best advice on the market you will ever get in one paragraph—-Buy high quality stocks every month no matter what–Same amount every month–Set it and forget it as Ron Popeil would say…Example:

 The 500 bluest  of the blue chips are tracked through the S & P 500—500 of the big boys from every industry..No guess work–just the 500 best—Forget everything else and put a fixed amount into a mutual index fund that is based on the S & P 500 every month.  Can’t afford much?  No worries–pick a small amount and do it consistently–Skip a Starbucks a day and you freed up close to $150 a month–Find a company that lets you buy into the fund for a fixed price–(sharebuilder.com is the best) —Plug the $150 into the fund every month automatically—When the market goes down–you buy more shares–when it goes up, you buy less–every month–Consistently.

 Got a raise?  Great!  Don’t spend it–up you monthly contribution.  Paid off a loan? Great!  Put that money into your contribution–Don’t touch it–Don’t stop for even a month–Consistency is the key

 You’re done–now go worry about some real problems in the world

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