In October of 2009, the Federal Trade Commission issued some new guidelines about Endorsements and Testimonials. These FTC guidelines are sometimes misunderstood by radio stations and groups, leading them to unnecessarily add wordy and counterproductive disclaimers to the endorsements and testimonials of their on-air personalities.
Blanket application of disclaimers to all endorsements and testimonials is an overreaction to the guidelines. If a material connection exists between an advertiser and an endorser, there is an obligation to disclose that material connection only where the audience would not reasonably expect that connection to exist. You may be able to convince your station to change their policy by concentrating on the actual language of the FTC text.
If the endorsement is given in a context where the listener would reasonably expect the endorser to be compensated, the guidelines don’t rquire you to disclose because consumers can reasonably be expected to have taken that fact into consideration when deciding how much weight or credibility to give to the endorsement. In short, you don’t have to tell them what they already know.
The text of the FTC press release announcing the guidelines is here: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm.
The text of the actual FTC Guidelines is here: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf
If you stay in the same business for a long time, you’ll keep hearing some things over and over. People have been telling me for years that satellite radio is going to replace terrestrial radio. Anyone who bought stock in Sirius and XM can tell you that this prediction seems a long way off right now.
Over the years I’ve also often heard that radio doesn’t work for dentists. I’ve worked with hundreds of practices, from Anchorage to Miami, that could tell you otherwise, but here’s ten ways you can make this one come true:
- Assume that everyone listens to your favorite station. Heck, if the team plays it at the office, then that’s the one where we should buy some advertising!
- Find out which station has the most listeners and buy that one. There’s no need to research the demographic mix of listeners. People are people, right?
- Try out a station for a month to “see if it works”. If you’re not getting fabulous results right off the bat, quit and try something else. That whole “frequency” thing is just a scam to get you to keep buying ads.
- Instead of focusing your message on high-value services that distinguish your practice (like sedation, implants, Invisalign, etc), just let everyone know that you’re the dentist office “that cares”. Nobody else cares, and you should let the public know that you do. If that fails, try telling people that you are a “cosmetic” dentist.
- You’ve got 60 seconds to get your message across, so make sure you let the audience know every fellowship you’ve earned and every dental association you’ve joined. People will be very impressed hearing obscure but prestigious names being used. That’s a good use of your limited time.
- Don’t focus on benefits and solving people’s problems. Tell people all about yourself and the features of your office. The audience will find that stuff fascinating.
- Don’t give a web address. Who uses that internet thing anyway?
- Even though media buyers are experts at getting the best deals and placing the most efficient schedules, make sure to buy all your advertising yourself. So what if the radio station pays their commission and you get all their service at no charge. You’ve got nothing better to do, so why not sit through appointments with every radio rep in town? Just because the reps work for the station doesn’t mean they won’t be objective – right?
- When deciding on a budget, just pick a number that feels right. Even better, just advertise on months when there is a surplus and you feel you can afford it.
- If the economy slumps, terminate all advertising, and huddle in the fetal position until outside forces change. That’s what the competition is going to do, so you won’t lose any market share.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw this coming. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/technology/companies/13google.html?partner=rss&emc=rss . Google is the best at what they do, but that ain’t radio!
The NYT is reporting that Google’s expansion into traditional media is not going so well. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/21/technology/internet/21google.html?partner=rss&emc=rss
As someone who has a fantastic media buyer, who I always turn to when I need TV or radio, I can assure you that they are still the most efficient way to buy media. They can do it better than you can, better than I can, and apparently, better than Google can.
If you’ve been thinking about radio advertising, pull the trigger now. If you already advertise on radio, buy a little more in January.
First quarter is always a radio advertising buying opportunity, especially January. The radio industry suffers a “retail hangover” after the holiday season exhausts the advertising budgets for seasonal marketers who depend on year-end gift-giving.
Dental practices are largely immune from seasonal customer buying patterns. Dentists are typically best-served by a regular presence on the radio, so except for skipping the last two weeks of December, their radio buying schedule remains the same.
Keep advertising in January, but take advantage of the special discounts available, and buy more. Even if you can’t afford to raise the budget, find out about rate deals that may stretch your buying power. Ask your station representative or your media buyer about first quarter discounts, or “one-day sales”, that are prevalent in the industry.
This advice is true every year, but it applies even more so now. The radio industry is suffering advertising revenue losses, even though radio stations are still adding listeners. See the NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/26/business/media/26adco.html?partner=rss&emc=rss Radio’s biggest clients, car dealers and retail have been stung especially hard by the current economy, and many have cut back ad budgets. Their loss is your gain.
When stations lose advertisers they have more inventory available. That’s when they are in the mood for making deals and dropping rates. Combine that with the typical January advertising climate, and you have the perfect storm of a buying opportunity.
When you look at a report that shows automatic phone tracking results, you may conclude that more people find you through the yellow pages than from any other source. This could be misleading.
The practices using automatic telephone tracking systems see an unusual number of patients generated by the yellow pages. This illustrates the inherent weakness of attributing leads based on tracking numbers. A tracking system is an excellent tool, but cannot be expected to be completely accurate. Yellow Pages ads and web sites generate many leads that are “secondary” – that is, people go to the web and YP for information after their interest has been piqued elsewhere.
Look at the statistics generated by your website provider to see how people get to your web site. A business that does little external advertising, but uses Search Engine Optimization, will see that most of their leads come through keyword searches. A business that uses external marketing sources that include the domain name, will see that many of their leads come from people who have navigated directly to them. The dual purposes of the web site make it the most indispensible part of any ad campaign.
Similarly, the YP may not be the primary generator of as many leads as it seems on the surface. It still serves an important function, however. When people are looking for you in the YP, they have to be able to find you. Or they may find your competitor instead. When my clients tell me that “the yellow pages are dead” or that they want to cancel their ad, I suggest that they just scale back the ad. That way they save some money, but the large number of people who still look there can still find them.
I’m a big fan of automatic tracking for your phone numbers. Just make sure that your front desk keeps asking new patients how they found out about the practice. And if your TV campaign is a significant investment, don’t be afraid to ask a direct question like, “Have you seen the doctor on TV?”. Every day my clients hear that patients found them through the internet. When the patient is directly asked if they ever heard the doctor on the radio, they often hear, “Oh yes. I’ve been hearing him for years. That’s why I went to the web site.”
June was not a great month for dentists. There are no absolutes in this business, and some practices did well. But by and large, I saw more disappointing production months this past June than in any single month this decade. It was like an epidemic.
Some practices responded by suspending their advertising “until the economy improves”. This is a defensive reaction that reduces the monthly “nut”, but is unlikely to cause positive change in the bottom line. Practices that did this are still turtled up, waiting for outside forces to change their bottom line.
When business goes south, marketing is an attractive first target for budget cuts. That’s backwards thinking however. Marketing is an investment that generates income, not an expense that should be viewed as a luxury or discretionary.
The efficient marketer realizes that ROI success and failure is measured over years, not just a month at a time. Your long term efforts are rewarded by an established position in the mind of the consumer. People still need dentistry, even if some are postponing purely cosmetic procedures. Don’t be the office that disappears. Be the practice that’s been around forever – the one everyone knows. You do that with consistency.
The dental practices who maintained or increased their marketing after the tough month of June rebounded with a strong July. This illustrates the wisdom of long-term planning, and confirms the efficiency of sticking to a plan. Yes we need to track, evaluate and adapt – and we don’t throw good money after bad being stubborn. But a good plan remains a good plan, and a bad month doesn’t change that.
I have clients spending as little as $1000 a month and as much as $20,000 a month on radio advertising. Both of these are exceptional cases, and you’ll most likely have a budget somewhere in between. Most of my dental clients start with budgets between $2500 and $5000 a month.
That may sound expensive, especially when you multiply by twelve to see your annual spending. Maybe you think you can’t afford it. But if it is done right, there is no such thing as advertising that is too expensive. If it gets you the expected return, advertising is an investment, not an expense.
Proper planning, that views advertising like an investment, will budget advertising dollars for the course of the year in the same way that you should be funding all your investments. Marketing is not something you spend money on when there is a little extra at the end of the month. You need to make a long-term plan, commit to it, and stick with it.
So sure, $5000 a month does add up to $60,000 a year. That same campaign, if properly planned, should add a minimum of a quarter-million to your production that same year – and likely much more. Can you afford that?
Many dentists hesitate to start an ad campaign on the radio because of fear. They fear that the campaign won’t be cost-effective, that the public will be offended by their campaign, and that the local dental community will be displeased.
If you know what you’re doing, the campaign will be cost-effective. Radio campaigns can be extremely profitable for dental practices. No ad campaign offers 100% guarantees, but smartly designed and well executed plans have proven successful for thousands of dentists. If you know your target market and efficiently reach them with a compelling message, you have a good chance of success too.
I have executed radio campaigns for hundreds of dentists, and I have never seen any appreciable public backlash to a dentist advertising on the radio. If your message is appropriate and respectful, you will actually get compliments.
But your peers may hate you. Advertising on the radio still feels unconventional to old-school dentists, and some of these guys have been resisting every new media since dentists started appearing in the yellow pages. Some dentists will also dislike your ads out of a feeling of self-preservation. Orthodontists sometimes feel threatened by Invisalign and “Six-Month Braces”; many oral surgeons fear competition from dentists using sedation; and even general dentists may worry about losing business to the guy who just started speaking to the community over the airwaves, when he couldn’t or wouldn’t do it himself.
You can’t worry about those guys. You didn’t start advertising to win a popularity contest. You did it to grow your business by letting the community know about the services you have to offer. If another dentist feels threatened by this – that is their problem, not yours.
Last month my media buyer presented her recommendations to a dentist who was new to radio advertising. His market is relatively small, so the budget allowed us to use three different stations. Two of the stations made sense to him, but he hesitated to accept our recommendation for the third, saying, “Nobody listens to that station.”
What he was really saying was, “I don’t listen to that station and neither do the ladies in the office.” Since they don’t listen to it, they all assumed that nobody else did either. Now this kind of anecdotal evidence has some value, especially in smaller markets where accurate statistics aren’t as easy to come by. But personal preference, and the listening habits of friends and family, should not be the the main factors in your decision.
Here’s the right way to do it: Decide who you need to reach, and then find out what stations they listen to. If your target is soccer moms, you’ll find that they tend to listen to different stations than middle-aged businessmen.
Hundreds of markets are carefully tracked, some up to four times a year, to see who’s listening to each station. This tracking collects an enormous amount of information, but the most important to you are age, sex and wealth. Analyze this to find out where your target patients are. Make a list of the five best stations, and then compare rates to see which is the most efficient.
I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh myself, but I’m a big fan of his results for my clients. His program attracts high income 35-64 year-olds that I’m looking for in many of my campaigns. The point is this – it doesn’t matter what you like, it just matters where the right customers are.
By the way, that third station, that the dentist resisted, generated more than half of his phone calls last month.
You get what you pay for. Radio advertising offers a good example.
Radio stations base their rates on the size of their listenership. Typically 80% of their audience can be reached during the “prime time” of 6am to 7pm on weekdays. Correspondingly, this is the most expensive time to advertise. The “off hours” of weekday evenings, overnights and weekends have smaller audiences and are sold less expensively. They are cheaper because less people are listening.
Radio stations still need to sell this time. To do so, they often establish “packages” that contain little or no “prime” and a good deal of the nights and weekends. On paper, and especially to the untrained eye, these deals look good. If the station sells time for up to $200 per minute, a package with an average rate of $50 looks like a steal. The efficient marketer, however, needs to make sure that he is not comparing apples to oranges. $50 is less than $200 obviously, but does it offer the same bang for the buck?
Experienced media buyers determine the value of commercial time by analyzing statistics like cost-per thousand (CPM) and cost per point (CPP). These figures illustrate the price per listener, which is the key number. Even more important is the price per target listener. Your plan to reach middle-aged women cannot be efficiently executed if the listeners are largely teenage boys. When you examine a potential schedule, you need to look for the times where your money will work the hardest. It’s quite likely that the $200 spot in prime time will reach more than four times the target audience than the $50 off-hour commercial.
Let me be clear on a one thing. Non-prime commercials can be an effective part of your campaign. I use them all the time to build frequency in campaigns that use mostly prime time. Some campaigns can be efficiently built on broad rotators, which run through all days and dayparts. You just need to be clear on what the time is worth to get the most for your money. And remember that cheaper is not always better.
Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear that results will take time. When you spend thousands of dollars on something, it’s only natural to want a return as soon as possible. But marketing is really more of a marathon than a sprint. The best results come over time.
It’s not unheard of for an advertising campaign to produce an immediate return, but that’s usually the exception to the rule. We hope for short-term response, but we plan for long-term results. Keep this in mind when you chooses among your marketing options. Once you pick your method, give the media enough time to produce. In most cases, the approach of “I’ll do this for a couple months and see how it goes” is a mistake and a waste of money.
Why are results better over the long run? One of the main reasons is because consumers are likely to need multiple exposures to a message before they respond. Radio advertising provides a good example. Radio is a frequency medium, which means it works best when your ad makes repeated impressions on the same listener. It can be expensive to make multiple impressions on a listener, especially in the larger markets, so it’s important to buy a station that you can afford. If you can’t afford to commit for at least six months, then you need to pick a less expensive station or put off radio until such a commitment is realistic.
One good media buyer I know tells his clients, “In the first month, you’re going to lose a (heck) of alot of money. In the second month you’ll lose a little less. By the fourth or fifth month, you’ll start breaking even. And after six months, you’ll start making alot of money.” Now that first part might sound a little bleak, but if you’re planning long term, your investment won’t be evaluated by early results. At the end of the year the aggregated profit over the months should more than make up for a slow start.
I’ve seen dentists get multiple new patients the first day they ran a radio ad. That’s great for morale, but it’s not necessary for a successful campaign. Some of the best campaigns have started slow and built up over time. Make sure you choose marketing methods that reflect this reality, and that your decisions are made for the long-term.
I’m not a media buyer. While I understand radio and tv more than most, and I have done some media buying, it is not my strength. Whenever possible, I like to rely on experts to do things that I don’t do as well. If you rely on someone else to design your website, do your taxes, or fix your car, you can understand my logic here.
Buying commercial time on radio and tv is not unlike buying a car, in that it is very common for two customers to pay very different prices for the exact same thing. The radio or tv station has a rate card that is the equivalent of a “sticker price”. The typical customer knows intuitively that they don’t have to pay sticker price, but is often unsure what price is fair. Those armed with the most knowledge, research, experience and negotiating ability will usually get the best deal. If you bought new cars for a living, eventually you would be pretty confident that you could strike a very good deal for yourself every time. But you don’t buy cars for a living, and you don’t buy media professionally either. Neither do I.
I use a media buyer. When my clients buy commercial time, I know they’ll get a good rate because my media buyer knows exactly what the time is worth. She’s represented hundreds of dentists on hundreds of stations in hundreds of markets across the country. When she negotiates a price, she uses years of experience and extremely accurate and detailed ratings data to determine what price is efficient and fair.
Price is just one factor in the media buy. Other considerations include the demographic composition of the market’s radio stations, the format of the programming, the time of day to effectively reach the advertiser’s target market. So in addition to cost, a good media buyer can help you figure out where and when to advertise – and how much advertising is enough.
One benefit to using a media buyer that I cannot stress enough is their objectivity. They are only interested in your needs, not the needs of the various stations we must choose between. Consider the car buying example again, because the representatives of a radio station have much in common with car salesmen. They believe in their product, they try to get the best price since their commision depends on it, and they don’t get paid if you buy from their competitor instead of them. I used to sell radio, and I have no issue with car salesmen. Both can be an invaluable resource, but you don’t want either to be your sole source of information.
Radio can’t sell everything, but we know it can sell high-end dentistry. Any dental advertiser who says, “radio doesn’t work,” used it wrong.
The first element to successful radio advertising is picking the right audience. This is done by selecting the proper radio station and the appropriate time of day to reach your target demographic.
Next you need to find the right frequency. Radio is a frequency medium. Your results get better as time goes on, and you make repeated impressions on the same listener. Media buyers have different opinions as to how many commercials, or spots, is enough. The key is too spend enough without wasting money. Underfunding a campaign is inefficient. If you can’t afford enough frequency on the most popular station in town, pick one you can afford or use another medium besides radio.
The most important element to a successful radio campaign is the message. This includes the words, the voice, the music and the length of the commercial. Remember that we’re not trying to win awards for the most clever commercial – the only thing that matters is that the audience we are targeting picks up the phone and makes the call. The simplest sounding commercial often outproduces the slick polished spot with the smooth voice and the professional jingle. Don’t take your eye off the ball here. It’s not important that your staff friends and family all “like” your new commercial. The only thing that matters is whether the commercial generates income.
I sold talk radio for years, so I have to admit that I have a soft spot for it. But it’s the closest thing to perfect for an advertiser who’s marketing a high-end service or product.
Ok, I know it has flaws. For one, it’s audience can be too old. Don’t get me wrong – seniors make great patients, and I certainly want to reach them – just not only them. Before you set your sights on a talker, make sure that the 65+ audience is not all they have. That’s too limiting, and probably won’t give you the return you’re looking for unless your selling a senior-focused product, like dentures.
Another potential weakness is the fact that talk typically draws an audience that is 55% male. This totally flies in the face of the conventional dental marketing mantra – “always market to women”. Like all generalizations, marketing to women makes sense to a point. There’s no denying that women make more dental decisions for the family than men do. I’m certainly not going to advocate sports-talk with it’s 85% male audience. But conventional thinking gets you conventional results. Think outside the box. The stations that attract female audiences are disproportionately expensive and attract all the other dental advertisers. Besides, you shouldn’t be too concerned about “family” dental decisions because you shouldn’t be using radio to advertise for general dentistry anyway. There’s much better tools for that (like direct mail, for instance). Radio is more well suited for targeted campaigns to sell high-dollar dental services.
Despite the flaws I’ve mentioned, talk radio is still the first format I look to in most markets. The demographic is perfect, hitting squarely in the 35-64 age group, with particularly high household income levels. These people have the two things you’re looking for: the need for your services and the cash or credit to pay for it.
Talk radio also has the advantage of being a foreground format – people who listen to talk are actually listening, not using the sound for ambience or background noise. We call talk fans “active listeners” because they are paying attention to the content, and are more likely to pay attention to the commercials too.
Talk listeners don’t flip around during commercials either. They are invested in the programs they listen to, and each show is relatively unique. For example, Rush Limbaugh is only on one station in the market. If you’re a Dittohead, you’re not flipping stations when he takes a break. Music listeners flip all the time, especially if the station they are listening to doesn’t have an exclusive format. If you’re a country music fan, you can flip back and forth between the two country stations and miss most of the commercials.
Marketing is all about efficiency. In most instances, talk will be your most efficient radio option.