by Tracy Johnson
It’s the Holy Grail of radio programming: How can we convert cume to fans? After all, fans have infinitely more value in time spent listening and actual revenue, as proven here. Stations spend a lot of time figuring out a strategy, but what if much of it is a waste of time? What if the key to winning fans is based on chaos theory?
This is true: If a station could just find a way to convert more of our reach into loyal, passionate P1’s, we’d dominate ratings. As much as 90% of listening comes from just 10% of the audience. So what would happen if that 10% became 20%? A rating explosion.
Nurturing relationships with listeners takes time, of course, and it’s not easy to convince listeners to fall in love with a radio brand.
But other than wringing hands, wishing, and hoping the ratings service gods smile each month, what’s a manager to do?
Here’s a unique approach, based on a mathematical concept that appears in nature and increasingly in marketing, advertising, and social media.
A foraging animal tends to stay in a relatively small area, hunting for food or grazing on grass. When it has used up the source of food, it will move on in a seemingly random direction searching out a new spot. And so on.
However, study it in greater detail, and it is not nearly as random as it appears.
The pattern is called the Levy Flight, named after founder Paul Levy. It’s a complex formula that can be summarized as:
A random walk in which the steps are defined in terms of the step-lengths, which have a certain probability distribution, with the directions of the steps being isotropic and random.
Confused? Yeah, me too. Suffice to say that the Levy Flight defines what seems to be a chaotic, random pattern.
When you plot the Levy flight, it looks like this:
How does this apply to the radio business? And how can it attract more fans?
Here’s an example:
A listener discovers a radio show by hitting the scan button on a car radio or being in a car with a friend that has a station tuned in. They like what they hear and start tuning in on their own, perhaps even adding a preset.
Soon, they return. If they like it, they come back again…and again. They are not fans yet, but are heavier users. The station is gaining momentum with a listener.
Then, one day, they feel there is no more benefit. They’ve heard everything. The show sounds the same day after day. They’re no longer engaged or surprised. It’s like the cattle after the grass has all been eaten. Time to move on.
And so they do. They’re off looking for something fresh and different. Hunting for food in a new place.
Now, if that listener happens to have a meter or diary, you have a big problem.
The key is to convert the listener to become a fan.
Applying this strategy to the radio is simple, but not as easy as you might think. Here are three ways to apply it:
Never stop creating, innovating, and evolving.
Be consistent, of course, but just as Disney constantly updates their attractions, radio should be a living, breathing evolution of entertainment. Don’t let programming become predictable and boring.
Some of the world’s best marketers retire great campaigns only to bring them back from time to time. That’s how Starbucks turns cume to fans with the Treat Receipt promotion explained here.
Converting shoppers to loyal customers is also the driving force behind Amazon Prime Day. It’s basically special event programming designed to excite customers with incentives to become fans. In Amazon’s case, members of Prime.
Radio is uniquely suited for a more creative approach in a similar way. Instead of setting a feature or contest and letting it run on autopilot, why not innovate?
Listeners don’t leave a station to get the food they need to stay alive. They’re just seeking relief from boredom.
And just as restaurants lose loyalty when they become less Top of Mind, it’s critical to stay in touch with listeners. That’s especially the case for individuals that make up the majority of your quarter hours. In other words, super-listeners!
That’s why a database strategy should be an important part of every radio station marketing plan. It’s not hard to do, nor is it expensive. In fact, this idea can build a fan base and it costs nothing.
A fan has great value, and not that many are needed to win The Ratings Game. Close to 90% of listening comes from about 10% of the audience. Factor in those who are most likely to respond to ratings services, it’s even more concentrated.
Many listen, but relatively few are the type of listeners (demographic, geographic, psychographic) that have the potential to become part of that core. But you can find the best with a smart database marketing strategy.
Start by identifying qualitative traits the brand wishes to appeal to. Then find audience members with those traits and promote to them on and off the air.
Recruiting those folks to a deeper relationship should be a primary objective. Design every element to win their loyalty through fan marketing.
A great example of fan marketing is demonstrated here.
Understanding the nuances of consumer behavior changes the challenge of increasing brand loyalty. It’s not a race to the biggest cume, most Facebook fans or the most video views.
It’s about finding the few true fans that will become the key to future success. Listeners are available to be converted into fans. Adjust strategies and find ways to keep them from wandering off!
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