Go for Radio (Credit: Timothy King)

If you thought that direct response radio was fading out, remember the phrase coined by Mark Twain: “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Truth is, direct response radio is still a powerful medium and can be an integral part of an overall direct response strategy for many products and services.
The 2 Secret Truths of Direct Response Radio
First of all, you should know direct response radio is growing, not shrinking. Last year, in both traditional and satellite radio, direct response radio spending increased.
Direct Response Radio Has Powerful New Advantages
Radio has become much more segmented, so you can target your audience.
If you’re thinking about radio advertising, here are 15 tips I use to ensure profits and success:

  1. Music or talk radio?

Take into account not only the demographics (and psychographics) of the station, but consider whether or not the station is talk-radio based (“foreground” programming) or music based (“background” programming)
In general, foreground programming (talk shows, Christian stations, sports and news stations) tend to produce the best response and ROI.

  1. Consider your product and service.

Products with the highest response rates tend to be health/beauty/drug products, investment products, business supplies, and tech products. And the list can go on.
Call me and I can give you an assessment of possible risks and rewards for different product categories.

  1. Ask if the station has an ad line.

An ad line is a service provided by the radio station that enables callers to phone in and request contact or ordering information on a product or service in which they’re interested.

  1. Avoid “two-step” commercials.

Two step commercials are ads which direct listeners to look for an ad in a newspaper or online. Instead, send them to a specially created direct response landing page and a Toll-Free number. You may also want to tease an incentive for visiting the site such as a bonus coupon or a limited-time offer.

  1. Consider your placement.

Many music stations only break once an hour for 15 minutes of ads, rather than spreading out ad time. Try to place your ad first in the series. They pull the best response. Ads toward the end of the break are four times less likely to be heard.

  1. Consider opening your ad with music.

If you’re advertising on a music station, one trick to keep people from flipping stations is to open up your ad with music, then quickly fade into your ad copy. Studies show drivers distracted by the road will be less likely to notice the transition between music and, and they won’t flip the  channel immediately.

  1. Choose formats with growth, when applicable.

Country music, Hispanic programming, religious programming and business/investment news are the four radio markets with the biggest growth. If your product or service fits one of these markets, consider using one of those stations.

  1. Think about a “live” ad.

If your station or network of choice has a popular radio personality, inquire about him or her making a live sales pitch for your product. You could increase response significantly over a produced ad. If the station or network doesn’t have a strong on-air personality, use a well-produced commercial, but in general I always opt for a live read.
Another option is to get a station’s popular personality to record the ad in the studio, then use it like a live ad.

  1. Avoid using celebrity talent.

With the exception of on-air talent, I recommend avoiding the use of celebrities. They are generally expensive and the slight rise in response may not justify the large added fee and negotiation costs.

  1. Make sure your contact information is prominent.

Dedicate at least 25% of your ad run time on the closing statement and contact information. If your prospects don’t know how to reach you, your ad will be a failure.

  1. Use memorable Toll-Free numbers.

Studies show there is an increase in response from Toll-Free numbers that spell out words, such as 1-800-DENTIST, and a URL that is simple and easy to remember.

  1. Produce your ads outside the station.

You may be asked if you want the radio station to produce your ads. This is generally a mistake. They may promise high production values (and may offer to produce it for cheap or even free if the media buy is big enough), but a radio station will most likely create an “image” ad that does not follow proper direct response techniques, leading to a harmful decrease in your response—and most likely a failed ad.

  1. The more you tell, the more you sell.

Tip: The most successful direct response ads are 60-second and 120-second ads and 30-minute infomercials. In general, 15-second and 30-second spots will bring you less response.

  1. Use a direct response advertising agency.

Not only will a good direct response agency help you properly create your ad, it will help you research which techs are right for your product or service and you negotiate the best ad rates.
You’ll also get the benefits that come from the time-tested direct marketing methods like effective direct response motivational copy, proper placement of the offer and response information, key strategy differences between sales commercials and lead-generation commercials, etc.

  1. And always make sure you test!

Be sure to create at least two ads and test response rates, just like you would a direct mail piece or Internet landing page. Testing will always help ensure you’re getting the best possible response for your marketing dollar.
A final note: marketers should be aware that radio can present a special problem—lack of time availability on the best stations. With the new resurgent popularity of radio, experts are predicting less time and higher rates for marketers. Be sure and do your ad rate comparisons or, even better, hire a direct marketing agency to negotiate better rates for you.
Below, you will find the Top Ten Radio Formats for 2015:

Rank Format P6+ Share
1 News/Talk 8.90%
2 Pop Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) 8.20%
3 Country* 7.90%
4 Adult Contemporary (AC) 7.40%
5 Hot Adult Contemporary (AC) 6.70%
6 Classic Hits 5.30%
7 Classic Rock 5.20%
8 Urban Adult Contemporary (AC) 4.90%
9 Sports 4.70%
10 Urban Contemporary 3.50%

(Source: Nielson.com)
If you need help with your copy or want advise on expanding your campaign to direct response radio, please call me at (310) 212-5727 or email me at craig@cdmginc.com.