“We’re launching a new network up against yours. We just thought you should know. And for the record, we won’t change our minds.”
That’s three sentences from an email PAR actually received when a competitor moved into a market that we serve.
Yes, that actually happened.
My first step was to tell the PAR team that a new competitor had arrived and inspire them to believe that we could still win.
That plan was going great until the new network dropped no fewer than 25 billboards on top of us.
One billboard was less than 300 yards from our studio.
Again, I gathered the team and helped them see a brighter tomorrow.
PAR would win. We just had to stay focused on our mission and vision.
There was another looming issue.
We also had billboards and social media marketing. Do we increase the budget for that? How do we combat the blitz of 25 billboards?
Then, I listened to the competitor’s product.
It wasn’t as good as PAR.
They had dropped 25 billboards on top of us advertising a product that wasn’t ready for primetime.
So, I took a risk.
I made the choice to take down our marketing.
I called our Marketing Agency and told them to take down every single billboard and stop all social media and online ads.
I wanted the audience to taste the new network.
By tasting the product before it was ready, the audience would hopefully come back to PAR.
We didn’t run any negative ads.
We didn’t run ads that even hinted at the new competitor.
We simply took our marketing campaign dark.
And it worked.
Ever since that decision, we’ve never lost market share.
As a matter of fact, we grew.
PAR has never launched a negative campaign against a competitor.
We’ve seen openings from weaknesses and walked through that door, but we’ve never whispered or campaigned against another station in any of our markets.
Do I believe in expansion? Yes.
What if a Christian station is already serving a market? Is it okay for another station or network to launch a second station? Yes.
Should we mock the competitor? No.
Should we launch a disinformation campaign? Absolutely not.
Let me say up front, I am no saint.
I have been angry and disappointed in the past.
(Note to all, I probably will be again in the future.)
I’ve said things I shouldn’t. I use words I shouldn’t use.
Again, a saint I am not.
In all of this expansion and confusion, are there some guardrails in which we can operate within as an industry? Yes.
Guardrail #1: We are followers of Jesus. Let’s act like it. There’s a famous story regarding Home Depot. When they were first getting off the ground, they would identify all the Mom-and-Pop hardware stores. As Home Depot would enter that town, they’d send the Mom-and-Pop shop a black wreath. It was a method of intimidation. Let’s not be those kind of people.
Guardrail #2: We’re doing ministry in a capitalist society. Anyone has the opportunity to start a radio ministry in the same market we’re serving. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. Embrace the fact that others will try to claim market share from you. And when it does happen, allow it to birth a fire in your belly and not be a dagger in your back that leads to defeat.
Guardrail #3: Adopt Amazon’s #1 Leadership Principle – Pay attention to competitors but obsess over customers. Be aware as to what your competition is doing. But obsess as to the music likes and dislikes of your listeners. Listen to your donors. Have music tests done. Ask donors what they love, what they dislike, and what hurdles they encounter listening and giving.
Guardrail #4: Compete cleanly. Don’t do a negative whisper campaign. Don’t antagonize the competition. Don’t do a live remote and go up to the competing station’s tent and tie your t-shirts all over their tent. (Yes, a competitor did that to PAR.) Don’t leave intimidating handwritten notes for your competitor. (Again, that’s happened to us.) Compete cleanly. Try to get exclusivity for events. Be better at marketing. Attempt to capture the highest ranking you can with SEO. If your competitor’s product isn’t as good as yours and they’re spending a ton of money on billboards, take yours down. Allow the listeners to experience that product and they’ll come back to yours and probably never leave. Why? People rarely go back to something that didn’t meet their expectations. Compete…but compete cleanly. Do it with class.
Guardrail #5: Help your team believe they can win. When a new competitor shows up, the team will be nervous. The huddled quiet conversations will begin. “Do you think they’ll do marketing? Who are their hosts? Will they hurt our fundraising? What is their coverage area compared to ours? Can we win? Will our jobs be okay?”
Your job? Inspire them. To do so, confront reality as it is. Help them understand the battle that is ahead. Share some steps that will be taken to guarantee that you just don’t hold market, you grow. Then paint a picture of what the future will look like. Help them see what victory looks like.
Please don’t hide behind platitudes.
What do I mean?
“Well brother, we just need to trust God more.”
“As long as we’re faithful, we’ll be successful.”
“God’s got this.”
Repeated spiritual platitudes are often a signal that a ministry’s culture is defined by laziness.
Does God have a plan? Yes.
Should we be faithful? Yep.
Is there a need to trust God more? Of course.
Remember, God promised Israel that they would occupy the land of Canaan.
That was a promise from God. It would happen.
But the pathway that promise took was a battle with the Amorites, Hittites and Canaanites…and so on.
Just because God promises something doesn’t mean there won’t be a battle that has to be won.
Inspire the troops.
Go win the battle.
Remember, easy never changed the world.
Brian Sanders is Executive Vice President of Positive Alternative Radio and author of Leadership Endurance, An Amazon #1 best seller. He makes his home in Christiansburg, VA with his wife, Kayla. For more on Brian, to purchase his book, or to consider him as speaker/trainer for your next virtual event, please visit www.briansandersauthor.com