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Tim McDermott “Marketing Truths”

Marketing truths to help you grow your organization

The year was 1991.  I was the Business Manager at KSBJ and my boss, Burt Perrault, was General Manager, working with the board on a marketing campaign.   He and his wife Patsy, who owned a highly respected advertising agency, persuaded the board to launch a Public Awareness Campaign.  Although inside the station we “knew” that everyone was aware of KSBJ, the data showed something else.  According to research, 20% of Houston would listen to KSBJ if they knew about us. Only 119,000 out of 4 million people were listening, so we believed we could grow our audience if they just knew.   Burt ended up leaving the station to start what would be a very successful nationwide CCM satellite network (Morningstar) and the campaign landed in my lap as the new General Manager.   After much discussion, we tried this crazy messaging idea – which at the time didn’t have much enthusiasm. It was largely the creative genius of Ellie Malavis and  “God Listens” was born. The other campaign message ideas included “Adam and Eve Should Have Listened”,  “Good Thing Noah Listened”,  and “Wise Men Still Listen.”   The very week the billboards went up,  the audience doubled to over 237,000.  Eventually, the audience climbed consistently to over 850,000-900,000 people.


I believe in good marketing. The only thing worse than no marketing is bad marketing.  Over my career, I have learned some lessons about marketing – and some the hard way.  Here are just a few truths I know first hand.


1. The message is what matters most. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or how many ads – the message is most important.  As much as you may have creative people in your organization, this is one area where you can’t shortcut.  Hire a pro! An outsider. They are gifted.   It’s worth every dollar you spend.  There’s nothing more wasteful than spending thousands of dollars for a flat message (“Our station. Check it Out!”)  I have also learned guys like cute and clever ads.   But if you are targeting women,  they don’t want that.  A straight forward message is more effective.


2. If you start a billboard campaign, don’t stop it or you will slide back and it will cost you more to regain that same audience. When you start and stop, it’s like 3 steps forward 1 step back. I didn’t believe it and then I experienced it first hand.  If you want constant growth then you need consistent long-term marketing.  When you stop, expect a drop.


3. Keep your logo, colors and font consistent. Look at the Tide Box.  Over the years many “experts” have suggested changing the colors.  But Tide hasn’t and they continue to be the worldwide leader.  I know instances where familiar brand colors were dramatically changed to “freshen” things up, but the result was just the opposite.  The message didn’t connect.   I have seen  many stations where the logo on the website was different from the one on the station van and letterhead and marketing campaign.   Be consistent on all your platforms.


4. Be aware of “donated” campaigns. As nonprofits, we love when professionals donate their services to us.  Unless it is written down up front stating otherwise, anything created by a person is their work.  They own it. Even if their time is donated, their product might not be.   Make sure it is clear both the product and the service are donated.


5. Every time you start marketing in a new medium, you will see a jump in reach. Don’t expect the same increase when you continue in the medium.   It’s easy to think the same amount of money in the same medium will yield the same result, but it won’t.


6. You are most likely to have listeners sample your station after lunch or in the afternoon. Mornings are times of habits and it’s hard to pick up new listeners then.  But after lunch – that’s a different story.  Make sure you have great programming on to welcome them to your station.


7. Spend the money to do it right. You know you wouldn’t run two announcements on your station and expect everyone to hear the message.  The same goes for advertising.  Make sure you are buying enough television, billboards or social media to reach the audience.  If you don’t have enough money for TV, consider saving money over 2-3 years until you do.  Also, with TV you may have royalty rights you have to pay each time you run the campaign.  If you do billboards,  buy enough to cover your market.  At some point, the law of diminishing return kicks in.   In other words,  buying 6 rotating boards may cover 90% of the market and buying a seventh just gives you 2 percent more coverage.   Looking at the numbers is part of good stewardship.


In Broadcast Leadership for over 40 years, Tim is now a consultant working with GMs/CEOs and nonprofit leaders helping them solve challenges.  He can be reached at Tim@TimMcDermottConsulting.com

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