Anyone my age who has taken an advertising course or worked in marketing knows the 4 Ps of a marketing mix, first popularized in the 1950s by Harvard advertising professor Neil Borden. They are:
- Product – the good or service
- Price — how much a customer pays for said good or service
- Square — the places where a product is marketed, physically and via positioning
- Promotion — your advertising, public relations and promotion strategy
Orchestrating these Ps as part of an overall marketing strategy ensures that any good or service you have to offer is sought after, perceived positively in the public eye, priced appropriately, and promoted to the best target audience possible. .
A long time ago, I sat across the desk, as the director of marketing and communications for a local nonprofit arts organization. I have purchased newspapers, magazines, public radio, direct mail, event sponsorships, outdoor advertisements and more. I have always considered these factors before investing in media.
These days, selling public radio, I still consider the 4 Ps, but from the perspective of how my product/service meets the needs of our prospects and customers. I also realized that in media sales, the 4 Rs are just as important. They are:
Relationships. I am not a transactional seller. I am a partner. My goal is to follow, offer more and provide value in the form of shared ideas, related content, leads and publicity, in addition to our on-air spots, event sponsorships and online advertisements. Whether a promoter or venue is investing in a campaign with us, I always encourage them to list their events on WDAV’s online calendar. It’s free and easy. In fact, I often share a list of other free event calendars.
Occasionally, we may help get newsworthy articles featured in our weekly e-newsletter or arrange interviews of artists or organization leaders with WDAV hosts or for our Arts of Piedmont podcast. Finally, when time permits, we are happy to record and broadcast customer testimonials on air.
Renewals. Keeping promises, delivering ROI and doing the right thing translates to renewed business. Remarkably, WDAV has several second generation supporters. The sons and daughters of the original business owners still sponsor the station through fundraising campaigns, not out of tradition, but because it makes everything else they do to promote their business that much better.
The day you start selling is the day you start losing customers. A company merges with another or is taken over by a larger national organization; your contact leaves the company; the landscape of your industry is reshaped by a disruptor; or God forbid, recessions or natural disasters occur. I’ve been through all of these things and more, but if you’re consistently losing more than 10% of your customers, the quality of your business relationships may be the problem. Which brings us to the 3rd R.
Reputation. You only have one. Build your reputation brick by brick and protect it like your livelihood depends on it, because it absolutely does. In terms of intimacy, we all relate to each other, Charlotte, NC is a relatively small city. This is even more true in the age of the Internet, but also with regard to our networking, our socializing, our volunteering and the use of social media. If you and your organization aren’t actively doing things to give back to the community, you’re both conspicuous by your absence.
A non-profit organization in its own right, WDAV has always offered non-profit organizations a deep discount and, when exchange opportunities exist, frequently offers additional seats to bolster paid schedules. Throughout the pandemic, the station had unsold inventory on the air and gave free 90-day airtime to a dozen local nonprofits working in the DEI space. Nonprofits are also, almost exclusively, the focus of our podcast and live interviews.
References. Without a referral pipeline, you struggle. When they happen organically, it’s often because of the aforementioned R’s. I’m a bit of a dinosaur because I still love cold calling and prospecting. Prospecting and cold calling is my job equivalent to the thrill of the hunt, but nothing beats referrals. Here and elsewhere, a significant part of my new business has been generated through referrals.
I’m happy to work with some clients for decades after getting to know them while I was with old media. I also like the fact that over the years with some organizations I have had multiple contacts working in the same industry. It’s even better when a media buyer moves into a new company or organization and calls you as soon as they’ve settled into their new role.
I don’t ask for references. I have just followed the advice of Don Brannan, one of the first mentors of The Charlotte Observer, who said, “Don’t worry about the money. Worry about the best interests of customers, and the money will come. And while I don’t expect my 4 Rs to become legendary, like Neil Borden’s 4 Ps, I wish someone had shared them with me when I started selling media. If they help certain new media sellers succeed and prosper, that’s fine with me.
Jay Ahuja moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1986 and lives there with his wife, Karen, and their two dogs. He was the top earner for WFAE 90.7FM, Charlotte’s NPR radio station, for eight years and before that worked for The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte magazine and the Community School of the Arts. Jay is the author of two sports travel guides and has served on the Charlotte Advisory Board of the North Carolina Outward Bound School since 2008.