The Convenience Store Medium

You know the fantasy about how people listen.

Our biggest fans leave our station on for hours at a time; they pay rapt attention; and the problem is that they get bored with what we do, and want more and different stuff from us.  For lots of radio folks, this fantasy is real to them.  Unfortunately, it’s not at all how our most important listeners actually listen.

This is the biggest issue for radio brand management these days.  Across all delivery platforms.

Our fans don’t have enough time to spend with us.  Even if someone really enjoys your station, odds are they listen in short 10-15 minute bursts.  They will come back again and again … and they come back because you reliably act a certain way.  The stuff that you do that you may be totally bored with is what keeps them coming back over and over and over again.

We see the same attitude in the digital world.  We thrown tons of content and clutter on our websites, much of which has little to do with our basic brands, and make it difficult to find what’s really drawing people there in the first place.

Then, in social media, we’ll chatter at them about a wide range of subjects … sometimes, everything except what they love about us in the first place!

So here’s a model on which to base 21st Century Radio Brand Management.  The lowly convenience store.

If you talk to convenience store experts, there are three things that drive their success.  All three of these pertain to running a radio brand.

1.  STOCK ONLY THE MOST POPULAR STUFF. Convenience stores don’t sell everything; they sell what you are most likely to want when you walk in the door.  They spend a lot of time, money and energy tracking what gets sold, and what deserves to be on their shelves.

Whether it’s songs on the radio, content you put on the website, or games you play at on-site appearances, stick to the best stuff.  Your fans don’t have time to waste.  The reliability of the experience and feeling they get from you now will determine whether they come back next time.  When you start to feel that urge to branch out because your fans are getting bored, slap yourself silly.

You track your audience ratings.  Do you track your online stats?  What pages on your website get the most consistent hits?  Are you promoting those on the air?  Are you pushing those in your social media?  Where on your website do people go after they look at your most popular pages?  How many people come to your website from your Facebook page or your Twitter feed?

All that stuff might affect how and when you reach your goals, huh?  ACTION ALERT: When it comes to digital … take stuff off the front page of your website when you put new stuff on.

2.  EASY TO FIND, GET INTO AND GET OUT OF. For convenience stores, this is a traffic-pattern and real estate issue.

For radio, it’s partly technical … can people hear your signal?  Can they load your website fast enough, and find their way around it?

It’s mostly about content and promotion.  Do you have a clear image they remember, and do they know and believe in the benefits of listening to you?  Do they get instant gratification with the good stuff as soon as they show up?  We learned a gazillion years ago from Trout & Reis that our battles take place not on the radio, but in the minds of our listeners.

Building the amount of listening you get is not about keeping people around, it’s about keeping people coming back.  Similarly, if it’s frustrating finding things at your website, you’ll have fewer repeat visitors.  And if you train me that your social media is unfocused, I’m likely to ignore it, or maybe even hide it.

Put more positively, you delight your fans when they get exactly what they wanted from you when they turn you on, or log into your site.  That way, you make it more likely they’ll come back and find you next time.  ACTION ALERT: On your website and in social media … highlight and promote what your fans really think fits with your brand.

3.  FRIENDLY, HELPFUL, REAL PEOPLE. This is something many industries, including convenience stores and radio brands, struggle with.  You may have seen the episode of CBS’s “Undercover Boss” where it turns out that 7-11 store that sells the most coffee does so because of the clerk who’s there every morning.  Without wasting any time while getting her customers their coffee, she makes a human connection by remembering their names and being social and positive.

Isn’t that a metaphor for a great jock on a music station?  They don’t waste any time.  Yet, their style is so real and so totally fits the station brand that you can’t help but like them.  Even if you don’t know their name!  It’s not that they offer such stunning content … they make a connection; they engage.  That’s what social media is about, which is one reason that one-way radio communicators have a hard time embracing it.

You don’t have to talk a lot on the radio to make a difference.  People know within seconds if they like you or not.  Talking more won’t change that.

Also, do your fans have access to your friendly, helpful, real people?  In other words … is there a way to use the website or a phone line or social media to reach a real person who’ll respond?  Do you care about the individual, or just how you score with the big masses of folks?  ACTION ALERT: Call the number you give out to listeners.  Use the email link from the website.  Get someone to post a question on your brand’s social media page.  What reaction do you get?  How do you feel about what happened?

So … what do you think?  How do you rate yourself on these three points?

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