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Paul Weyland

How to Bring Rates Back Up


From the movie Back to the Future (in 1955, TAB and Pepsi Free arent invented yet):

Server -- You gonna order something?
Marty McFly -- Ahyeah, give me a TAB.
Server --  I cant give you a tab unless you order something.
Marty McFly -- Then give me a Pepsi Free.
Server -- If you want a Pepsi PAL, youre gonna pay for it!

Cheap rate packages are keeping broadcast stations from reaching their short- and long-term revenue potentials. In markets all across the country, rate structures are cratering, with prices dropping in some cases back to early-1980s levels.

Its all about supply and demand in a saturated media environment and a recessive economy, is the convenient but short-sighted reason for pants-dropping. Because, as we all know, spoiling local clients (and their little blood-sucking advertising agencies) for the short-term also spoils them for the long-term. In other words, selling cheap packages for just this one time is how we create rate-contentious clients for life.

Smart broadcast sellers advise their clients against spending 95 percent of their advertising dollars on sales events, going after the worst, most disloyal three percent of bottom-feeders who will only buy the merchant with the lowest price. Yet, here we are doing precisely the same thing with our special packages.

So, how do we get rates back up? We go back to the future.

We go back to the good old days of professional broadcasting, back when we had to bring good creative ideas to the table because the clients were not capable of coming up with the same quality of creative on their own (theyre still unqualified in the creative area to this day). We show clients how to identify and solve consumer problems in the consumers own language, to drive business to the client without having to sacrifice the clients price. We show the client why its in their best interest to get away from clown car clich-infested, Crapmaster commercials and get back to deep-sell marketing strategies that solve actual consumer problems.

We do detailed return-on-investment calculations with clients, using their gross margins of profit and their average sales against our total CUME numbers, not fragments of numbers, not with CPP, just like we used to do in the Golden Age of Broadcasting, for the following reasons:

-- So that clients know without a shadow of a doubt that doing business with us is a good, calculated risk rather than a gamble. Based on your average sale of $___ and your gross margin of ___ percent, wed have to bring you ___ new customers per week in order for you to break even. Based on our weekly audience of ______ thousand people that means we could fill up ______Arena ______times, and out of all of those people we would only have to sell ____. If we sold ____ people, that would be a 50 percent return on advertising investment. Looks like a good, calculated risk to me.

-- So that we can manage their expectations about results. If you dont do the ROI analysis, you and the client are not on the same page about how many new customers the client needs to break even. Thats when you get the surprise phone call, Cancel my advertising. Its not working. Based on what? Thats anybodys guess.

-- So that we can double or triple what they feel comfortable spending on your station. Once clients understand return on investment and how few new customers they really have to sell to break even, they may opt to spend much more money with you. We should be establishing the cost, not them. Would you make your decision on what attorney, accountant, or surgeon to hire based solely on who had the cheapest price? I hope not. If your doctor told you that you needed open-heart surgery, would he ever say, By the way, whats your budget for this? No, of course not. Umcould you do me for about $400? Why, yes, we could. Of course the surgery will seem like an Aztec sacrifice to you, with no anesthesia and all, but we could do it!

-- Just like back in the Olden Days, we steer conversation away from our price and back to the value that we bring to them as professional advertising consultants. When sold correctly, value always supersedes price.

-- We think bigger, not smaller, even in a recession. The broadcasting industry has been through recessions (and depressions) before. There is no question, even in our current economic situation, that bigger proposals get more client attention and consideration than the little dinky ones. Of all of the vendor proposals pitched to clients, ours are usually among the smallest, hence worth the least amount of the clients valuable time and consideration. No more small-ball.

-- We invest in training our salespeople in the art of creative thinking so that they can use intelligent headlines to get appointments with key decision-makers, pitch million-dollar ideas, handle objections like professional people, and close long-term agreements for more money at higher rates (Hellooooooo!).

-- We stop sales turnover by paying our sellers a living wage so they can concentrate their time and energy on our business, instead spending their time looking for another job just so they can pay their bills.

When clients bring up other stations cheap rates and packages, remind them that there is a lot more at stake than just the rate. Remember at family get-togethers like Thanksgiving, when you had the Big Table and the little table? Well, Mr. Client, theyre trying to seat you at the little table. Their prices and lack of a solid creative campaign reflect that. A business like yours has a lot of potential and I think youll get there a lot faster and feel more comfortable seated here with us at the Big Table. Now, lets move on and talk about long- and short-term marketing strategies.

We must sell smarter, we must sell bigger. We convince clients that our plan for their success is better than theirs, not that we have the cheapest rate in the market. Can we? Yes, even in a recession. Turning our backs to cheap rates now is the only way to a brighter future. And, if we dont go back to higher rates, the future doesnt look very bright at all. Heres to back-to-a-brighter-future for all of us.

Principal Strickland -- You dont have a chance. Youre just like your old man. A McFly never amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.
Marty McFly -- Yeah?Well, history is gonna change!

Paul Weyland is a broadcast sales trainer, author, and speaker. You can reach him at  or by phone at (512) 236 1222. Find Pauls books, CDs and software at or on