November 25, 2015

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07/21/08 Never Say Die

A friend recently called to tell me how bad his business is. Around this time last year he saw signs that his business was starting to suffer, and I told him Iíd be happy to help him craft an advertising strategy. He ignored it. When he called last week, he uttered these words: ďI cannot afford to advertise, but last year you told me I should do it and I didnít. Now my business is so dreadful, I guess Iíd better start.Ē

There. I told you so.

One of the more frustrating things about what you and I do for a living is that we often see things more clearly than the business owners themselves. Itís a fact of life. We spot trouble a mile away because we hear the same stories and the same excuses over and over again.

Iím dreading the meeting with my business-owner buddy because Iím not sure I have good news for him. Weíre in a recession, and no matter what we say in his ads there is a strong chance they wonít work.

What? Eric, are you nuts? How dare you say they wonít work!

Letís be real. Yes, everyone should advertise. Yes, everyone should advertise in a down economy because it gives an advantage over competitors that stopped advertising. Yes, advertising should drive those who are in the market for a product or service to the company that is most visible. But how do we help the business owner who is in trouble? When consumers have stopped spending anything extra, when they are buying only essentials, when they are going to Costco and Samís for groceries, when their gas tank is eating their disposable income, when they may be laid off any second, what can we do? Can we really help them now? Realistically, can we get people in the door? Can I help my friend save his dying business with advertising he cannot afford?

Iíll tell you what I told a group CEO the other day. Never say die.

Someone always gets rich during a down economy. While some business owners accept defeat, others reinvent themselves and their products, make their products and staff more efficient, and create opportunities from the ashes. I read the other day of a man who is getting rich by selling kits to convert cars to run on French fry oil (true). One entrepreneur built a gas station just across the Mexican border, and sells gas at half price.

Though every owner is responsible for his own business, we as radio sellers can rise to the occasion to help them see opportunities. Selling advertising to a company that has no money means we wonít get paid. But if we help them now, they will remember us when times get better. Your station can stimulate spending in any category. During the last downturn, for example, one station ran free ads encouraging people to buy cars. It helped, and the car dealers will always remember that stationís efforts on their behalf.

What can you do?

If we want to establish ourselves as a trusted resource, if we want to differentiate ourselves with advertisers today, letís find ways to help local small businesses that have been loyal advertisers in the past. Itís not only the right thing to do; it will get them on their feet quicker, which will help us all.

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