Every Small Business Owner Should Act Like a Radio Broadcaster

There’s a lot of effort today by big businesses to “engage” their customers in conversations.

Small business owners haven’t quite adopted that approach – yet. But I suggest that you think about what might happen if you actually stop selling so hard and start communicating with prospects one-to-one. Try forgetting occasional one-way push marketing and remembering two-way attraction. See what happens when you devote your efforts to first becoming a trusted adviser and friend.

Let’s Look at the How Radio Industry Does It

Radio hosts engage their listeners in many ways. They strive for ongoing, two-way, give and take communication. To do that, they not only answer phone calls, but they get opinions through online surveys and polls. They converse through Twitter tweets and Facebook posts. And listeners send e-mail and text messages whenever they want to.

(By the way, this strategy helps the station, the listener and the radio program’s advertiser because all have greater access to each other).

Expanding Exposure

The conversation is ongoing and multi-channel. Listeners communicate using multiple kinds of handy devices. It’s clear that we can be connected at all times if we want to be.

The Dennis and Callahan Show originates on WEEI radio in Boston. You can also catch a live stream on the station’s website. And to expand exposure, the program began simulcasting on NESN cable TV earlier this year (which is good for both WEEI and NESN).

Listeners communicate with the hosts through traditional phone calls, but they also tweet and send e-mail and text messages.

Don’t Stop Innovating

Engagement won’t end there. Innovations will continue to develop that provide greater access to programs and involve listeners.

For example, Jelli is “100% user-controlled radio.” Listeners control the playlists of their favorite local programs through “real-time voting and game elements.”

Jelli turns listeners into “active users.” It’s designed to “drive engagement” with the audience, build a “social community” around the station, generate “excitement” in the market, and produce higher ratings as a result.

One radio station owner, Gerry Schlegel, president of the LKCM Radio Group, told FastCompany, “We want to transform the market in Las Vegas by engaging with our listeners directly through the web and mobile, and building a strong community around an amazing music experience.”

Have the Same Objectives As a Radio Broadcaster

Aren’t they, or shouldn’t they be, the objectives of every small business owner – to have a following of active users, to drive engagement, to build a social community, to generate excitement, and to produce higher ratings (more sales)?

All of the tools that broadcasters use are available to every small business owner. All are inexpensive and, used together, have a compounding effect and measurable ROI.

A small business marketing strategy should include mechanisms for communicating with followers regularly (depending on the product or service). That means a website that engages (not a static brochure or billboard site), audio and video podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and text messaging at a minimum.

Act like a radio broadcaster. Start conversing with individuals. Develop your following. See what happens.

Spread the Word About Your Business Like the Big Story of the Day

We live in an age where individuals instantly inform and influence thousands. Powerful tools enable any of us to spread the word, about any subject, to masses of people in our community, our region, our nation, or our world. And it happens every day, maybe every second.

Soon, I hope, mom and pop small business owners will embrace these tools to spread their own special messages. Unfortunately, they lag.

Among the numerous explanations:

  • They’re too busy to study complicated new technology
  • There’s little demand because many of their customers are slow to adapt
  • Traditional marketing strategy is working just fine so there’s no need to change

At the same time, the big brands are far ahead. They use new media to aggressively promote their products and strengthen relationships with their customers.

Obviously, the same channels are available to small businesses to accomplish the same objectives. But mom and pops don’t yet realize that they can compete. Someday, somehow, they will.

Just look at how the big story of the day spread.  I woke up to the news on TV that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. At 5:30AM EST, I found these headlines in my Google Reader:

There was this video:

Finally, I found this poll from CNET (left), which shows the distribution of how people learned about Bin Laden’s death. Note the almost equal balance between traditional media and new media.

My point is that we all have access to information, about all kinds of topics, from a wide variety of sources, instantly. News and information from newspapers, TV, radio, Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube is at our disposal whenever we want it.

It’s very powerful. It’s incredible. I’m amazed.

I’d love my favorite local businesses to use those tools to interact with me. We all need to convince them that it’s not that difficult and the rewards are tremendous – for them and for us.


How to Use a QR Code to Engage Your Customers

AdAge tells us that more big businesses are experimenting with QR Codes. In fact, Macy’s has produced a 30-second spot that shows shoppers how to use the codes.

Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, and Post Cereals are also on board with their own programs.

I’m sure you’ve seen the Quick Response Codes. They’re the rectangular boxes that look like puzzle mazes (like the one you see on the left, which links to my website).

Consumers first download a QR Code reader to their smartphones. When they see a code, they snap a picture of it and content appears.

You’ll see the codes almost everywhere – on telephone poles, in store windows, on business cards, on signs. More and more, they’ll be used in department and grocery stores. They’ll be at the head of aisles, on shelves and on packaging.

Now, here are some additional ideas for using a QR Code:

  • A clothing shop or sporting goods retailer might post a code next to a product on a shelf. When a shopper takes a photo of the code, a detailed description or video will pop up on their screen.
  • A park will provide trail maps.
  • A QR code on a business card or tee-shirt will bring a visitor to your website.
  • Realtors can use them to show house listings.
  • Anyone can use them for contests.
  • Include them in newspaper advertisements and give readers directions to your location

uQRme spot from uQRme on Vimeo.

QR Codes are still very much in the development stage, but curiosity will be a huge factor in attracting consumer interest. Why don’t you experiment, too?

First, download a scanner to your smartphone:

Or, Google “QR Code Scanner.” There are many.

Next, create your own QR Code. Here are websites where you can create your very own easily, quickly and for free:

There are also sites, like StickerScan.com, that produce promotional gadgets and signs printed with your QR code.

See how creative you can be. Engage your customers. You’ll certainly be ahead of the small business curve.
Disclaimer: I do not endorse, and I am not compensated by, any of the above listed products or services.