DR radio stars can help drive sales

On the surface, it’s hard to think of two more different radio stars than Howard Stern and John Tesh. Stern is a shock jock; Tesh dispenses music and health tips. But they have one thing in common.

Vermont Teddy Bear Co. buys live spots on both shows. And it gets orders from both.

The merchant has found that radio works as a lead-generation medium, and that the station format is less important that the on-air personality. It’s especially good at snaring last-minute shoppers.

“The same buyer is going to come,” says Sarah Pribram, director of sales and marketing information for Vermont Teddy Bear Co. “How Howard spins it and how John Tesh spins it will be different, but the point of the spot is the same.”

Not every advertiser buys time based on the radio host. SalesGenie.com, an infoGroup division, chose stations based on listenership when it ran spots featuring former CEO Vin Gupta. Some advertisers might prefer canned spots.

Will radio work for other merchants? Yes, says Shari Altman, president of direct marketing consultancy Altman Dedicated Direct. A firm can test two different creative options for less than $25,000, and that’s cheaper than doing a direct mail test, she argues.

Direct response radio is similar to direct mail in that the focus is on luring prospects, Altman says. Both channels rely heavily on the offer.

SalesGenie.com promised 100 free sales leads to businesses. Vermont Teddy Bear, which sells everything from teddy bears to pajamas, adds sweeteners like guaranteed overnight shipping. But there the similarities end.

Direct mail usually includes visuals. On radio, the script has to paint a picture of what you are trying to sell.

How do you handle customers who come in via radio? Should those who respond to your URL be classified as online shoppers, and should those who dialed your number be placed among the catalog buyers?

It sounds simplistic, but the customers should be treated how they want to be treated.

Take Doctors Foster and Smith. The pet products merchant does no radio, but it is active on a sister channel — television.

“DRTV buyers respond at the same rate as other channels, so if you treat them right, they will come back,” says Gordon Magee, Internet marketing and analysis manager for Doctors Foster and Smith.

He adds: “We let the customers tell us how they want to be contacted. If they go online and check off that they want to receive a catalog, we treat them like a catalog requester. If they call the contact center and tell us they prefer e-mails, we send them e-mails.”

Altman agrees.

“In general, DRTV and radio buyers who initially order by phone will tend to be more responsive to e-mail and outbound telemarketing than to direct mail initially,” Altman says. “The reason for this is they are more accustomed to electronic channels and tend to be a bit more passive. Direct mail requires a bit more action on a customer’s part than reacting to e-mail or a phone call.”

But when shoppers come in via the Web, it is a safe assumption they are most comfortable buying online, Altman notes.

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