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My Top 3 Insider Secrets to Buying Radio

I LOVE listening to the radio. More specifically, I love listening to radio commercials. Sounds funny, I know. When I’m in the car with my husband, I turn down the music and turn up the radio commercials. I flip the station when the music comes back on so I can find commercials to listen to. Yes, I’m well aware that I’m an annoying passenger. But for over a decade, I’ve made a great living helping my clients grow their businesses with powerful, customized marketing strategies AND radio is my favorite media’s to use because of the massive success it delivers. 

I’m going to share my insider secrets to buying radio that I’ve learned from being in the industry for over a decade. You will probably look at these and say, “that’s it, that’s all I have to do?!” And the answer is YES! Sure, there are strategies to help fine-tune and boost a campaign…. I’ll share those with you later. But right now, I want you to capitalize on these basic, but often overlooked tips to maximize your return on investment in radio. These will sound simple, but really ask yourself if you have gone deep with the three things I’m about to share with you. Let’s get started!

  1. Have the right local rep or agency rep.

This one tip will greatly determine the success of your radio campaign. Here are the attributes an average rep possesses: knowledgeable about the product and how to use it, good communication, they follow through and follow up. These may sound basic, but a lot of reps don’t even possess those skills. Unfortunately, bad reps deliver a poor experience with radio and stigmatize the media all-together. Bad reps are easily spotted. When you meet them all they talk about is what they have to sell you (AKA their packages), the “spots and dots” and everything is ALL about them. Their trying to sell you something before they even know what your business needs. Run far away from those reps, they will cost you time and lose you money.

And you don’t just want an average rep, right?! You want a GREAT rep that isn’t just selling the package of the month, or giving you a ton of free spots that run in the middle of the night, shoves rankings down your throat, or only buys the top-rated stations. A great rep understands the basic principles of creating a campaign that works and uses strategy and ideas as its foundation. Let me repeat that one because it’s the most important element when searching for an agency or local rep… a great representative uses strategy and ideas as a campaign’s foundation. And a they are willing to do the little things that take your campaign to the next level. That’s a real game-changer. They share market research and conditions. They may even recommend something outside of what they offer when it will benefit you. You trust this person. They’re on your team. They under-promise and over-deliver and above all, they have your best interest in mind. That’s when you know you’ve got the right rep.

Just the other day, a client that had been using radio for years prior to working with me shared that he thought before he hired me, his radio marketing efforts were “ working okay” for his business. But then when he started working with me, he couldn’t believe how much better his return on investment was and his radio is now the best performing media for his business. What’s he doing differently now? He’s got the right rep!

Finding the right rep isn’t easy. Be sure to communicate your expectations. Your rep shouldn’t be afraid to challenge you or be challenged by you. If your radio isn’t working, you’re likely not working with the right rep. Before abandoning radio get a new consultant or representative.


  1. Negotiate your contract.

While some may find negotiations awkward and uncomfortable, others live for getting the best deal! When considering Radio Marketing for your business, always negotiate the contract presented to you in the best interest of your business. But, don’t go overboard….

For the most part, commercial inventory is mostly priced based on two things: ratings, supply and demand. Those things you have no control over. Here are some things you can leverage your negotiating power with: a long-term contract, booking far in advance, multiple number of stations purchased, cash in advance, providing the station with value (i.e. on-air prizes and content), trade, flexibility in schedule (moving within the month if needed), increasing share of buy in the market (or 100% buy with one group) and increasing your budget from last year. I’m not suggesting you do all of these things but when it makes sense you can use them to your advantage. Some stations value these terms and others don’t. But it never hurts to ask. Ask again. And then ask a little more. The worst they can say is no.

And it’s not all about pricing. You don’t want to grind down the price so low that your spots get bumped or run outside of prime hours and sacrifice your optimal scheduling strategy. Know that the magical radio gods (really, it’s just a computer) always chooses the higher rate to run during the highest listening hours. There’s a real fine line to finding an aggressive rate that clears. Sometimes the bigger wins happen when you can negotiate added value (freebies), narrowing dayparts and the week days and on-air promotions (ie. contests, client inclusions, interviews).

Remember radio commercials have no shelf life. Once time passes they can’t sell the commercial inventory. Getting something is better than nothing for radio stations. However, I encourage you to think big picture and not be short sighted. Basically, what I’m saying is, don’t be a jerk. It must benefit both sides. You want the relationship to be valued and if you are just a taker, you won’t win long term and it will likely bite you in the end.

Be aware: on top performing stations you will not have as much room to negotiate with. You will have to pay to play on those stations.


  1. Develop relationships with your radio group

This last secret is the most overlooked and really the easiest to do. It just takes a small, but consistent and conscious effort. It doesn’t matter if you are working with a local rep or agency, it will pay you huge dividends if you go deep with the radio group your working with. That means get to know everyone in the building from top to bottom: GM, sales manager, sales rep, on-air talent, program director(s), promotions director, traffic director, copywriter, production director, accounting department and even the front desk gal. These relationships don’t happen overnight, it takes time, but I promise you when you have these people on your “team” you get the best the group has to offer in all aspects from service, freebies, problem solving, “skip to the front of the line” priority service, promotional opportunities, pricing, outside the box ideas, etc. The benefits are endless really...prizes, tickets, priority scheduling, holding logs, djs weaving your business or products into the content of their show without even asking, unsold inventory sales opportunities and drop-what they’re-doing-to-help-you service to name just a few.

This is how you become a V.I.P. without having to be the top spending client in the building. Radio groups are working with hundreds of clients, so while you may think ‘Isn’t that treatment to be expected?’, it simply is not. I had a client that suddenly had a huge, unexpected capital expense that took all of his cash flow. He personally went to the GM of the station and asked for an extension on his payments without being taken off the air. I myself didn’t actually think he was going to get it but because of the relationship he built he was granted the extension and his business didn’t have to go off air. Another client received an all-expense paid trip on a private charter to a major college football game as a thank you for not only his business but the service and benefits he provides the radio group. I had another client making a big push to support a charity. A sales manager heard about it and gave my client a free two-week schedule, worth thousands of dollars to support his initiative without him even asking for it. It not only helped the charity, it put a spot light on my client’s business and the goodwill it was doing.

Now don’t just expect these things, especially overnight. Like any relationship it takes time to build and even though you are the customer, you must show each of these people “what’s in it for them.” It could be as simple as a thank you, coffee, treats or hook ups at your business. Mostly, you’d be surprised by how they just want to feel appreciated, valued and thought of as a partner. When you have the relationships in the building, you’ll really see your radio campaign taken to the next level and they’ll all want to help you win.

Trust me when I say it pays to follow these three simple radio insider secrets. Clients tell me all the time how much these small acts (what seems like common sense tips) make a huge difference in not only customer service, what they get in their contract, but more importantly the results they get from their radio. And I guarantee it will help you too. So give these tips a shot and see your return on investment in radio skyrocket.

I always want to hear how you put my insider secrets to use and how it benefited your business. You can connect with me through any of the networks below:





And I’d love to get to know you and learn more about how I can help your business, please email me with any questions or requests: katlin@theradioboss.com


Katlin Cauffman

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