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Meet The Sales Staff: Mark Miller

“I don’t think I’m the Mick Jagger of sales, but I still like the chase and I still have the energy and the drive to make money. That’s what motivates me.”

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Mark Miller is someone I’ve worked with for the past two years at Entercom in Kansas City.  Ours is a large, eight station cluster with a dominant position in the market.  Along with Rock, Alternative, Hot AC, Country, News and Talk (KMBZ A/F which Miller started selling in 1989), we have two sports stations, the Kansas City Royals, the Missouri Tigers and the Kansas State Wildcats. Additionally, we carry several local high school and college football and basketball broadcasts, most of which Mark not only sells, but also does play-by-play for.

There’s a Mark Miller on every good media sales team in the country.  A veteran seller who still has an unmatched enthusiasm for our industry and working with clients.  He has several “regular customers” he has formed great relationships with in his long career.  

When he closes a good sale, everyone knows about it instantly, but he’s also the first person to congratulate someone else when they do the same.  His work area is a shrine to his career, complete with a picture of his face superimposed on to Superman’s body, but he isn’t the least bit ashamed for being proud of what he has accomplished. 

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When he isn’t out with a customer, he’s in the office working the phones and he can be heard talking about a great business idea for a client or perhaps a team’s Cover 2 defense when he’s talking to a local coach.  Whatever the topic, his big booming voice comes through loud and clear.  No, really, I mean my office is about 30 feet from his area, and I hear it all loud and clear! 

How did you get started in radio?

I was a television news anchor for two years and I had an opportunity to go to work for some radio stations in Garden City, Kansas and I made the switch around 1981.  I didn’t think I was the next Kronkite. I got in to radio sales at KBUF AM & FM, they were a big country western station and they were splitting the signals and going satellite country music.  To get the job, I had to make a presentation in front of the whole sales team.  I did a flip chart presentation of who I was and what I thought I could bring to the team. I walked out of the meeting and the GM said, “We want you to be on the staff.”

People knew who I was from being on TV, so I was able to hit the ground running and sold several annuals in my first two weeks.  We traded out some boom boxes at Gibson’s Discount Center, we would cut a spec spot and after I would flip chart the radio station, I would play the spot from the boom box.  If they bought an annual, we’d let them keep the boom box and we would trade for more.

Image result for 80s boombox

I saw the ability to make a ton of money in commission sales by being creative, meeting a lot of people and putting together ideas. I saw money and I’m driven by money.

What do you tell people you do when others ask about your job?

When I’m asked that, I tell them I’m a professional broadcaster.  Not just sales, although that’s 95% of what I do, but I do play-by-play, I write copy, I put in my orders, I do production for some of my clients, I do some endorsement deals and while I don’t send bills, I do collect.  I do everything under the umbrella of broadcasting, so I’m in the broadcast industry and I’m a professional broadcaster. 

When I say that, people perk up.  They don’t know us by the name of our company or what an Account Executive or Senior Account Rep means, but when I say I’m a professional broadcaster with 8 radio stations and I sell and create advertising campaigns and do play-by-play, it sounds professional.  I think everyone who works in our building is a professional broadcaster.  Some think that just means you are on the air, but I think it means you are in the broadcasting industry.

What makes you good at media sales?

I don’t think I’m the Mick Jagger of sales, but I still like the chase and I still have the energy and the drive to make money.  That’s what motivates me.  When I was hiring people as a manager for a couple of years, I would ask them what motivated them.  If the answer wasn’t money, I didn’t hire them. 

I am creative, I can present and I’m good at interaction with clients.  While I’m always prospecting to find new business, I’m really good at increasing the amount my current clientele spends with me.  A lot of my clients started off spending a little bit of money and now they spend thousands and thousands with me.  People buy people they like and if you get in there and you grow the relationship, not only business but personal, they’ll trust you and that’s been my formula.

Image result for people buy people

I wouldn’t sell anything else.  Insurance, appliances, medical supplies, nothing. This is the only thing I ever want to sell, because it changes.  One day you’re talking to a banker, later that afternoon a car dealer and the next day a doctor.  I’m not a master of any of those categories, but I am a master of what I sell, and I can match my products up with each of those categories and create ideas for them.

Why do you think there’s so much churn in media sales departments?

I think it’s work ethic.  My dad was a railroad engineer and he’d take the passenger train out of Newton, Kansas at 5:05 AM, he would be there a day in Dodge City and then came back the next day.  My mom was in politics on a national level, and she had a great work ethic.  When I was young, I was a sponge and I soaked that up and saw what they did, and they always went to work and had careers.  

Times have changed, and I don’t think a lot of people come in with great work ethics.  I also see a lot of rookies who come on board, and they end up teaming with other rookies.  They should connect with veteran account executives and go out on the streets with them.  If they team up with somebody else who doesn’t know what they’re doing, they both usually end up failing.  

You’ve sold a lot of spoken word stations – news, talk and sports.  What is it about spoken word that makes it work so well for your clients?

It’s all about recall.  People that listen to spoken word formats are listening and are actively engaged.  You usually either like it or you don’t and if you do, you’re going to keep listening to hear what the next person has to say on the air.  I’ve got their attention in spoken word so I can go to Mr. or Mrs. Advertiser and know that their message is going to get heard.  Then, I come up with creative copy that people can remember.

With sports, the key is association.  The advertisers love the association whether it’s pro, college or high school, they like being associated with it.  The loyalty of the sports audience is a tremendous asset for our customers. 

You have carved out quite a niche selling and broadcasting local high school and college sports, as well.

This will be our fifteenth year doing it and management and the advertisers know I have tremendous passion for it. Plus, it does well financially, as it has generated over a million dollars in sales.  We may not be doing pro sports teams on our broadcasts, but we deliver a pro caliber broadcast and people like what they hear.

Image result for north kansas city high school football

I do a lot of features like player of the game, coach of the game, mom of the week (where we recognize a player’s mom at halftime), scholar athlete, we recognize educators, administrators and school officials.  It’s a lot more than just a high school game broadcast.  The advertisers love the association.  

What They Say…

“Mark thinks big and outside of the box. He’s great at presenting interactive ideas for clients that turn an interesting topic for listeners in to sales opportunities.” – Rich Deutsch, GSM Entercom – Kansas City

BSM Writers

What Can Programmers Learn From A Social Media Following?

“A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure.”

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I first began using Twitter in 2009 when I was a reporter at The Seattle Times. Jim Mora was the Seattle Seahawks coach and I had a smart phone made by Palm. The Twitter app was so wonky I posted live updates from Seahawks press conferences via TwitPic, sending a picture of the person speaking with the news item included as a caption. We’ve all come a long way since then.

I like Twitter. Over the past 12-plus years, I’ve found that my sarcasm and sense of humor (if you can call it that) translated better on Twitter than it ever did in print or later as a radio host at 710 ESPN Seattle. I’ve made friends on Twitter, picked fights with other reporters and generally found it a good place to test out ideas and arguments and an increasingly terrible place to discuss anything important. I have more than 40,000 followers, which is not insignificant nor is it at all exceptional given the market I worked in. None of this gives you any idea about how well I’ve done my job in sports media, though.

Yet an individual’s Twitter following has become part of our industry scoreboard. It’s certainly not the final score and it definitely doesn’t decide the outcome, but it is the best way I know to gain a quick assessment of someone’s reach and/or significance. It’s a data point that is readily accessible. It’s the thing I check first when I encounter someone who’s part of the sports-media industry.

But what does it really tell us? More specifically, how much does it tell us about that person’s ability to do their actual job whether it is reporting news, writing stories or being part of a show? Because as important as Twitter has become in sports-media, no one is making money from Twitter and social media specialists are the only people who are really being paid to Tweet.

For most of us, Twitter is not a job, it is a tool. For a radio host, it’s a way to interact with listeners outside the footprint and time slot of the show. It also is a powerful opportunity to deepen audience engagement through two-way, real-time communication. These things may help a host’s job performance, but they should not be mistaken for the actual job itself. A radio host is not valuable because he or she was right on Twitter or because they were first on Twitter or because they had a viral Tweet. A radio host is valuable because of the ability to attract, entertain and retain an audience during a specific slot of time. Twitter may help you prepare to do that, but it does not actually accomplish the task.

Programmers need to understand this, too. A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure. Just look at what book publishers have found.

An article last month in the New York Times showed how publishers have used social media followings as a weathervane of sorts for books sales. The number of followers an author has is influencing everything from what authors are paid to which books get published. This is especially true when it comes to non-fiction books. The rationale is pretty straightforward when you look under hood of that particular industry.

A publisher is the business that buys a certain book from the author, essentially making a bet that the sales of this book the author is writing or has written will more than cover the money paid to the author as well as the cost of publication and promotion of the book. A publisher wants as much assurance as possible that this book will sell sufficient copies to not just make its money back, but insure a profit. This is where the author’s social media audience comes in. The follower count is being looked to as an indicator of just how many people can be expected to buy this book. After all, someone following the author is certainly a sign they’re interested in what that author has to say. Some percentage of those followers can reasonably be expected to buy a book by this person. Except social media followings turn out to be a fairly terrible tool of forecasting book sales.

Billie Eilish has 99 million Instagram followers. Her book — released last year — sold 64,000 copies. If I was being catty, I would point out that is one book sold for every 1,546 Instagram followers.

billie eilish on Twitter: "“Billie Eilish” - The photo book by Billie The  book and the audiobook companion (narrated by Billie) are available now.  https://t.co/PAYxvTW64A https://t.co/vWFmq3502D" / Twitter

“Even having one of the biggest social media followings in the world is not a guarantee,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris.

So we should all just stop paying attention to Twitter followings, right? Hardly. First of all, it is a data point, and anyone waiting for social media followings to become LESS important probably thinks the Internet is just a fad. More importantly, having a following is certainly better than not having one as it does indicate the ability to attract an audience.

The issue isn’t whether it’s good to have a large following. Of course it is. The issue is how reliable that is in predicting an individual’s interest or appeal outside of that specific social platform.

What programmers need to do is get smarter about how they evaluate social media followings by answering two questions:

  1. Why are people following this particular talent? Content is the catch-all answer here. Go beyond that. What sort of content is this person providing that none of his or her peers are? Will that type of content be valuable as part of my lineup whether it’s terrestrial radio, a podcast or other format? Someone who’s funny on Twitter may be funny in other formats. They may also just be funny on Twitter. Are there examples of how this kind of content has worked in the past or reasons to think it will work in the future?
  2. How likely is this talent’s social media following to migrate to my medium? This is one of the trickier ones. One of the reasons for acquiring a talent with a large social media following is the hope that some of their followers will become your customers. While this is always possible, the more important question is whether it’s likely.

Remember, that example of Eilish, who had 99 million Instagram followers and sold 64,000 books? Well, that number of books is actually not a bad result. In fact, it’s absolutely solid for book sales. The problem was the publishing house didn’t expect a solid sales performance. It expected incredibly strong sales because it paid a significant amount of money to Eilish in the form of an advance.

It’s clear the publishing house made a bad bet, but the principal mistake was not about Eilish’s ability — or lack thereof — to produce a book. She did produce one that was 336 pages long, loaded with family photos never seen before and while there wasn’t as much text as you might expect, the sales were solid. The mistake the publishing house made was overestimating how many of Eilish’s fans would become customers in an entirely different medium, and I think that’s a lesson worth noting in this industry.

Unless you’re hiring someone to do social media for your company, Twitter is not going to be their job. It’s just a tool. An important tool, a useful one, but just a tool.

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BSM Writers

How Good Can iHeart’s AdBuilder Solution Be?

“It was slick, I admit.”

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Do it yourself radio has come to a new client you will never meet. These clients are ready to do it themselves. All they want is to buy a radio campaign. And iHeart AdBuilder is all they need. 

Let’s figure this out. 

In 2019, iHeart started beta testing a do-it-yourself online platform for small businesses to battle Facebook and Google.  

I went to the website to see how it worked. It was slick, I admit. It would be a great topic to add to the BSM Summit.

The first piece of info. the site wants to establish is your campaign goal. The four choices were “Get website traffic”, “Have listeners know my address”, “Get phone calls”, and “Announce an event”. 

That’s it.

When was the last time you wrote a new business order with any of those four goals as the single reason for the campaign? Wouldn’t that be easier for the copywriter and the client to track results? TRY IT! 

I inputted that I wanted to announce an event and proceeded to the following prompt. My business name, address, website, and industry were the following choices. So far, so good. The only tricky part were the industry choices.

How to Run Ads With iHeartRadio AdBuilder

I can see how specific business categories are not precisely represented, like counter service restaurants. They are not fast food because there is no drive-through, but they aren’t a full-service restaurant either due to no waiters being used and many other factors. It isn’t confusing for me, but you know how clients can be!

Selecting the market I wanted my customers to come from was easy, and it allowed iHeart to choose the closest radio stations. Identifying the ONE type of customer I wanted was fantastic. I can see how it focuses the client on a primary target. Parents with young kids or teens, foodies, married couples, single adults, or an option to select my demo all seemed easy enough.

The demos offered weren’t Men 18-34, but men, women or adults, young adults, seniors, adults, or the dreaded all ages. Next was selecting when I wanted to run and how much I wanted to spend. It wasn’t a challenge because you choose your dates, and then you’re given three choices for a weekly budget. In my case, it was $500, $750, or $1,000 per week. iHeart AdBuilder bills you less if the whole week isn’t used.

Impressions, frequency, and reach were highlighted, and they showed the logos of the two stations my $500 was going to be spent on. I noticed there was no information on when the ads would air, how many times per day, or any of that! “You give us $500, and we will spend it over the week on these two stations when and where we want! And it will work!” 

The pages dedicated to creating copy are straight forward and, as salespeople, we have filled those types of forms out plenty of times. iHeart is highlighting that they are waiving the $100 production fee. Maybe, that will change in the future. After going to the checkout, your credit card is given a temporary authorization (which will be reversed), and you are told your ad will be emailed to you in a few days. You won’t be billed until your ads air.

What are the odds this $500 campaign over two stations in a few days will work? Who knows, but I bet the automated emails and follow-up calls will be relentless. I think it’s a great platform and can see a decent percentage of smaller new business deals go this direction. Some clients may even prefer to never “deal” with a salesperson again, kind of like most of our agency buyers. That leaves us with a whole lotta middle ground. For now. 

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 58

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Demetri welcomes Brandon Kravitz and Derek Futterman to the show this week. They talk about Hub Arkush, Aaron Rodgers, Michelle Tafoya, and Pete Thamel.

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