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Don't touch that dial! Featured

9:36am EDT July 22, 2002

Try finishing the lyric: "Call Able for the proof ...."

Steve Weyl relishes the times when someone knows the rest -- "444-ROOF," the phone number for his business, Able Roofing Co.

Weyl, in fact, wrote the words and hashed out an idea for the music used in his radio ad jingle, which was produced by songwriters in Nashville. He also writes and announces the 60-second ad spots.

"That's the best part of my job, is the marketing," says Weyl, president and CEO of Able, a $16 million Northeast Columbus company. "I think it came naturally. My mother's an artist, and I think as a little kid, I started out appreciating art and negative and positive spaces and that type of thing."

About five years ago, he started making his own radio advertisements, which now air at least 2,500 times a year on 16 Central Ohio stations, particularly in the spring and fall.

Weyl keeps track of his marketing results by asking customers who call for appointments where they last saw or heard about Able Roofing.

"We probably do not have more than 20 percent of the people calling us who say 'radio,' but radio is a very subliminal thing. All advertising builds on each other," he says, noting he has as many as 56 codes describing the ways customers might have exposure to his marketing efforts. "You've got to look at marketing as a crusade, not a battle."

"We just have to be top of mind all the time," Weyl says. "We know that probably, of our audience, at least 40 to 50 percent are hearing us on the radio."

"The 444-ROOF number has probably been our strongest marketing move," Weyl says, noting the simplicity of the number makes it memorable.

In addition, Weyl says, having his own voice in the ads gives customers more confidence in the company.

"I think people like to know who they're dealing with," he says. "When the owner's on there talking, it can be very good."

Although many local companies -- Three-C Body Shops, Ricart Automotive, IDG Jewelers and Mack Mattress Outlet, to name a few -- apparently share this philosophy, Weyl admits radio announcing isn't for every business owner.

"If the owner has personality and some charisma and simply sounds appealing over the radio, it can be good. But I think it can hurt the owner, too," he says. "You've heard people who don't have the personality -- they're monotone. You just wouldn't have a lot of confidence, maybe, buying from them."

Weyl makes radio advertising sound easy. Here's how he does it:

Know your audience.

"It's simple," Weyl says. "Who buys my stuff? And how do I reach them?"

Matt Mnich, president and CEO of North American Broadcasting Co., where Weyl buys commercials on three stations, says business owners who advertise in radio must be able to answer those questions.

"The most important component is a good understanding of their target customer," says Mnich, whose radio stations are WMNI-AM 920, WEGE Eagle 103.9 and WBZX The Blitz 99.7. "As simple as that sounds, sometimes our sales representatives spend quite a bit of time developing an understanding of exactly who the target customer is for the client."

Technically, anyone who owns a home is Weyl's customer. But he dissects that: Middle income and up is his primary target, because they tend to be more comfortable with a bigger name company, he says.

He wants to get his message to the 34-65 age group -- that which statistics show is most likely to own a home. He needs to reach both males and females, since females many times tend to make the call for his product, but the male has a large voice in the decision.

From that knowledge, he can decide which radio stations to contact for air time.

"We need to figure out who's listening to what," he says, noting that radio stations will describe for you their typical listener and provide you with information from Arbitron, a company that conducts a survey of radio listening in the market, then tabulates that by age and gender and other demographics.

"WTVN is a little bit older crowd, strong on the home ownership," he says. "If we want to hit females, we hit Sunny 95 because Sunny's strong on females." For males, WTVN is good, he says, "but what's better than TVN is The Fan sports radio [1460 AM]."

Constant monitoring of Arbitron ratings is important, too, because they can change over time.

"Even five years ago, we were less interested in Q-FM [96 WLVQ]," Weyl says. "Now we advertise on Q-FM because the age group is that age group we are appealing to." In addition, "Q-FM turned out to be strong home ownership."

Think about your message.

Weyl puts himself in his customers' shoes.

"What would appeal to the customer? What would get their attention?" he asks. "I think marketing is just common sense."

He's tried being too creative at times -- most notably when he started his marketing efforts more than 10 years ago by producing a television commercial.

"What a flop this was," he says. "We made it look like an old movie. It was actually fairly sophisticated and it was very funny. It was like the Able man was able to save the day type of a thing."

However, the commercial was likely too sophisticated. It didn't yield much response.

"Too creative doesn't work. In-your-face does," he says. "When I say in your face, I think you have to be not loud like vocally loud, you have to be noticed. You have to stand out."

Mnich says the message also must be easy for the customer to understand -- which means leaving out industry lingo.

A catchy jingle helps, too, Weyl says.

"Jingles are very important because it's consistency and builds brand identity," he says. "If it's a good jingle, people tend to hum it. But you'd better have your name in that jingle, and if you get your telephone number in there, it's even better."

He buys one-minute radio spots and knows his jingle takes about 10 seconds at the beginning and at the end. That leaves him with 40 seconds to talk.

"I say, 'What's my idea? What do I want to get across?' Then I write a bunch of notes and thoughts, then I start writing a script, kind of assembling it," he says.

His first draft usually ends up around 70 seconds, so he begins whittling out words or rephrasing things to get the same message across in less time.

Then he tests it out.

"I always bug my wife to death over it," he jokes.

Make the investment -- and be patient

"There's too many people who say, 'I've got $10,000 to spend, and I'm going to spend it on a couple of radio stations, and if I don't get results in three weeks I know that radio's not for me,'" Weyl says.

Successful radio advertising, he says, depends on frequency -- the number of times you run the ad -- and reach -- the number of people you expect to hear it.

"If you can't get both, go to frequency," he says. "If you can't hit a lot of people a lot of times, then hit a little amount of people a lot of times. Don't try to hit a lot of people a little bit of the time. It doesn't work."

Mnich agrees, but notes the longevity of an ad campaign matters, too.

"It's far more effective to buy two weeks a month for four months than every week for half that period of time, generally speaking," Mnich says.

There are exceptions, however, such as political ads for an election, which might run with a lot of frequency in a short amount of time.

Weyl declined to say how much he pays for his radio ads, but generally the station from which he buys air time gives him the use of a studio with an engineer for free.

At North American Broadcasting, Mnich says, clients are not charged for ad production, unless his company's talent or creative work is used on other stations.

Cost for air time varies greatly, he says, depending on, among other things, the frequency of commercials and the time of day they air. For example, the largest audience -- and most expensive advertising -- occurs during the morning drive time, Mnich says. The time with the fewest listeners and lowest advertising cost would be overnight.

"You can buy a commercial in Columbus, depending on the time of day and the station, for $50 for one commercial, and you can buy a commercial on another station in the highest-valued part of the day and you could spend $700," Mnich says.

Relax

Since nervousness often is fear of the unknown, Weyl suggests asking the radio station manager or your sales representative if you can sit in on a couple of commercials being made. You'll see, for example, where to put your mouth in relation to the microphone or what the engineer does.

When he first started making radio ads, Weyl says, he was nervous -- and it came out in his voice.

He corrected that by determining his own comfort level -- "I can do much better standing than sitting," he says -- and by mentally taking on the role.

"My role today is radio announcer," he says. "Separate it from yourself."

Weyl cautions against simply reading a script, however. Overemphasize everything, he says.

"If you think you're overdoing it, you're probably not." Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is associate editor of SBN Columbus.