Rooting for the small market team, then it all comes crashing to a halt

Has this ever happened to you? I’m listening to my favorite sports radio talk show and the host is doing a live broadcast on location for a local small business. Because of what I do, I paid close attention for the few minutes I had in the car and found myself rooting for the business to do a good job. Alas, my heart hurts because of what happened in the end…I’ll come back to that in a moment.

But first, we all know how these work. The host announces throughout the broadcast that s/he is live at said business and inviting listeners to come for a visit. The business may have a special deal for those who come by that day. The sheer logistics and planning involved to try and make the most of a sales boost for that given day are immense. From inventory, staff training, local signage, point-of-sale, and the list goes on, these events can and should represent a culmination of a great deal of effort and strategic planning based on the specific goals for the business and how the broadcast fits in the overall marketing mix and budget for the year. Done well, and there’s sure to be some material boost in sales for the day of the radio broadcast event. However, that is hardly going to be enough to really make all of the other resources, heart, sweat, and tears worth it.

Where the real value lies is in the experience and long-lasting impression the event provides for not only those who did go out of their way to visit, but, perhaps most importantly, the message that can stick with the audience to come back time and time again in the future. This is why, usually at the end of the show, the host will speak with the business owner or store manager for a quick interview to give the business a chance to have some dedicated airtime to really drive it all home/land the plane/whatever analogy you wish.

Every other mention or air time the business receives up to this point is fairly formulaic and is sprinkled in during lead-ins to a segment or a final quick bite before a commercial break, but now the lights are on and it’s time to shine. Because the radio host is a pro, he begins the conversation with THE question: “Well, *Jim*, thanks so much for having us out here at (Jim’s store) and for taking such good care of us. Why don’t you tell our listeners today why they should come see you, what really sets you apart and makes you different?”

I know, I couldn’t believe it either. I hadn’t ever heard a host tee up the million dollar question so perfectlydirectly, and exactly for his sponsor of the day – who no doubt paid a decent sum in cash on top of all of the other costs leading up to this point. I’m on the edge of my driver’s seat eagerly awaiting the response that I’m sure will be expertly delivered because *Jim* doesn’t even have to give it in a roundabout way. The host could not have framed it any better. The response, sadly, went as follows: “Uh, um, well, we’ve been in business for 20 years, and er, uh, you can find us on all the social media apps and delivery service apps that are out there, and ummm, yeah our recipes are on point and…”

Bonk. Graciously, the host jumps in and bails Jim out by adding that, “right, and your (named a specific, unique, specialty item) are FANTASTIC and unlike ANYTHING else I’ve EVER had, plus you have the standard things folks love when they’re looking for….” To say nothing about the sloppy execution of the message itself – not everyone is or has to be a practiced public speaker, hey, I’ll even give people a pass for talking into a radio microphone as that can be intimidating, but no matter how nervous or polished, the answer was comprised ENTIRELY of things that could have applied to practically EVERY SINGLE COMPETITOR in Jim’s space.

Not one single thing was truly unique or a differentiator. The closest thing to it was providing his opinion about his “on point recipes”. In a crowded and competitive market, it is absolutely crucial that your business has its Unique Selling Proposition (USP) dialed in and emblazoned across the hearts and minds of every single person in the organization. Each employee has to know the 15-second elevator pitch, especially in small businesses where everyone can truly feel the material impact they can have on the overall success with even the basics in order. If you don’t have your USP air-tight and evangelized throughout your company, make it a priority this week to craft that message so the next time your brand is discussed by anyone associated with your company – whether at a casual outing or in front of a microphone – they’ll be able to deliver a message that makes your business memorable well beyond any one-time promotion or broadcast.

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