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It’s Time to Rethink Rewards Programs

The logic of the famous 20:80 rule dictates that the more effort any radio brand invests in its biggest fans, the more that has potential to pay off with a stream of loyalty, usage, preference, ratings, and even brand evangelism. And that brings us to the idea of rewarding our fans so as to encourage their behavior and incite more just like it. But does that mean it’s all about contesting? Or is that only the “opening act” of a strong and vibrant rewards program?

This is a guest post by Dominick Milano, President of Publisher Development at Triton Digital. It’s time for you to rethink rewards!

The challenge for radio is that it no longer exclusively owns the consumer’s attention for audio content.

Consumers now split their time between radio stations and a plethora of new options for audio entertainment and information. It is more than logical then that the focus for individual radio stations should be increasing time spent with each respective brand.

That’s why it’s time to rethink rewards.

Radio loyalty programs became prevalent in the mid 2000’s at a time when digital media was only beginning to gain traction. These programs offered a shiny new gadget for stations to use in their then nascent website strategy. This was radio’s first real foray into “digital”.

While many stations have implemented successful loyalty programs, others have not had success or may be fatigued with the concept. Two primary reasons: First, the program is time intensive to implement; second, the implementation is more of a contest program than a loyalty program.

All contests have a finite lifespan and so if you treat the whole program as such your audience will eventually burn on the concept. Contesting is an important element but it is just one. It drives excitement and interest, and more importantly, it drives entry into the database. The key is to have elements beyond just contests that keep these database members engaged.

As for time and resources, it is understandable that both are luxuries inside radio stations today. However, “it takes too much time” primarily because it is too often treated as a separate initiative rather than a key asset in an overall strategy.

Every successful loyalty program results in consumers spending more time and/or money with a particular brand. Since radio’s challenge is to retain and grow time spent with its individual brands, a set of tools (like Triton’s) designed to address this challenge would solve a critical industry problem.

Your strategy must be to focus on the things that will help drive your audience to spend more time with your brand.

First, before you implement a program, create one that you and your family would want to participate in! Consider the benefits that one might access by increasing their level of engagement with your station. Can they unlock access to relevant content that others can’t? Can they have or do things that money can’t buy? For example, a visit to watch the morning show live on-air, lunch with one of their favorite personalities, or perhaps a backstage pass to a station concert or event. Are there ways they can earn status compared to other fans of the station? What value does that status have? (e.g., Listener of The Month). A brainstorming session or two will generate hundreds of ideas. The key is making sure they mean something to your family. Relevance matters.

If you have created a compelling program then the next step will be to invite your audience to be part of something special. Keep in mind that you are not just trying to build your database. You want to create an active community of fans. These are real people not meters or diaries. This is your family!

The relationship should begin with simply rewarding the audience for the things they already do– listening on-air and online and visiting your website

Then you can invite the audience to participate in other activities, like pointing them to specific section of your site, taking a survey, or some other activity.

Then work in the sales component when you believe your community is large enough and active enough to have value for advertisers.

But remember, this is your community – your family. Don’t drown them with ads or promotions. Avoid clutter and create relevance and the programs sold to advertisers will drive significant revenue.

And because this is your family, don’t hand over your database to a sponsor and make sure you control the messaging/offers to insure relevance for your audience.

“Digital” should be every media company’s best friend. There are plenty of new and shiny gadgets out there to choose from. They key is making sure that shiny new tool provides a sustainable benefit to the audience and the station’s advertisers.

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