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Chriss Scherer Scherer has been the editor of Radio magazine since 1997. His experience in radio includes work as chief engineer at stations in Cleveland (WMMS-FM, WHK-AM, WZJM-FM, WJMO-AM...more

Archive for June 7th, 2009

Sales Pitch or Education?

You know I’m active with the Society of Broadcast Engineers. I’m the newsletter editor for the Kansas City chapter 59. I also often help arrange meeting programs for my chapter. I have helped arrange chapter programs for nearly 20 years, and I’m still surprised that engineers and manufacturers too often mismanage the symbiotic relationship. Many manufacturers still want to provide a straight-out sales pitch. Many engineers accept these programs or give away even more excusive access to the qualified audience than they should. By working together, the needs of the manufacturer and the chapter can be accommodated with better results for both.

Recently, I had to prepare a chapter meeting announcement. I worked with the chapter member assigned to arrange the program. After multiple requests for information about the meeting, I was finally given a program topic and nothing more. I asked for a description of the topic and the name of the presenter. I received a definition of the key term in the topic, and name that included a job title a “bio” that read: “[Name] has 35 years of broadcast industry experience.”

Obviously I pushed for more information, and I tempered that request with some of the points I list below. The next item I received was a flyer about the company’s touring road show. The flyer basically said that this company was the leader in several aspects of broadcast technology, and all its products would be on display.

Again, I told the coordinator that this was worthless for a meeting announcement. The coordinator went back to the company one more time, and the manufacturer replied that he would like us to promote the company’s road show, which is why he was in town in the first place.

How nice. The manufacturer expected the chapter to do his PR work for him. He never provided any additional information about the original program topic. The end result: the meeting announcement was weak, few members attended, and the manufacturer was dissatisfied with the turn out.

What could have changed? Plenty, but mainly, an educational topic with a clear description would have attracted more attendees. I have my own method of arranging chapter programs, and there are a few regular steps I take. While I don’t expect to arrange all the programs myself, I am working with this coordinator to improve the methods he uses.

Here are my tips on getting the maximum effect for both manufacturers and chapters.

Teach us first.
A chapter meeting provides a captive audience. This audience knows when the program is pure pitch and when it’s is truly educational. If you start with a pitch, you lose them from the start.

Avoid the sales pitch.
If possible, eliminate the sales pitch. Like I said before, teach us first. Now we also know that there is a cost involved in this process. Companies exist to make money, and they make money by selling equipment and services. Save the sales element for the end. Better yet, once you have taught the audience something, tie it into your product to show a real-world example.

Put yourself in the audience’s place and consider the program.
Would you sit through the presentation on why you should buy the condominium? Even if it’s the best condominium in the world? Unless you really wanted a condo, probably not, and even then, if the presentation only covered how great that condo is, you probably would not want to hear it. Chapter meetings are the same way.

Provide a detailed program description that encourages people to attend.
Write the description so engineers will feel they are missing out if they are not there. Include why the topic is important. Don’t assume the potential attendee knows the topic in-depth.

A chapter meeting delivers a prime, targeted audience that has value to the presenter.
Don’t give it away. I hear lots of chapters rejoice that they have a program, yet the program itself may have no real value to the chapter. Chapter members can read a product sell sheet online. Don’t waste time by bringing a group together only to be told how great a product is.

Define the chapter’s expectations.
Be careful not to demand too much, or the presenter will either decline or expect just as much in return.

Suggest providing a meal, but don’t require it.
It’s no secret that feeding an engineer increses the chances of him attending. If the chapter requires the presenter to pay for a meal, it makes the presentation a sales effort from the start. The presenter is there to promote his company and product. If he has a mandatory cost involved, he wants something in return.

Beware of claims that a program is purely educational.
Just because the presenter says it’s not a sales pitch doesn’t mean it’s not. I know of one presenter who says he doesn’t know the price of the equipment, so it can’t be a sales pitch. Not true. It’s still a sales pitch, but it also makes that presenter a bad sales person. And honestly, if it’s the greatest technology in the world, it’s still useless to a station if it costs $100 billion.

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