So — you’re interested in getting into radio advertising but aren’t sure where to start? Or maybe you’ve dipped your toes in, but were underwhelmed with the results. Either way, you want to make sure that your next investment in radio advertising pays off in a big way for your business.

Radio advertising presents a huge opportunity in many industries. We recently published an article that laid out exactly why we believe this to be the case. As more companies look to expand their rapidly-growing digital footprint, opportunities in more traditional channels, like radio, have presented themselves.

Here are a few numbers that you should know:

  • 92% of Americans age 12 and up listen to the radio each week.
  • The total U.S. radio audience is over 235 million listeners.
  • The majority of radio listening occurs in the car. 73% of adults age 18 and up listen while they drive during their commute on weekdays.
  • There are more than 10,000 active commercial radio stations in the United States.

The audience is there. The segmentation and targeting options are there. But the competition is low compared to many of the shinier digital channels. These new digital channels used to have a leg up in targeting, tracking and the measurement of results – but radio has quickly adapted.

Radio might be low competition, but that doesn’t mean that radio advertising is easy.

Radio advertising can be a tough nut to crack and particularly for companies that don’t have a lot of experience in the channel. You can’t just run a few ads and watch as the money starts rolling in. Effective radio advertising is both an art and a science.

As you begin the process of putting together your new effective radio adverts, take these tips into consideration:

1. Attention-Grabbing Opening

Listeners sit through an average of 16.1 minutes of advertisement for every hour of listening. Let’s assume every advertisement they heard was 30 seconds long. This would never be the case, of course, because many radio networks sell advertising air time in blocks of 10, 15, and 45 seconds as well, but let’s say 30 for brevity’s sake.

At 30 seconds per ad, the average listener would sit through 32 ads every hour.

How many of those ads do you think they genuinely remember? How many would they recognize as having heard if it played again? For most, it would be a fraction of that 32. If they stumbled across some truly effective radio adverts, they might only recognize a handful.

You have one chance to grab the listener’s attention – only one chance! In radio advertising, this is what is known as the “hook.” Your audience’s attention is divided. They are paying attention to the road. They’re thinking about their significant other. They’re dreading an upcoming meeting. They likely aren’t open and receptively listening to your advertisement by default.

You have to pull them out of that state of tunnel-vision. Pull them back to Earth with something that helps you to stand out from the white noise that radio advertising can become during a long commute.

How does your product/service make their life better?
What are the pain points you can remind them of?

Coming up with a great “hook” is easier said than done, but it can have a tremendous impact on your results.

2. A Firm Understanding of Your Audience

For your radio messages to have any impact and move the needle, you need to address your customers in an authentic and personal way. It sounds obvious, but if you sit through an hour of radio you’ll lose count of the number of ads that are clearly trying to cast the widest net possible. That’s not how you grab a listener’s attention.

Your ads have to form an authentic connection. There is a limited amount of time to show listeners that you understand them and what they care about. It adds credibility. You can’t be everything to everyone. But you can make sure that you position yourself as the perfect thing for a particular person.

Give meaning, give value and genuinely care about your audience. Only after you understand them completely can you craft a message that they will respond to.

3. A Focus on Benefits and Problem-Solving

You know your product inside and out. Every feature, innovative detail, and the entire process that went into creating that product shape your understanding of it. You know how to explain and talk about it – from your perspective, anyway.

The ultra-deep understanding of their product that every business owner has can actually sabotage their ability to frame their product in a way that will resonate with their customers. You have to assume that no one knows anything about your product from the outset. An effective radio advert should explain your offer as if it was being explained to a five-year-old.

How will this product help me? What problem will it solve? What benefits will it deliver? Those are the questions your audience is asking themselves after your hook grabs their attention.

Your radio ad has to answer these questions and answer them succinctly. How will it make their life better? Happier? Easier? The more directly you can answer those questions the better your outcome will be.

Don’t talk about the product itself, talk about how it makes your customers lives better and their pain go away!

4. An Irresistible Offer

You can run the greatest radio advert in the world, but if your offer falls short then you’ll never convince anyone to buy anything. Your call to action has to be highly relevant and compelling. You want your listeners to hear your ad and think “this is a no-brainer!”

Not only should your offer be jaw-dropping, but you have to articulate it in a way that is simple and easy to understand. Complicated products require complicated explanations — when the customer is already engaged. Until that point, your job is to earn that interest.

Hone in on a specific benefit with your offer. Maybe your product can help farmers plow their fields, fertilize the soil, plant the seed, and water and tend to them until they mature. It’s a full-service solution. But that doesn’t mean that your most effective radio adverts will focus on everything that it can do. Instead, it may be beneficial to focus on one aspect of your product and design an offer around that, specifically. Your customers can dive into the details as they learn more.

5. Production Value and Voiceover Talent

No one will trust a company that isn’t bringing a professional experience to the table. Sit through some radio ads and you can hear the difference between companies that took a lot of care to work with qualified professionals and those that just threw something together.

Only run ads that have the highest levels of production value. Higher quality, proven voice over talent that has experience in radio advertising. Preferably, anyone that you work with should have a whole host of ROI-driving campaigns that they have been a part of and can reference.

When you look at a blurry video or blurry picture, it is pretty obvious right? You wouldn’t sit through an entire moving with blurry action and poor camera work would you?

Your ears might not seem as important as your eyes, but they are just as capable of picking up the equivalent of “blurry” audio when they hear it in an advertisement. The reason why your cousins garage band is so hard to listen to is because the production value is so low. They might have great songwriting skills, and a great look, and a great idea, and be great people – but all of that greatness is completely lost when it is mixed with poor production values.

6. Originality and Distinctiveness

Like the hooks we discussed earlier, it can be hard to stand out in a sea of radio advertisements that all sound the same.

As an example, take these examples of effective radio adverts from Motel 6, which AdWeek named the best radio advertisements of their year. The use of their distinctive voice over talent, Tom Bodett, combined with the tongue-in-cheek messaging about targeting millennials, helped their ads to stand out and grab the attention of listeners through their originality and distinctive sound.

Finding a unique angle that genuinely connects with your audience is tough, but important. Doing that while accurately conveying your offer and message will require collaboration and revision before recording your ad.

7. Directness & Simplicity

Even if you win the listener’s attention, you won’t have it for long. If they’re behind the wheel of their car, any number of things could distract them from your add or divide their attention. For this reason, keep your messages direct, and keep your calls to action simple. Ask one thing of your audience and one thing only — whether that is to visit your website, visit your store, or call your 1-800 number.

Confusion is the absolute killer of conversion. If it isn’t clear – no one is going to take any action. They certainly won’t stop and ask you to clarify either.

8. Measure the Results

Here is the last step, the one that 95% of advertisers care to consider: tracking your results. Broadcast media (TV, Radio) used to be a “spray and pray” channel where loose targeting was deployed to reach the general masses with a general message.

Those days are over – and advertisers who get that are going to win.

Now radio advertising can be tracked just like the newer and more tech friendly digital advertising services provided by Facebook and Google.

With the LeadsRx Radio Advertising Attribution product, radio advertisers can use technology to tell, with a high degree of confidence, which web visitors came to a site because of a radio advert. With cookie mapping, we are also able to tell which users those are, what actions they took on the site and ultimately what lead them to convert.

These new targeting and tracking technologies level the playing field for radio and give the channel equal footing with digital. With measurement and attribution, advertisers can really start to compare apples to apples when evaluating where to put their ad dollars.

Maybe its time more people start to consider radio as a low cost, low competition alternative to the increasing costs of Facebook and Google ads. If we are looking at ROAS (return on ad spend) as our main KPI there is really no reason why radio shouldn’t be part of every marketing mix.

A Winning Combination for Effective Radio Adverts

Putting all of these best practices together is the formula for effective radio adverts. Ultimately, your ability to do this consistently will come from working with radio advertising professionals and from experience. Use these best practices to inform and guide the production of your next radio ad, and you’ll begin to unlock the full potential of a tried-and-true channel.