MARKETING: CRUCIAL TO ANY VENTURE (A “niche” business takes extra creative energy)

June 12, 2011

By Bob Burnham

Marketing is at the core of what makes any business survive or die.

I know this from first hand experience.

It the world of old-time radio, many years ago, it could’ve been something as simple as copies of a hand-typed list of shows available on tape for a negligible cost…snail-mailed.

Today, “simple” doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for a very long time.

People are more sophisticated.  If I stop marketing, the business stops. Period.  A big slick catalog that cost thousands of dollars to produce doesn’t work either.  People throw away catalogs. 

If they want to look at a LOT of content, they will go to the website.  That’s what I do whenever I need something… ANYTHING!

As far as audio content, they will either stream it or download it for later consumption probably on a portable device.  This is how MOST entertainment and music is marketed

Old-time radio fans, however, ARE different in the traditional sense (at least the hard-core ones, and not the youngest listeners).  They still like the physical media.  They will still respond to something physical on paper.  The newer ones may respond to something e-mailed to them. 

Who writes checks anymore?  The people who responded to a PRINTED piece will write checks.  Further, almost single-handedly, hearing screaming and yelling, I was able to convert those with large audio cassette collections to the more practical (and cost effective to produce) audio CD while others went directly to the mp3 data disc.

Both formats, however, are now completely obsolete as far as the rest of the world is concerned. An entire collection can now be acquired without waiting for anything in the mail, writing a check, or touching physical media (such as a disc or tape).  That entire collection can be played directly on the device that downloaded the audio, moved to another more portable device, or “streamed” to devices in your home.  There’s no tape heads to clean, racks of jewel cases to contend with, or bookshelves full of boxes reel to reel tapes….EXCEPT for people like me who are constantly transferring content of older media to digital electronic formats.

Old-time radio from “The Clouds” is merely another way of saying shows are stored somewhere on the public internet. 

One can get anything about anything on the internet.  Tens of thousands of full length movies, television shows, music of every imaginable genre are all downloadable sometimes for a fee, but sometimes completely free.

Those of us (who in a previous decade) acquired huge accumulations of old-time radio are trying valiantly to keep up with the rest of the world by copying our old reel to reel tapes to digital formats.  None of us will live long enough to complete the task even on an individual basis, but we will get a lot done in the meantime (and I personally will let you know which titles are coming out as they are re-mastered!).

We do not, however, have the financial backing of major media or motion picture people financing our efforts.  Because of this, it takes longer than some people would prefer.  Fortunately, the cost of physical storage devices like hard drives is constantly dropping.

For me, Marketing old-time radio is still my source of financing for that part of my business.  It is at the core of what allows me to do what I do.  Marketing also takes time, creative energy, and yes, there is a cost involved to marketing itself.

I’ve tried most forms of marketing, and for a niche product (like old-time radio), it’s an aspect you have to keep re-inventing.  There is no “tried and true” approach or method in the year 2011.  But…the more you keep trying, the greater your chance of success, especially if you land on something that IS successful.

If you stop or give up, or become discouraged too easily, the response WILL stop almost immediately.  People don’t really save old mailings nor do they re-visit a spot on the web if you don’t give them a reason to do that.

Successful marketing is merely offering a product THEY want at a TIME they want it, for a PRICE they’re willing to pay.  Of course, the product must be cost effective to produce.  They MAY return to you for more only if you delivered a good experience for them.  

My “good experience” starts with a good product, developed from a lifetime of collecting old shows from good sources.  I use professional-grade hardware, including several custom-built computer workstations.  I rely on software from Adobe for both the audio itself and the Creative Suite and FileMaker database software for marketing.

The core concepts behind the marketing are the same, however, if I was still running cassette decks, a rack full of sound equipment, and IBM typewriters, I would not be competitive.  

The other part of “good experience” is customer service.  Many businesses over-look this crucially important aspect.  If one constantly works toward being the best, they develop a good reputation.  I am happy to say I’ve managed to achieve a decent reputation.

When friends of mine in the old-time radio business complain business is not what it once was, I’m working on my next promotion and enjoying some success.

Marketing to a business IS a major part of success, but so is ATTITUDE! 

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