| Oct 17, 2019 | | 14 min read

How to Add Digital to Radio Advertising Sales


The fact is simple: radio growth has stagnated, and the radio stations that are winning in the 21st century are those that are combining radio with digital solutions. To put it in perspective, here are the projected ad spends on radio versus digital from 2019, through to 2023:

radio stations radio and digital us ad spend graph


Now, how’d we get here…?

Tens of thousands of years ago, early human life communicated meaning through engravings on cave walls. Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians created an alphabet to tell stories that have stood the test of time. A few hundred years ago, the printing press was invented, which transformed the way meaning was transferred. Then, at the crest of the  19th century, came the radio. Now, over the past hundred years, we’ve witnessed the advent of television, the internet, podcasts, social media, ecommerce, and so much more.

Along with each of these innovations , there have been advertising and marketing innovations to accompany them. Early forms of communication were replaced by the next, but in the 20th and 21st century we’ve witnessed a multiplicity effect, where each new channel runs in tandem to the previous. 

Today, marketers and advertisers have their hands full, having to disseminate and distribute messaging across the likes of radio, TV, search, traditional, social media, and more.

BUT, not all channels are as lucrative as others. Newspaper and yellow page marketing are going the way of the dinosaurs, radio and TV are reaching maturity, but digital channels are in the midst of their growth phase.

Radio isn’t going anywhere, but this market evolution presents a prime opportunity for radio companies to catapult their growth and increase the value they deliver to customers by bolting digital solutions onto existing radio offerings.

Why You Should Add Digital Marketing to Radio 

With radio, you’re in the business of selling ads that’ll drive leads and sales to your customer’s business. The core concept of selling digital remains exactly the same, just through a different medium. 

Radio stations are in a unique position to cover even more of the market and provide a comprehensive solution to customers by combining core competencies with a digital approach. In fact, "How Advertising Works Today" found that “Unified cross-media campaigns were, on average, 57% more effective than those that aren't.”

And according to Borrell Associates, it’s what local ad buyers want to invest in. This chart shows that 24% of local respondents in this 2018 study were trimming their radio spending for 2019, while roughly 57% planned to increase spending across a number of digital channels.

radio stations what ad buyers are loving graph'

Borrell Associates

This means that radio stations are actually better poised than most marketing agencies to add cross-media campaigns. Do you think most agencies would be able to easily offer traditional media solutions? Probably not. But you can evolve, building upon what you already dominate. Here’s why digital is essential to incorporate into your suite of solutions:

Benefits of Digital

  1. Your audience is online: According to the global web index, digital consumers are now spending 6 ¾ hours a day online, with 51% of that time spent via mobile device, and 2.2 of those hours being spent on social media alone. Consumers haven’t moved away from radio consumption, but these digital consumption patterns create a lucrative opportunity to help your clients to better connect with their customers.
  2. Tracking and reporting with ease: By nature, digital solutions enable much more accurate tracking and proof of performance reporting than traditional counterparts. Radio can be difficult to report on, so digital solutions can make your offering more tangible in the eyes of your clients. In fact, Vendasta’s Churn Study demonstrated that SMBs who receive regular proof of performance reports have a 38% increased retention rate compared to SMBs who do not.
  3. Do more with less: That's the power of automation. Email campaigns for clients can be triggered automatically, product upgrades can be completed entirely online, etc.
  4. Ability to personalize: Market segmentation is tough to achieve on radio, but through social media and search solutions, you can perform vast degrees of marketing segmentation for your clients.
  5. And most importantly, the businesses that you sell to NEED digital solutions. They’ll either get them from you or from someone else, so you may as well grow your revenue in the process.

Radio Challenges When Selling Digital (And How to Overcome Them)

This all sounds great, but selling digital isn’t as simple as flipping a switch and watching the cash fly in. Your sales reps will need training to understand new solution sets, you’ll have new competitors in the digital space, regulating cost of acquisition (CAC) might be a challenge, and then there’s always the matter of fulfilling on new solution sets.

Here are the top challenges, as well as key sales insights for conquering them:

1. Training the sales team to sell digital

You likely have some very talented and very experienced sales reps on your roster. However, if radio is their domain, learning a new industry can be a tall task and be high cost to your organization.

There’s no doubt that the digital marketing world is complex and ever-changing. For those with decades of expertise within the likes of TV, radio, or newspaper industries, learning a new industry with new sales tactics and pipeline dynamics can be daunting. Fortunately, we can help.

Remember, constant learning is more important than ever before

According to David Little of Comporium, training—and digital training—is the cornerstone of success when embracing the digital market:

"It really comes down to technology. It comes down to utilizing the tools that we have through e-learning, sales training, presentation materials. You really need to be able to show the sales reps that you have the ability to support them, and then you need to hold them accountable."

David Little

SVP of Enterprise Sales, Comporium

But it’s not just a one-time deal, because digital is always changing. Training around digital solutions is a process of constant learning, so that your reps can always be on top of the most recent research or industry trends.

Then, change your perspective

Our own CRO, George Leith notes that it’s often a shift in perspective that’s required to succeed in digital selling today:

"It is the salesperson that turns themselves into a consultant, that does constant learning, they are the ones that are going to be winning, and we're seeing them win today."

George Leith

Chief Revenue Officer, Vendasta

Product pushing isn’t going to close the deal in digital. Opportunity is ripe for the sales rep that can actively look to diagnose problems and pair them with solutions. Training on consultative selling will be the key to unlocking accelerated sales successes.

Make resources available

There’s a limit to the hand holding you can provide your reps before it becomes a drain on your human capital. That’s why it’s critical to deploy learning resources outside of core training to enable reps to pursue that constant learning on their own.

Consider deploying a learning management system (LMS) for your reps so that they can pursue that constant education on their own free will, and have custom learning paths built for reps that may want to specialize in certain areas.

Pro Sales Tip From Aaron LeBlanc: Make it easy for your traditional sales team to be successful. Don't overwhelm them by adding too many new solutions at once. To start growing new revenue quickly, choose a few key services that add to your radio advertising, like local findability. Layer on additional marketing and advertising AFTER they get a few wins.

2. Motivating product uptake with clients

Once you’ve established the proper training procedures, you’re going to encounter another challenge, and that is passing that education on to your clients. 

Your strength: You likely have very strong client relationships built on high degrees of trust. 

Your weakness: Your clients trust you when it comes to radio—because that’s your core competency, but they might be hesitant to be as trusting when it comes to new digital solutions.

The spillover effect

Marketing spillover is the effect whereby you run radio ads for a client and someone hears the ad, thinks about it for the day, searches for your clients company organically later that day, and converts on a form—so the lead manifests itself as being “organic search” in nature. The same effect can result from paid social media ads.

Marketing spillover is a beautiful thing because it speaks to the power of multi-platform marketing, but it’s also terrifying—because it is nearly impossible to quantify. But the reality is simple: spillover is nearly impossible to quantify when running radio alone, but it is much easier to interpret through cohesive, multi-platform campaign offerings.

“Advertising is purchased to increase sales. Businesses spend money on ads because they want awareness and leads. They want to increase the top line. If you are an Auto Dealer, manufacturers mandate that you must spend 50-60% of your budget on digital. As a Radio company, that’s 50-60% of your clients’ budgeted spend that you are giving up out the back door—or you can make it part of your stack of solutions and grow both your revenue, and your clients’ bottom line.” 

Aaron LeBlanc

Director of Enterprise Sales, Vendasta

It’s about data leverage

Radio advertising is effective, of that there is no doubt. The advantage for clients in adding digital is: 

  • The hyper targeting potential through tactics like geofencing on geographic locations
  • Sophisticated ROI tracking through hard measures on impressions (broken down by channel), actions taken (clicks, directions, etc.) and cost per lead (CPL).

Radio stations BusinessApp-HeroGraphics-003

Multi-channel marketing is the gateway to increased ad performance, and that’s where you can take the upper hand over pure-digital agencies. Besides, your business clients will love the ability to see precisely how their advertising dollars are working for them—each step of the way.

Pro Sales Tip From Aaron L.: Gordon Borrell says, “Virtually all radio buyers are buying digital, yet 75% of the average station’s customers aren’t buying digital from the station”. If you aren’t serving your clients what they want and need, they will take a season off radio and never be back.

3. Heavy digital presence and competition in your market

First you had other radio stations to compete with, now we’re saying that you need to enter a new market with a new host of competitors. So, why on earth would you want to do that?

Opportunity and advantage.


There are 21,034 advertising agencies in the US that have generated $17 billion in revenue so far this year. That is but a fraction of the $129 billion of digital spend projected in the year. That means that these agencies are leaving an additional $100B+ in revenue on the table.

But who’s claiming that revenue if not agencies?

It’s traditional media companies like yours that have had the foresight to predict industry trends, and add digital solutions to their existing offerings.


Of these 21,034 digital advertising agencies in the US, there is not one of them that can easily enter the radio space without major disruption to their core business. But let’s turn the tables—you have an established radio company, and white-label reseller models enable anyone to provide digital advertising solutions.

Here’s how white-label models can work for radio companies:

  1. A white-label provider develops digital marketing software to be resold by companies like radio stations.
  2. A reseller (radio station) pays a wholesale rate on new digital solutions, and then marks the software up to their desired price, puts their branding on it, and sells it to their business clients.
  3. Your clients benefit from a more comprehensive service provider (you) and you simultaneously grow your bottom line through new revenue streams.


Check out Vendasta’s white-label platform!

Now, let’s jump ahead six months, and you are now a fully integrated digital & radio company. Prospects will choose you every time because you can offer a more immersive customer experience and more solutions than any of the digital agencies in your market.

The problem of presence

Okay, okay, but with 21,034 digital agencies in the states, and 15,330 radio stations, how do you compete on your marketing and sales?

First, you should look to partner with a white-label provider that can also help you with training and selling of the new digital solutions.

Next, you need to evaluate how you stack up against others in your market, and craft a pitch around that:

"You've got to recognize where you are against your competition. Are you willing to make that change? What opportunity will that bring you? Then look at your sales process and how you engage with your customer and what do you need to do different if you can't just literally pull your product out of a bag and do a pitch."

David Little

SVP of Enterprise Sales, Comporium

Pro Sales Tip From Aaron L.: Leverage your existing relationship with clients to expand and grow. Radio companies have two main advantages with existing clients: they have built trust with the local advertiser, and have helped them with traditional media expertise. It’s time to leverage that relationship for more business.

4. High cost of acquisition

This is actually a common misconception. If done properly, deploying digital in the radio space will actually reduce your overall cost of acquisition (CAC).

Average CAC is actually on the rise in radio, and this is a byproduct of the 24% of local ad buyers that are actively trimming their radio ad spend. This means less spend from regular clients, or lost accounts entirely. And where are these accounts and these budgets going? To the digital marketing agency down the road.

The average CAC of a marketing agency is actually among the lowest in the B2B landscape, clocking in at $141. And we know that the ideal LTV (lifetime value) to CAC ratio is 3:1, which means that these agencies only need to earn $423 per account to sustain growth. Depending on the station, that can be the cost of a single radio ad. BUT, as a radio station, you are going to have a hard time hitting this CAC—at least initially

The challenge for radio stations is around familiarity with digital solutions and building a unique selling proposition at the intersection of digital and radio. Here’s the thing: when you sell radio advertising space, your clients can turn on the radio and hear their ads at work. When you sell your clients new digital solutions like a listing sync service or reputation management—they may not fully understand the solution and are having to trust you that the magic you claim to be performing is actually happening (behind the scenes). 

The sales approach has to evolve with your positioning. Here are some of the keys:

  • Focus on client education first
  • Practice consultative sales techniques
  • Talk about the spillover effect
  • Emphasize on the targeting capabilities in digital
  • Prove your combined performance

"Don't go in the door expecting to make a sale on the first call today when it comes to digital. There are just so many different opportunities, different services, so many different value points that those different products bring, that if you go in today and try to sell somebody something in the digital space and you haven't taken the time to try to sit down and understand their business and what they're trying to accomplish, where they're having struggles, then you're going to lose all respect with that customer and they're going to see you truly as a pitch man." 

David Little

SVP of Enterprise Sales, Comporium

Pro Sales Tip From Aaron L.: Today, Radio has a growing cost of acquisition because local advertisers want new solutions. Check out our recent article on lowering CAC to learn more on how to deal with this.

Mixing Radio with Digital

radio stations radio plus vendasta equals love


As we saw earlier, radio ad spends are maturing and stagnating in the US, and many local ad buyers are trimming radio budgets, so it will only become more difficult to earn new market share with radio alone. However, with 32 billion in new digital opportunity forecasted over the next 4 years, there is a massive opportunity for radio companies to generate new lines of revenue. 

It’s also an equation of product diversification. A recent Vendasta study on client retention determined the following:

  1. Selling your clients a single solution will only yield a client retention rate of 30% over the span of 2 years.
  2. Adding an additional solution to that offering will drive that retention rate up to 50% over 2 years.
  3. Selling that same client 4 products will yield a retention rate of 80% over the same time span.

Your existing clients are buying digital because they need it, your prospects are looking for digital because they need it too. When a local business opens their doors, they have to get listed so that people can find them, they need a website so people can get to know them, they need to build a reputation so people can trust them, and they need social media so that they can stay relevant in the community.

“There's a lot of advertising spillover. When a business advertises on the radio, it creates local consumer engagement for the business on Google. The consumer does not usually convert on the Radio ad or give a phone call right away. They store that information in the top of their mind for later. So the business needs to be found online because that’s where the consumer will ultimately go to action. What’s more, the business needs to have a good reputation and website - or they will lose the customer at the front door.” 

Aaron LeBlanc

Director of Enterprise Sales, Vendasta

Are you going to seize this opportunity?


Digital combined with radio is the way forward.

But, digital can’t help you blaze a bold new trail from a seat on the bench. You have to be fully invested in completing the digital transformation if you want to grow revenue well into the next decade. 

Check out the full study below on the Challenges Radio Stations Face or hop on a demo to learn more about going digital, and how Vendasta can be a strategic partner in your digital transformation through white-label solutions, fulfillment, and a marketplace of 100+ instant-on digital solutions. 


About the Author

Brock is a Former Marketing Analyst at Vendasta with a passion for the more creative things in life. He also answers to Archie - for obvious reasons... And when he's not putting his fingers in paint, or saving Riverdale, he can usually be found asking Google one of the many more embarrassing "how to" questions.

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