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A Loyal Reader Writes:

“I’m launching a private radio creative services company. It’s the best way to do the quality work that I’m passionate about. Do you have any advice for someone who is venturing outside the radio industry and into a small business startup?”

Dan Replies:

Congratulations! You’re leaving radio, where you work 7 days a week, for the world of the self-employed, where you work 7 days a week.

Here are a few pieces of “off the top of my head” advice.

Keep perfect financial records from the very beginning.

Don’t accept clients who will make your life miserable.

Know your rates in advance and have them in writing, so that when a prospect asks how much something will cost, instead of quoting a rate off the top of your head you’ll be able to say, “Well, let’s see….For X plus Y and also Z, the rate is….”

Whenever you try to quote a complex fee “off the top of your head,” you’ll quote a figure that is far too low.

It’s much better to say, “When I get back to the office I’ll crunch some numbers for you and see what it will cost.”

Whatever you’re thinking of charging right now, double it.

We’re all afraid to ask for what we’re worth, and we hurt ourselves asking for less than we deserve.

Don’t charge less than your usual rates due to another person’s saying:

A) “But we’re a nonprofit.”

B) “But we can’t afford more.”

C) “We only have $X budgeted….”

D) “We can’t afford your regular rates right now, but once the money starts rolling we’ll hire you for future projects at your full rate.”

E) “But that’s a lot higher than most of the others charge!”

“But we’re a nonprofit.”

“Nonprofit” doesn’t mean “no funds.”

It’s a tax classification, not an indication of their operating budget.

Does their Internet service provider give them a discount because they’re nonprofit?

Does their nonprofit status result in their paying less rent than other equivalent offices in the building?

Do they pay less for utilities, office supplies, coffee for the break room?


“But we can’t afford more.”

Does that work for them at the car dealership?

“Gee, we think having a 2016 Lexus LS 600H as our company car would make a good impression on our corporate clients.”

“Excellent choice! Do you want to pay the $130,000 by check, or would you like to explore our financing options?”

“$130,000? But we can’t afford that!”

“I understand. Let’s take a look at some models that are within your price range…”

“But we want the 2016 Lexus LS 600H!”

“I believe the Rolling Stones have a song whose title addresses your situation…”

“We only have $X budgeted….”

What you charge for your services isn’t based upon what the prospect has budgeted.

People speak of their “budgets” as though they are naturally occurring phenomena over which they have no control.

In reality, a budget is simply a number that has been decided upon.

A budget = “The amount of money we’d like to spend.”

It’s not set in stone. It can be changed.

The first time someone pulled that “we’ve only budgeted this amount” routine on me, I fell for it.

It was at the beginning of my public speaking career, and I didn’t know any better.

I wanted to be “reasonable.”

I didn’t want to appear greedy. I mean, if they’ve only budget $X, how could I refuse? That’s all they had “in their budget.”

Shortly thereafter I realized, “Wait. That was a negotiating ploy. No matter what fee I quoted, the other guy would’ve asked if I could do it for less ‘because it’s outside their budget.'”

On a personal level, I’ve always resented that guy because he took advantage of my natural desire to be helpful.

Now I realize that for him it was just a negotiation, a game.

Since that first time, I don’t get upset when others attempt that tactic with me.

I don’t even blame them. They do it automatically.

When a radio station wants me to work with their air talents or an association wants me to speak at their conference but says my fee is outside their budget, my reply is:

“I understand. Maybe some other time you’ll be in better financial shape…”

You’d be surprised how often their “budget” s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s enough to include what I charge for my time & services.

“But So-And-So will do it for half that amount!”

Internally, my reply is, “If he could charge more, don’t you think he would?”

But what I say aloud is, “I’m sure you’ll be very happy with him.”

“We’ll hire you for future projects at your full rate.”

No, they won’t.

If the job should cost $2,000 but you agree to do it for $500 “just this one time,” you’ve established your value to them as $500.

If they ever do reach the point where they’re able and willing to pay $2,000, they’ll find a $2,000 company to do the job.

They’ll think, “Why should we hire a $500 company for a $2,000 job?”

“But that’s a lot higher than most of the others charge!”

 That’s an excellent position to aspire to.

You don’t base your fees on what most of the others charge.

You base them on the value you deliver to the client.

My standard response:

“Oh, I know. In fact, I even offer a guarantee. If you can find anyone, anywhere who does what I do as well as I do it and charges more than I do, I’ll raise my rates to match his.”

Final piece of advice: Don’t let anyone convince you there’s only one “right” way to run your business.

Including me.

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Fake Yelp ReviewsIt’s pretty easy to tell when a Yelp review is phony — a plant by or on behalf of the business owner.

The secret?

Just look for the ones that read like bad radio commercials written by station *account executives.

*Not all station reps are bad at commercial copywriting. But most are, in large part because they’ve never had any real training in how to craft an effective spot.

Plus, of course, demands of clients, pressures from management, etc.

Here are four “reviews” for two different companies that offer DVD duplication services.

At least one of the four is a fake.

Can you spot the fake(s)?

CONTENDER #1 (2 reviews for Company A)

COMPANY A is one of the most profound groups of professionals in the business. Their insight and attention to detail was surprisingly pleasant. They handled my project as if it was personally their very own, and I knew I could rely on them to get the job done in excellent fashion. That type of dependability is rare in any industry. They were active listeners, and engaged in what I was trying to accomplish, making the experience uncomplicated and effortless. I highly recommend the sterling service that COMPANY A produces and I will definitely be taking advantage of their products again in the near future!

Dan Comments: A-1 is a bogus review.

I had just finished writing explanations of why each individual line clearly is fake when I realized:

Not only is that review fake; it’s a generic fake review, written so it can be used by virtually any business.

COMPANY A handled a cd project for my company and we were very pleased with the experience. We were helped on the phone by Judy, Jill and Barbara who were available by phone – live – to answer our questions and walk us through the process. The workflow via their website and e-mail for getting our graphic materials and release documentation to COMPANY A was easy and effective. The results were perfect; cd’s well mastered and duplicated and graphic packaging well printed. Our customer was delighted. We will be back with more work. We are highly satisfied.

Dan Comments: No real customer would name all three employees who at times answer the phone.

Don’t believe me?

Okay, how many times have you recommended a business by raving about 3 employees, by name, simply for being willing to answer your questions over the phone?

“The workflow via their website and e-mail for getting our graphic materials and release documentation to COMPANY A was easy and effective.”

Huh? “The workflow via their website…?”

A real person would’ve said, “You do it all through their website, and it’s pretty easy.”


“The results were perfect; cd’s well mastered and duplicated and graphic packaging well printed.”

Think about that. The “customer” is raving about the fact that the company they hired to master, duplicate and package their CDs…mastered, duplicated and packaged their CDs.

“We will be back with more work”

Translation: “Here’s our subtle suggestion that you bring your work to our…uh, to this company.”

CONTENDER #2 (2 reviews for Company B)

I found COMPANY B online in search of a DVD manufacturer. I was happily surprised to discover that they not only offer DVD duplication, but also packaging and printing options to really make a company’s vision become reality. We ordered just 100 DVDs from COMPANY B and every single one is BEAUTIFUL! The quality is spectacular and the customer service was everything I would expect from a business. David primarily helped me through the entire process, but other members of the COMPANY B team were invaluable along the way. They even shipped the DVDs to our company address!!! Thank you COMPANY B, we will be coming back for more DVDs soon, I promise.

Dan Comments: That fake blurb is written exactly as a radio station account executive would write a terrible radio commercial.

“Not only do they offer…!”

“Packaging and printing options”

“…to really make a company’s vision become a reality.”

“Hey, Bob, you had your DVDs duplicated by COMPANY B. How were they to work with?”
“Well, Stan, every single DVD they made for us is BEAUTIFUL. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a business that could make our company’s vision a reality; thank GOD for COMPANY B.”


“The quality was spectacular.”


The contents of the DVD might have been spectacular.

The graphics might’ve been spectacular.

But the quality of the DVD duplication was spectacular?

I don’t think so.

I will definitely be taking all of my future DVD projects to David and COMPANY B Duplication. They were beyond helpful during every step of the production process. No other companies could beat COMPANY B’s fast turnaround and fair prices. The DVDs are perfect, I’m so pleased!

Dan Comments: This one is real. It sounds like an enthusiastically satisfied customer.

I do find two of those words suspicious:

“Fair prices.”

Customers refer to a business’ “good prices.”

I’ve never heard a human describe a company’s prices as “fair.”

But the review isn’t “over the top” enough to fit the “phony” category.

Summing Up

A-1, A-2 and B-1 clearly are phony.

Despite my “fair prices” reservation, I’m willing to give B-2 the doubt as the only one of these four reviews that isn’t bogus.

Here’s a Question for You.

Did you notice words, phrases or sentences that immediately told you, “This is fake”?


How many commercials are airing on your radio station right now that rely on equally “obviously bogus” dialogues?


How To Counsel Your Radio Advertising Client

how-to-consul-radio-advertising-clientRecently a dentist licensed one of my syndicated radio commercials for use by his dental practice.

An example of the actual commercial is here, but all you need to know is:

1. The problem is defined as someone who wants “gleaming white teeth” like “those pretty people on my TV.”

2. The solution the radio spot presents is a dentist who “does cosmetic dental.”

Radio Advertising Client Change Request #1

The client wanted to replace “cosmetic” with “family.”

That’s not an unreasonable reaction by the client.

My Reply to Radio Advertising Client Change Request #1

“I understand that you’re a family dentist, but among the things you offer as a family dentist are ‘Cosmetic Dental,’ yes?

“It’s natural for some dentists to worry, ‘But people might think Cosmetic Dental is all I do.’ But the problem presented in this radio spot is someone who wants ‘gleaming white teeth,’ and the solution is a dentist who does Cosmetic Dental.

“In radio advertising, you want to be specific rather than general.

“If you insist, we can replace ‘cosmetic’ with ‘family.’ But I urge you not to do that, because it will weaken the impact of the commercial, which will weaken the response you receive, which will make you disappointed in our work and sorry you made the investment.

“I hope you’ll trust me on this point. If it’s any consolation, you’re not the first client who wanted to say ‘family’ instead of ‘cosmetic.’

“So…Do you still want us to replace ‘cosmetic’ with ‘family,’ or should we stick to the original wording?”

My thinking: I didn’t think changing that word would ruin the commercial. It would lessen the campaign’s response, but the campaign still would produce results.

So I didn’t “go to the mat” over that one. If the client insisted, I’d make the change.

Result: The client took my advice, and the copy remained unchanged.

Radio Advertising Client Change Request #2

The client thought it might be better to replace his office phone number with his Web address.

My Reply to Radio Advertising Client Change Request #2

“You want an ad campaign like this to be what often is referred to as ‘a greased chute’: When a prospect expresses any kind of interest, he is most receptive to the solution you provide.

“If the commercial sends him to the website, he then will have a lot of actions to choose from…which in this case is bad.

“Sending people to your website also obliterates the unique, quirky, personal impact of the radio commercial.

“What you want is:
– Potential patient (PP) hears & likes your commercial.
– PP thinks, ‘That sounds much more personal and human than most dentist advertising I hear.’
– PP calls your office, hoping to further that human contact.
– PP’s call is answered by a bright, friendly person who is delighted PP has called.

“In that telephone call, the first thing the PP will say is, ‘I heard your radio commercial…’

“If your employee who answers the phone replies, ‘What commercial…?’ then she will kill the effectiveness of your campaign.

“Instead, she should immediately know what the PP is talking about and laugh and say, ‘Oh, yes. We get lots of comments about that ad. Are you interested in having Dr. (X) help you get those “gleaming white teeth,” or is there some other kind of dental issue we can help you with?’

“Regardless of whether the PP is interested in a brighter smile or needs treatment for some sort of dental ailment, your receptionist responds, ‘Oh, certainly, Dr. (X) can help you with that. Let’s see…Our next available appointment is Tuesday morning….’ And she books the appointment.

“Remember, the person who answers the PP’s phone call is a crucial part of this advertising campaign. She needs to be genuinely friendly, helpful, informative…and she needs to be very familiar with your radio commercial.”

“But you can’t achieve any of the above by sending someone to your website.”

My thinking: I wasn’t going to budge on this point. A radio needs to have a single Call to Action.

“Call to Action” = the one action you want the targeted listener to take.

There’s no doubt that in cases such as this, “Choice paralyzes response.”

You want there to be no obstacles between the prospect and the action you want the prospect to take.

If you tell the prospect, “Call us…or go to our website” before taking action the prospect now has to make a decision: Should I call? Or should I go to the website?

Each time you require prospects to make a decision, your overall response rate drops.

The only decision targeted listeners should be required to make is, “Do I want to have gleaming white teeth?”

If the answer is “yes,” then you tell them, “If you want gleaming white teeth, this is what you should do next…”

Result: The client took my advice, and “call this telephone number” remained the single Call to Action.

Question for Radio Sales Reps and Copywriters

Do you care enough about your clients’ success to engage in discussions similar to the one above?

Or do you evade your professional responsibility by saying, “The customer is always right”?

Here’s a resource that teaches you how to educate your radio advertising clients.


Free Audiobook Q&A Replay – 2 Days Only

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