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Yesterday in Santa Monica, I walked past a store I’d passed perhaps a hundred times before but never entered: Gallery 319. They appear to specialize in artwork — paintings, lithos, photographs — related to music or sports.

I’d never entered, and once again I walked past it on my way to an appointment. But then I flashed on something: In a couple of weeks I’ll be seeing a friend who used to love The Kinks.

Maybe this place had some cool Kinks-related piece? A long shot, but I did an about face and, curious, went inside.

As far as I could tell, there was only one other person in the gallery: a woman bent over a desk or table, intent on…something. To me, she had the look of a shop owner.

I know she knew I was there, because when I entered a startlingly loud bell rang. She didn’t look up.

I stood a few feet inside the doorway and glanced around at the walls. Looked like some pretty pricey stuff. Didn’t see anything Kinks-ish, but who knew what else they might have in the back, in storage, or otherwise available?

The Looks Like The Owner woman still had not acknowledged my presence. Not a glance, not a word. I had walked into her gallery with money in my pocket and a desire to make a purchase. But it was a desire, not a need. And I’d be damned if I’d apologetically interrupt her concentration to ask if she’d be interested in selling me something.

So I turned and walked out — half expecting her to call out, “Was there something you were interested in?” Nope. My exit made no more of an impact than my entrance: the loud bell rang again, nothing more.

Maybe she’d caught a glimpse of me, instantly spotted me as a former radio guy, and assumed there’s no way I could afford any of their pieces. I just checked their website which declares, “We pride ourselves on warm hospitality.” Maybe that’s reserved for the artists whose works they display.

Does This Have Anything To Do With Radio?

When someone initiates contact with anyone who works for your radio station, they are saying, “I want to buy.”

If yours is one of the increasingly rare stations that employ a live receptionist, when someone calls and asks to a particular account executive whom she knows is out of the building, is the caller put directly through to the A.E’s voice mail?

Or does the receptionist understand that the caller wants to buy and, instead, say, “Ms. Account Exec isn’t here at the moment, but I do expect her to be back this afternoon. Is there something I might be able to help you with, or would you like me to put you through to her voice mail?”

When a listener calls the studio line to complain that you don’t play enough Maroon 5 — let’s pretend your jocks actually answer the studio line and not just the “warm line” they’ve set aside for their friends — do your jocks say, “Sorry, we do the best we can”?

Or do they engage the caller in a brief conversation about Maroon 5 or ask what they think of another new artist whose music is a bit similar?

Has your program director explained to the entire air staff that those blinking lights are customers?

When your promotions assistant is “working the remote” and notices a civilian shyly standing at the sidelines, watching wordlessly and nervously, does the promo person call out a cheery, “Hi! Glad you could make it here”?

If you answered “yes” to that last question: C’mon, really? I doubt it.

Which is too bad, because that “pathetic loser standing over there gawking” heeded your call to come to your remote. He came to buy.

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  • Daniel Thompson February 11, 2009, 1:39 am

    Hey good one Dan…This could be said for so many different businesses as your first example pointed out but the “those blinking lights are customers?” really need to be pointed out to some. I’ll be pointing it in his direction soon….!

  • Jim Griffey February 11, 2009, 3:49 am

    Hi Dan,

    What you wrote is very true. However, it works both ways. I think that clients need to realize that those of us that work in radio are also potential customers. I've been in production and on the air for over 35 years and in that time I've seen many clients treat sales people…receptionists, billing people, and myself with utter disdain. I'm talking everyone from car dealers to mom & pop convenience stores. And as such, I've taken my business elsewhere. I only wish there were some way that I could inform these people of this fact w/out it backfiring on my employer.

  • John February 11, 2009, 7:20 am

    I agree with you Dan. Too many businesses, radio too, think that the people who come into their location or show up on a remote are inconvenient interruptions instead of people to be valued.

    And when the station has a huge remote and promotes – BEGS – listeners to show up to enter the contest – what do they call those listeners who do as they were asked and show up to enter the contest and do it consistently?

    Prize pigs.

  • Ryan February 11, 2009, 7:31 am

    Dan, I’m surprised you didn’t include the entire line from the website:

    “We pride ourselves on warm hospitality, professional attitude and personal attention for ALL OF YOUR ARTWORK AND FRAMING NEEDS.”

  • Roger Bernier February 11, 2009, 8:58 am

    When doing an interview with a new advertiser, one of my first questions is, “Tell me what our listener will experience when they call/come into your store/visit the website?” Most often the response from the new advertiser is a blank stare and/or a look of puzzlement. I then rehearse a phone call or visit with them and ask, “Is that how all of your employees respond when someone calls/visits?” It’s almost funny how many times you can see the wheels turning in their heads. They’ve never thought of connecting what we do in the commercial with how our listeners may respond. It’s worth it to be in radio production just to observe this reaction. It never fails to amaze me, how disconnected business owners can be from the source of their income.

  • Dan O’Day February 11, 2009, 10:23 am

    RYAN: I did notice that and did chuckle. But they don’t appear to present themselves as marketing experts, so I didn’t mention it.

  • BIG John Small February 11, 2009, 10:58 am

    I agree with Dan!

    I was “in radio” for over a dozen years… Now I’m helping clients “buy radio” and it’s pathetic!! I have called stations to get “buying information” and have never been called back… I have gone to their websites to find an e-mail address and instead I find the PD, the morning guy, the afternoon guy, even the weekend guy, but not a single sales person or sales manager.

    I HAVE found some stations that “get it” and they do… they get the business too! I already pre-qualified them before I reached out… if they don;t call back, they help me “reduce my decisions” that need to be made!

    If I were selling radio ads (which I have done a time or two) I would have a BIG web presence! AND I would call people back when they call me to buy… or even to ask a question (that’s a step towards them buying)

    I know… CRAZY IDEA!!!

    I make it EASY for people to do business with me and I stay BUSY!!

  • Howard Joseph February 11, 2009, 12:21 pm

    This excellent stuff, Dan. It really puts it into perspective. I think many radio folks on both sides of the fence (programming vs. sales) need to be reminded of this.

    Of course, that assumes that they knew it at all.

    One of my biggest weaknesses when I was a jock was the phones. I hated phoners, I hated taking requests. I liked contests, but then answering the phones is easy when you are giving away money.

    My point is; I didn’t approach it the right way. If I had viewed it from the position taken in this piece, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so “bothered” by a ringing phone.

  • Rico Garcia February 11, 2009, 12:21 pm

    Great write up.

  • Luke Willman February 11, 2009, 12:22 pm

    Bingo! This is exactly why I left radio – from the corporate conglomerates to the small markets… radio no longer appreciates they get to use the PUBLIC’s airways! Some argue that newpapers are dying and radio is not far behind… hard to argue with them!

  • Frank Baum February 11, 2009, 12:23 pm

    ehhhh, forgetting the hoppocratic oath of stardom? First do no harm? Never happen in radio!

  • Adam Garey February 11, 2009, 2:11 pm

    Dan..did you get the Kinks material then for your friend? Her customer service may have been very poor….I think it helps us all when we tell the person that we have been wronged. Things change that way …Answer that phone…I did and got kind feedback from “customer” for it.
    Tell Agness at Gallery 139 your complaint.It will help her.You have the knowledge to help her.You have helped me..Thank you friend, adam