I hope today's headline isn't too confusing, but the goal is to remind you that the new AI tool kit can help your station's email marketing efforts.
And while the thought of AI strikes fear in the hearts of so many in radio, the fact is there are applications of the technology that can help radio accomplish its marketing goals – without budget cuts or more painful RIFs. The trajectory of AI reminds me a lot of how Amazon's Alexa came out of the gate. If you remember the early days of smart speakers, the technology made waves – actually, tsunamis – by being associated with a loss of privacy. It didn't take long before we heard consumers in focus groups declare, “I'm not bringing a device in my home that listens to my conversations.”
Neither Google Home nor Amazon Alexa products has recovered from that early wave of bad press, late night talk show monologues, and social media memes that made Alexa synonymous with electronic invasions of privacy.
AI, to a great degree, is already experiencing a similar wave of scary PR. Ironically, much of it has come from some of the tech chieftains who have brought this technology to market. Many – including Bill Gates and Elon Musk – have expressed fears of AI falling into the wrong hands – evil dictators, maniacal hackers, and radio station general managers. It's hard to nail down which of these is scariest.
But once we get past the AI DJ hysteria that robots are replacing most on-air jobs, getting a handle on the ways in which this technology can actually help us do more with less is worthy of our consideration. Where does this figure into the operations of the average radio station? Let's take a look at the state of the art of email database promotion.
While it is perhaps the least sexy form of marketing, it may be the most effective, especially in the months ahead. And in an environment where most stations have no budget for any outside marketing, your email database may be your station's friend with benefits.
Our company may have made more use of this tool than most radio stations. Since 2004, our Techsurveys are leveraged on the size and quality of station databases. In a typical survey, we aggregate more than 400 radio databases of listener emails generating tens of thousands of solid responses from core fans. In short, it's a powerful tool that often goes overlooked by programmers and marketers.
Radio stations use their databases, of course, but mostly for the promotion of special weekends or to fulfill client sales packages. Most stations aren't especially strategic with their email databases, often even shocked to learn the demographics of its members. These collections of listener email databases need maintenance, of course, in order to remain vital and useful.
In public and Christian radio, they aren't just a conduit to more listening, they are a direct pathway to donation. Once you can find them, you can personalize messaging to them, connecting them even more to the station. At a time when fundraising is now challenged at so many stations, more creative ways of communicating with past givers become even more essential But you can't serve up clever new messages if you don't know how to find them. Although it's been with us for more than three decades, email is still the most singularly effective way you can communicate.
And yet, so many stations aren't even doing the bare minimum anymore – recognizing and celebrating listener birthdays. Maybe it was the devastating effects of COVID, but one's celebration of their date of birth seems elevated these days, especially for Millennials and Gen Z's, eager for any excuse to celebrate a happy occasion. A radio station could be one of the first to recognize another revolution around old Sol.
But one thing they cannot refute: At a point in time when radio engagement has headed south, email databases are chock full of station fans, many of whom are ready, willing, and happy to play along promotionally, listen more, and qualify for prizes and other temptations.
I have long preached the efficacy of “The 80:20 Rule” (or Pareto's Principle) premised on the proven outcomes that 20% of a population tends to generate 80% of results.
As radio's fringe audience – often expressed as P2s, P3s, and even more casual listeners – has become less reliable, a focus on loyal, core users becomes the most expedient and effective marketing path.
And that's where your email database comes into play. But how can you whip it into shape, making the most of a cost-effective marketing jackhammer?
I ran across a research study by Selzy, a marketing company specializing in automated email campaign management. Obviously, Selzy only released data that supports its marketing objectives. The survey was conducted among 1,250 of their own customers, You can check out their study here.
But some of their data is telling. Those who use AI tools in their email marketing are generally quite positive about its acceptance and effectiveness. Nearly nine in ten (88%) Selzy users say they mostly/completely trust AI-generated emails. And close to six in ten (58%) express confidence AI tools can improve email newsletters.
The chart below breaks down popular AI features. While personalized content and newsletters are near the top, four in ten (40%) point to automatic content and image generation.
While there may not be funds for full-scale billboard or TV marketing, an owned resource comprised of thousands of core fans just waiting to be deployed is simply an underused nuclear weapon. How can you use this digital tool creatively and tactically to move the needle this Fall?
For decades, most radio operators have paid scant attention to this valuable audience connector. Thanks to AI, we have the opportunity to make it even bigger than ever.
You've got emAIl.