In the early days of my company, we started using live reads on a radio show from talent that knew how to deliver a pitch. Jeff Levy was our number one talent with Leo Laporte following at a close second. We spent a great deal of cash on radio advertising, because it worked. We landed over 10,000 new customers over a couple of years from AM radio live reads. Then, one day Jeff Levy’s radio show was no longer on CBS’s KNX 1070 Los Angeles.
At first, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. My star lead gatherer was gone. What would I do next? Isn’t it obvious…start my own radio show!
A couple of months after Jeff Levy left KNX, I called the station manager Rosemary Hernandez. I said, “Ro, how about giving us the tech radio show?” She laughed. I explained to her that our CTO was already doing a local radio tech show. While we paid for this show to be on the air, when we decided to quit, they ran the show for free. It was pretty good I guess. So I sent her a podcast to listen to. I also told her, “Ro, we are in 100s of homes everyday in Los Angeles, the same market you broadcast in, doing tech support. We are the leader in Southern California and our fleet of red Mini Coopers had the attention of the community. We can tell real stories about tech problems in people’s homes, rather than regurgitate what one might Google.” Her reply, “I’ll give it some thought, send me the podcast.”
A few days passed. I didn’t hear from Rosemary. I figured it was a dead deal. But then the phone rang and it was her. She said, “OK, we’ll give you the show. We will put you on KFWB.” My knees buckled and I said thank you and hung up. It wasn’t KNX, the #1 station in LA, but it was still an LA major brand and I couldn’t be more excited.
That same day I called my colleagues at Verizon and Citrix. Both were big on the air and Citrix always ran spots on the same stations as us. They even used Levy and Laporte. So I asked them if they’d be interested in sponsoring our show. Within in minutes they said, “YES!” Verizon responded the same. I just sold the entire advertising space for the show in less than 30 minutes. I called back Rosemary to share the news and she gasped. She had to run into a meeting and told me she’d call me back.
A few days later, Rosemary called and said, “Eric, I spoke with Dan Mason, president of CBS Radio today about your show and the sponsors. He was pleased and told me to put your show on KNX!” The show was born!
We developed a slick show supported by a massive social media campaign and a live GoToMeeting follow-on for listeners to interact with the talent. The show got great ratings and the sponsors were pleased. The station was pleased. Our investors were impressed. I was feeling pretty good!
The next step was to get it syndicated and grow our business into each of the markets where our show would run. We met with Dan Mason and station managers in San Francisco and Dallas. They all seemed excited. It never happened. So we continued with the show in LA.
Next, we met with ABC/Citadel in San Francisco about doing another show with them. CBS tried to stop us, but they couldn’t. Our contract only allowed them rights in LA. We got the deal with ABC and launched a second show. Citrix sponsored. Verizon passed as they didn’t have a strong user base in SF.
We tried to syndicate this one too. We could not.
After two years, the show was terminated. (There’s more to the story, but morally and legally, I cannot discuss it.) It was over. Our brilliant marketing idea that brought us leads was now dead. While it was a bummer, we did land another 1,000+ customers from it. It clearly never performed as well as Levy and Laporte, so we moved on to our next great marketing idea. This story will follow in another post.