Learning From Candy

If you're ever in Fairfield, CA with some free time on your hands, you could do worse than take a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory. Home of the famous jelly beans, made even more popular through their presidential endorsements and their staggering variety of flavors, their factory is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

From the Jelly Belly-decorated VW bug and the giant inflatable Jelly Belly people in the parking lot (see photo here) this factory screams "Jelly Belly" from the moment you arrive on the lot. Inside the building the feeling continues; indeed, it's sometimes hard to believe that this is a real, working factory, so seamlessly is the transition between visitor center and place of work achieved.

It's also noticeable that the staff are fully committed to the place; knowledgeable of the company's history and genuinely proud of their product.

So, am I just a candy fanatic? No. But my visit there contrasted so strongly with most of my visits to radio stations that I knew it was important. While doing our regular work with stations, training sales people and running our revenue.generator programs, we spend a lot of time encouraging team spirit, focus and a sense of purpose among sales teams. We often find that this is harder than it should be as so much needs to be done from scratch.

Take these most simple examples; if you're in your station right now, can you hear the radio? How loud is it? (If it's coming quietly from a small transistor radio on the traffic manager's desk, that doesn't count, OK?) Can you see any station branding from where you're sitting? Are there any photos from station events or remotes anywhere besides the lobby?

These may sound like insignificant questions, but they're actually really important. I've been into stations where playing music (even their own station) is not allowed, as it 'disturbs' people's work. I've even been into stations where the sales team isn't allowed into the programming department unless there's a scheduled meeting. It's very rare that I go into a station and their product is playing loud and clear throughout the building.

Participation is so key to success in any media company. To sell a station successfully, you really have to feel a part of it, to know its programming and, hopefully, actually to enjoy it. This affects programmers, too. There's no better audience to test your programming on than the variety of people who are working with you everyday. For one thing, you'll get immediate and honest feedback - and you'll be able to see (hear) your product working in context - just like you presumably want it to be in homes and offices and places of business throughout your market.

More than anything, all of us need to feel that we're producing, promoting and selling something enjoyable, exciting and professional. I've known station managers who check sales peoples' car radios to make sure they're tuned to the right station. I worked for a station manager in a big city market who would give taxi drivers an on the spot $50 tip if they were listening to her flagship station when she got in. You'd be amazed how quickly word of that got around.

Pride in our product and the quality of our product feed off each other. It's hard to have one without the other. Becoming part of a good product will help us sell better. And by making our product public and participated in by our team, the product will actually get better as well.

Matt Hackett, CEO, ARIA Inc.

(Article printed from ARIA Connect - the online resource for radio sales professionals: www.aria-radio.com)

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