How do I build Cume without a big marketing budget?

Building Cume without the big marketing budget can be quite the challenge for the majority of stations around the world. No matter how much of a budget you have it turns out the rival station seems to have more and their billboards are all over town, TV ads are running through the highest rating shows, and their breakfast hosts are plastered all over every bus stop.

Some of you might be in stations that will never be able to compete with that marketing no matter how well you do in the ratings.

First of all, remember that the bulk of Cume cannot be created by programming alone. You can have the best product but if nobody knows it exists your audience will not grow. Of course, there is always the ability to make your program content so compelling that they have to tell all of their friends about this amazing station. However, unless you are already big in the ratings this is a very slow and flawed way to rely on any significant progress.

I am not suggesting that Cume has nothing to do with programming and the quality of your content because on the flip side of the first point, second is that all the marketing in the world may try and polish a turd but the turd remains. Many a TV and radio ratings have shown however that massive marketing can polish that turd, but you are reading this post because you don’t have the big marketing campaign waiting in the wings so you can’t afford your content to be rubbish.

So you are happy with your general content? You have minimal to no marketing budget? Do you have a promotions department or resources?

I suggest you fight for some kind of marketing in your budget, a billboard or two, some shopping centre posters, anything you can find. Of course we know that you are going to struggle to take a zero budget to a hero result in a hurry so fight for this, but don’t put all of your eggs in this basket because you have minimal control.

Something that has been done in a number of stations in Australia is to forge a partnership with other large organisations that will help to get your name out. Half a dozen stations around Australia have simulcast TV news at 6pm and in the midst of that partnership there was natural exposure for both parties.

One station in the past partnerned with an electricity provider as their official storm station so when the weather was bad they would be the place for people to turn to to get the latest updates. For this to work the electricity company needed to inform it’s customers of the station and thus success in the area of Cume building.

Every station is able to event partner. Whatever your stations music or content, find out where the crowds are going to be, offer some contra spots in exchange for logo on posters, signage presence at the event, MC’s of the concert etc. If you are a classical station and you get to have signs and MC of a 500 plus classical performance that is a potential 500 new Cume of people who are right in your niche. Chase them.

One station I worked at partnered with a Carols by Candlelight event that put their logo on the DL cards that were letterbox dropped in the local area. The event was washed out and never went ahead but a journalist for the major Fairfax paper saw the logo, contacted the station, and did a story in the paper that hundreds of thousands of people saw. All of that from about 20 spots on contra.

Of course you can also run a “Spread The Word” promo asking your core audience to get creative and market for you. If done right this can be a very fun and very successful Cume builder as well as a deeper P1 connection.

Run a promo that drives word of mouth marketing. Libra did it recently where they had 10k for the person that was voted to have done the best job promoting the product. This had people all over the country contacting media organisations, friends, acquaintances and beyond to try and win the cash.

In five years at LightFM we doubled our Cume without a massive increase in marketing budget in one of the most competitive markets in Australia and we did it by using all of the above suggestions.

This is just a start, we’ll get a range of Program Directors and Promotions Managers to give us their ideas in future posts.

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