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Lights, Camera, Action: Local Ad Buyers’ Most Coveted Digital Services.

The dry cleaner down the street, the HVAC company with service trucks around town, the chain of pizzerias. These and other small businesses are slowly becoming more proficient at marketing. In what Gordon Borrell calls “the march of the novice marketers,” these and other local merchants are rolling up their sleeves on social media and search marketing. But they desperately need help before they can graduate to the rarefied air of “marketing master.” This is where radio comes in.

“Local businesses have become their own media companies in a way,” Borrell said in a recent Radio Advertising Bureau webinar. “They're managing a lot of internal marketing and they're looking for help with that.”

Polling these plumbers, pizzamakers and remodelers about the digital services they use and how they get help with them, Borrell Associates found website design and development, social media management, and search engine optimization to be the most in-demand digital marketing services. When they’re not kneading dough or loosening a retaining nut, they're using quite a few of these services.

Four in ten local ad buyers surveyed by Borrell in its spring survey use one or two digital services, three in ten use three or four and 28% use five to eight services. As it’s gained digital savvy, radio has become more proficient at some of these tasks – website design, not mastering the art of thin crust. “We do know that probably 60% to 70% of radio groups are selling some sort of digital service and it's good that you're involved in those types of things,” Borrell told the webinar audience. That’s because 30% of local businesses are approaching a local media company for help with these marketing channels. “We think this is a hook into more marketing and advertising opportunities with them, and certainly influencing them,” Borrell said.

Companies that don't buy radio should be at the top of your target list. After they’re happy with the digital job you’re doing for them, convince them to buy radio advertising. However, the No. 1 thing they’re looking for from a digital services provider is to bring new ideas to the table. And the top reason they’re using a digital services shop is to generate more traffic and leads. “The value that the agency brings is kind of utilitarian, they've got expert knowledge to help them in certain areas,” Borrell said. “But they can also provide a fresh outlook or perspective, they can generate more traffic and leads.”

As marketers gear up for the holiday season, they’re “probably thinking of these things now and looking to solicit help in some of these more digital areas than they are in the traditional advertising areas,” Borrell surmised.

Beyond digital marketing services, local ads buyers are buying radio. But local agencies are using it more. Roughly half of local direct ad buyers (49%) and three fourths of local ad agencies (78%) are purchasing AM/FM radio advertising, according to Borrell’s survey of 2,318 local ad buyers and ad agencies.

Among local direct buyers, only social media (65%) and event/sponsorships (54%) are more widely used among the 19 types of advertising included in the survey, which was fielded from March-May 2023. Among agency buyers, AM/FM radio tied for first place with social media for the most used media channel.

“That's a really good thing,” Borrell said. “I think it's a factor of radio being inexpensive and you guys are pretty easy to work with. And you're highly creative and agencies like that.”

Seven in ten local ad agencies are buying streaming video/OTT, which Borrell has been pushing radio groups to get more involved in. “It's tough to get into search engine marketing because Google's got that covered. And it's tough to get into social media because people can do it on their own. How do you do that with streaming video? You need help, you need to talk to somebody and that's where your radio station comes to the rescue.”

The survey shows a natural synergy between radio and streaming video/OTT. Among those not buying radio, only 8% buy streaming video. But among those buying radio, 27% buy streaming video. “The most likely type of buyer of streaming video and OTT is someone who buys radio,” Borrell said. “That is your game to lose. This is a big, big category.”

The biannual research, solicited through the client/prospect lists of media companies, included two separate surveys: one of direct buyers with 1,983 respondents and one of ad agencies with 359 respondents.

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