From website visitors and station app users to contest winners and newsletter readers, radio stations collect a fountain of data about their listeners every day. Increasingly this data is sorted and analyzed to churn out insights to help grease the sales wheel. At stations in markets of all sizes, data is helping account execs secure meetings with a prospect, upsell an existing advertiser or retain clients ready to bolt for the latest shiny marketing tool.

“Data allows our sellers to better understand the dynamics of the marketplace as it relates to a specific industry or business much better than we have in the past,” says Tim Clarke, VP of Audience & Content for Radio at Cox Media Group. “Then we have a conversation with these customers and help them understand their consumers. We want to be that provider of insights to our customers to help them grow.”

As a big media company with TV, radio and print assets, CMG-Apollo has its own data and analytics group that helps sales teams make sense of all the numbers and pull out valuable insights to bring to clients and prospects.

But Cox isn't alone – iHeartMedia has invested in data and analytics through the Smart Audio program, which addresses advertiser demand for more effective targeting, measurement and attribution. Entercom now has thousands of advertisers using its Entercom Analytics program.

Amassing listener data is only the first step. Managing, analyzing and extracting insights from it is where the payoff comes from. “This is a new skillset that you’re finding at local radio stations,” says Erica Farber, President of the Radio Advertising Bureau. “You can have the greatest data in the world but if someone hasn’t gone through and pulled out the important insights and put it in a format that allows someone to easily understand it, it’s useless.”

At Townsquare Media, that’s job No. 1 for DataSqrd, the analytics and insights division that uses first party data to identify and analyze key media and consumer trends to help guide clients’ advertising. In a partnership with data science company distillery, Townsquare adds third party data into the mix, allowing it to track what listeners are doing online. “We’re able to see how our audiences overlap or align with their third party audiences and that allows us to have some really interesting viewpoints into the interests, activities, behaviors, and intent of our audience members,” says Cristina Cipolla, VP of Business Intelligence & Revenue Optimization at Townsquare.

Here’s how the system works: To request insights to take to a meeting with a local advertiser, an account exec fills out a simple online form on the company’s intranet. Within a couple of days, the analytics team sends the AE insights they can use. For a meeting with a local Honda dealership, for example, it might show that15% of the station’s audience is currently planning to buy a new car and they index higher than the average person to be in the market for a new Honda. That can provide a jumping off point for a conversation for a marketing campaign. The seller can also share other consumer insights, such as charities favored by this Honda-friendly audience segment. “This helps for brainstorming ideas for tie-ins for that customer or it just provides them with interesting insights that maybe they didn't know before,” Cipolla says. “We can also share the top keywords those people like to search for and other sites they like to go to.”

For Cox, valuable user data is one of the byproducts from efforts the company has made to foster audience engagement with its digital platforms. Clarke says the size of its user database is significant and that it also leverages mobile ad IDs and similar identifiers from people that use its websites and apps. “You need a certain amount of depth to generate statistically sound insights,” he says.

In addition to first and third party data, Cox incorporates social media. “That allows us to look at literally thousands and thousands of behavioral cohorts and do the type of audience segmentation and targeting that digital allows. But we’re able to do that with our broadcast audiences.” That lets Cox sellers walk into a client meeting armed with qualitative info about its audience and how they align with the client’s own customers. “We’re able to bring these insights to our consumers, to go to local businesses and understand their business and be a resource to them and provide even more insights and analytics about the marketplace,” Clarke explains.

Drumming Up New Business

Possessing insights on a client’s customers has helped upsell clients, save business the company might have lost, and steal buys away from a competitor, says Erik Hellum, Chief Operating Officer at Townsquare Media. “We showed them this first party data on why we do better and the competition didn’t have anything to combat it with. So we won,” he says.

Unlike qualitative data generated from consumer surveys conducted by media vendors, first party data is based on actual user behaviors. That means the data and insights are fresher. Townsquare’s DataSqrd database is based on a rolling 90-day lookback window, Cipolla says. “It’s constantly evolving, never stagnant, which is pretty compelling for our local markets and our advertisers,”

Companies that collect and mine user data say it has not only become a key tool for drumming up new business. It also can strengthen relationships with existing clients in an increasingly data-driven advertising world. “When you become the trusted provider of these insights to a customer, it really helps strengthen that relationship and we see the tangible results of that effort,” Clarke says. Knowing your station’s listeners are searching for Toyotas online can help “get a lot more specific and accurate about delivering the right messages to the right consumer at the right time,” he adds.

As radio AEs work to transform from ad sellers to marketing consultants, data and analytics can be their best friend. “The key is to establish yourself as a resource and a marketer rather than someone just trying to come in and sell them a package,” says Hellum.

Farber says bringing consumer insights to the table takes the conversation away from claims about being No. 1 in a specific demo to something more actionable for the client. “To be able to say to an advertiser that we know that a certain percentage of our loyal audience is going to start a do-it-yourself project in the next 90 days, and this is the perfect time for that message to resonate with that audience – it’s hard to argue with that.” – Paul Heine