It did not take long to figure out that at the rate SafeBrowse.com was signing up new customers it would take about 13,000 years to reach the first million customers that our business plan said we would have within the first couple of years. We had it under control though… we just needed to advertise.
There was only one problem. Our business plan assumed that our service would be so awesome that word-of-mouth alone would bring in new customers. Why would a business with such a great product budget for advertising? Regardless, we knew we had to do something, or our adventure into starting our own business was going to be short-lived.
A few weeks later, and $5,000 lighter, I huddled around a radio to hear our ads. We had signed up for a two week run of four ads per day on a local-area station. I was certain that our “drive time” spot was going to be the money maker. It was a captive audience. What else did they have to do but listen to the radio and sign up for new Internet service while driving home from work?
At the end of the two weeks I painstakingly tallied up the number of new customers our radio ads had bought us. No matter how I looked at, or sliced the data, it didn’t change that fact that $5,000 in radio advertising had yielded exactly one new customer. To make matters worse, our service was $20 a month so we needed that customer to stay with us for over 21 years just to break even.
The sales rep at the radio station had his own spin on the results. I am still unsure of why he failed to mention this to begin with, but apparently a potential customer has to hear your message multiple times before they act on it. He was very kind though, he was willing to sign me up for a couple more months of ads so that we could allow our message to sink in with their audience. In fact, the more months I committed to, the lower my per ad cost would be.
It would be nearly 10 years before we returned to radio as an advertising medium, but that is story for a future post. For the time being, I decided the number one rule of advertising at SafeBrowse.com would be:
Radio sucks for selling products