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Advertising With a Talk Show

Talk Radio, Talk Hardware

Around the country, there is a growing number of hardware retailers that are advertising in a unique way. It is not new, as my friend Jeff Keller will attest, as he has been doing it for many years.

Like many hardware stores, his father and a partner operated Gateway Hardware, the business that Jeff now owns. The morning announcer of a local AM station was a tennis partner of Jeff's dad. A conversation between the two players led to Jeff joining the station as a resident guest expert on the Saturday morning handyman show.

When the announcer left the station only two months later, the general manager of the station took over the morning show with the agreement that Jeff would work into the lead position. And for the first hour of this new team, Jeff was the guest expert. When the general manager walked into the control booth during the station break, Jeff was left with the position of host and guest.

Assuming the new position, Jeff was able to trade his services for air time for the commercials for his store located here in St. Petersburg. However, Jeff explains, the station was a small AM station in a market that has over two dozen stations competing for the ears of the public. Buying air time as a single store with a trade radius of two miles wouldn't necessarily be the best advertising dollars to spend. However, since the only price for the commercial time was two hours of his Saturday morning, Jeff continued the program.

When word got out that the station was going to change formats, Jeff shopped his program to a larger station. A year later, it appeared that this station was also going to change formats, and Jeff was again shopping his services. An opportunity to expand his talents came along, and the program became a part of the Independent Broadcasting Network.

Today, Jeff is the host of the 3M Mr. Handyman Show that is broadcast on more than 125 radio stations each Saturday morning from 8am to 10am eastern time. Unlike articles about hardware store owners having their own talk show, he has taken the program to new heights.

During a recent program, Jeff had as a guest on his program, Mr. Harry Wicks of 3M. Harry was formerly the editor of POPULAR MECHANICS magazine. Connected only by telephone, they fielded questions from across the country. Getting to sit in as a guest, the two hours passed very quickly for this writer. It was fun for the folks that called and for those of us on the program. It was similar to having customers come into our store and ask how to solve a problem. The big difference was that we did not demonstrate how to use the product, mix a gallon of paint, or tote something out to the customer's car. We managed to assist all of the callers, but we did stumble when we both failed to remember that the "green pad in the cellophane pak" was called a ScotchBrite (a 3M product).

The calls to the show were numerous as some people waited almost a half hour for their chance to have their questions answered. Fortunately, all of the calls go to a series of 800 numbers which are paid for by the network. Carl Metcalf, the producer of the show, worked the controls, answered the phone, and provided Jeff with information via a teleprompter to let him know who was calling, from what city, and what the caller wanted to talk about. The questions varied through all kinds of topics. Jeff was able to direct his callers to solutions although several dealt with problems such as basements and freezing pipes, items and problems which does not exist in our part of Florida.

In addition to detailing how to solve the problem, Jeff and his guest Harry had many situations in which they suggested particular products, giving several manufacturers some free publicity. It was good to note that they, as well as all of the callers spoke only of their neighborhood hardware stores and lumber yards. The big box stores and discounters were never recommended by the hosts and were definitely left out of this program.

Another fun part of the program was the trivia. Jeff invited callers to respond to trivia questions with prizes being provided by the sponsor of the show. The hardest question of the day was asking callers to identify several different types of nuts. Castle nuts and expansion nuts were the stumpers.

The program was interrupted by the network news at the top of the hour, and by the local and network commercials. During the local commercials, hardware stores in many of the markets have bought the sponsorship of his program.

Jeff explained that in some of the smaller markets, each of the 30 second spots could be bought by a store for as little as $10.

As Jeff "owns" his show as compared to previously being an employee of the program, he creates and produces his own network commercials. As I mentioned, he has taken the program into an area that others have not explored. In creating the network commercials, Jeff has found a group of products that are not normally found in hardware stores. With each of the commercials, Jeff gives his personal endorsement and testimonial. Prospective buyers are invited to send a check for their order to a post office box in St. Petersburg, or to call in their credit card order to an 800 number.

Jeff has employed a fulfillment house in Minnesota to take the credit card orders for products that he sells. From there, they forward a list to Jeff of what to ship to whom. In a side part of his hardware store, Jeff and his staff, box and ship most of the orders.

During the past couple of years, Jeff has taken his show on the road. He has done the show on location from the convention of furniture refinishers, as well as on locale for radio stations and local sponsors.

After the show, Jeff checks his mail for packets of information about new products sent in by manufacturers, and then drives back to his store, and heads to the sales floor.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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