"Radio advertising, truly, put our store on the map," says Suzanne Lilly Honeymichael. She and her late husband Ray Lilly started Hardwood Floors & More in Evans, Georgia during the late 1980s.
"For the first years we were in business," she says, "We worked out of our home." In 2006, though, the business had grown large enough to move into an 800 square foot showroom which they outgrew after just a year.
In 2007, the Lilly's expanded into the 8000 square foot store on Washington Road, where it has been ever since.
"I was hesitant to start advertising back then," says Ms. Lilly Honeymichael. "I just didn't realize what a strong return-on-investment advertising could bring for us. So, we started slowly."
"The first advertising campaign was on a single Augusta radio station," she remembers. "Pretty quickly, people were coming in telling us they heard about us on the radio."
"Twelve months later, we added six more stations. It has worked so well that we have been advertising on the radio every week since then."
Ms. Lilly Honeymichael is convinced that advertising on Augusta radio helped the store to survive the economic downturn that struck in 2008. During that time, many of Hardwood Floors & More's competitors in the CSRA went out of business."
"During the recession, we never cut back on our advertising and we continued to grow," she says. "Customers were still coming in because of our radio commercials."
"Sometimes, back then, people would come in and say they heard about us on an Augusta TV station. But, that would have been impossible because we had never advertised on television." Ms. Lilly Honeymichael attributes this misattribution to her heavy frequency of commercials she was buying on local radio.
Ms. Lilly Honeymichael's continued investment in radio advertising is affirmed by consumer research. According to Nielsen, Augusta radio stations reach significantly more consumers who plan to purchase flooring over the next 12 months than are reached by local TV; local newspaper; streaming audio services like Pandora and Spotify; or Sirius/XM.
The first Hardwood Floors & More's adverting campaign was primarily used of DJ endorsement commercials. This involved a well-known radio personality talking about his personal experiences shopping at the store.
"This worked well for us," says Ms. Lilly Honeymichael. "But, we really wanted to move towards something that reflected our store's personality." So, she auditioned announcers who would read scripted commercials.
"We found somebody who was really good, but something missing," she remembers. "He had a great voice, but it was missing authenticity."
Rather than use an announcer, Ms. Lilly Honeymichael made the decision to use her own voice in the store's commercials. Something she still does.
"I believe," she says, "when people hear my voice they know that when they buy from us, they are working with a local company." Ms. Lilly Honeymichael says that is important when a business is competing against national chains like Home Depot.
"Owners know their businesses better than anyone else. They have a passion and belief about it that can't be faked. That's why a store owner is always the best spokesperson for their company."
Being her own spokesperson has worked very well for her store's brand. "Everywhere I go, people know my voice from the radio," says Ms. Lilly Honeymichael.
Another staple of Hardwood Floors & More radio advertising has been a musical jingle.
"I wanted a way to make sure that consumers could quickly recognize our brand just by the sound of our commercials. So, we created a jingle that has been 'the sound' of Hardwood Floors & More ever since.
Research has proven Ms. Honeymichael's point.
Gathering a sample of 6003 respondents, Westwood One in partnership with audio testing experts Veritonic studied how different elements of award-winning radio commercials affect a listener's intent to buy the products or services advertised,
The study revealed that award-winning commercials that utilize music, sonic identities, and jingles generated significantly higher post-exposure purchase intent among respondents.
After being exposed to commercials that utilize jingles, test respondents registered, on average, a 44% increase in purchase intent.
Ms. Lilly Honeymichael has discovered another benefit of advertising on Augusta radio stations consistently for the past 12 years.
"Kids who have been hearing our commercials since they were in high school have become our new generation of customers. Now that they are old enough to be buying and remodeling their own houses, we are the first store they think of when they need flooring, window treatments, wallpaper, tile, or flooring."