Focus is crucial in marketing, whether it’s for a radio station or anything else. The question remains: What are you focusing on?

Many radio execs and consultants are experts on the radio industry. I’ve met guys who seem to know any station and format you can think of (and some that you can’t).

Sure, it’s good to know what’s going on in New York, L.A., Wichita… wherever.

But that’s not the right focus

My focus is radio listeners… the ones in whatever market I’m working on at the time.  Frankly, I’m even more interested in listeners than whatever is going on in the industry.

I hope you are too. Because listeners in your market are the only ones that can make your ratings success.

History is rife with examples of stations that failed because their managers focused on an industry trend (or fad), rather than what’s needed and will work in their own markets.

The one I always think of first is Disco,  pioneered by the original WKTU (not the current one) in the late ’70s. That station was an instant smash in New York, prompting “industry savvy” G.M.’s (note: sarcasm) to clone it. Unfortunately, the format didn’t play in Peoria (literally) and lots of other places it was tried.

The Disco fiasco is especially poignant to me because a station I successfully programmed as an AOR — San Antonio’s original KTFM (not the current one) — foolishly jumped on Disco after I left, with disastrous results.

There have been many more since — the ’70s format, the ’80s format, Jammin’ Oldies…

More recently, the Adult Hits format has been a winner in some places, a flop in others. Even in Canada, where the format enjoyed its first and biggest successes, “Jack FM” failed to gain traction in Toronto.

And most recently, the success of “Amp Radio” in Los Angeles has prompted a revival of CHR. Jack in Toronto is now CHR — Kiss 92.5. At least they picked a different name…others must have thought that the name “Amp” has magic, for some unfathomable reason. CBS planted Amp in Detroit — where it displaced a solid 4 share Smooth Jazz format. It’s too soon to say, but I’d bet Detroit’s Amp won’t do as well.

Unfortunately, listeners in Detroit just don’t read Inside Radio, Radio Ink, All Access and the countless industry-oriented web sites. What’s the matter with them??? Don’t they know that Amp in L.A. had a 3.8 in September???

To some extent, listeners in every market are unique. But even more significantly, the competitive structure of every market — based on listeners’ needs and perceptions — is unique. So just because a format is hot in one market doesn’t do you a damn bit of good in yours!

So, sure…keep on top of “the biz.” But keep your focus on listeners in your market. Base your strategies on them.