Eve Rubins, general manager of WBLM, "superserves" the loyal listeners of her Portland, Maine, classic-rock station. From a weekly audience of 160,000, Rubins maintains a database of 15,000 core listeners. First into the database are people who rate WBLM favorably on surveys mailed to the target market. Names are added when people call one of the radio shows or mail in "loyal listener" registration forms peeled from the backs of widely distributed bumper stickers.

WBLM builds its relationship with core listeners by soliciting their programming preferences and offering them preferential services. Loyal listeners qualify for on-air promotions and giveaways not available to the general audience. Bimonthly newsletters offer additional exclusive chances to win freebies such as concert tickets and vacation getaways. Each loyal listener receives a birthday card personally signed by all WBLM personalities.

Rubins says that "this type of loyalty-linked customer service reinforces the bond between our station and its most actively supportive listeners. Many businesses attempt to use databases to target loyal customers, but they don't commit the time and resources to doing it right. It's hard work, but we've seen its impact grow: WBLM now dominates the 18- to 34-year-old audience." Rubins gets more positive feedback from the birthday card program than any other customer-service activity. One listener wrote: "I can't believe you sent me a birthday card. That was the greatest. My own mother doesn't even send me a card!"

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing