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Metro Finance: Music to the Ears
Whenever you take a taxi, more often than not, the driver will be listening to Metro Finance 104FM, the flagship program produced by 17-year-old Metro Broadcast. Despite being one of the youngest radio shows in the territory, it is regarded as the number-one financial news channel in Hong Kong.

The quality and professionalism of the program's hosts are key to its popularity, but the company's Managing Director revealed that its customer-centric strategy plays an essential role in its success.

"We can't achieve our success without the support from both our listeners and advertisers," said Bianca Ma, Managing Director of Metro Broadcast. "So in terms of CRM (customer relationship management), we have two different relationships to manage: our listeners and our advertisers. How we deliver our service to them is very important."

Metro Finance was launched in 2001 when Metro Broadcast needed a new, dynamic show to reverse its fortunes. Unlike traditional radio programs which target different demographics at specific times during the day, Metro Finance provides financial news and analysis 24 hours a day. Few people thought Metro Broadcast would be able to attract enough listeners and advertisers to survive with such a narrow program focus, especially during the economic doldrums in 2001.

"But we did survive, and after SARS in 2003, the economy entered a very strong growth period, which was also around the time that a lot more listeners started tuning in," Ms Ma said.

To keep listeners coming back, Metro Broadcast regularly gauges public opinion through focus study groups. It has also built up a solid listener database, and organizes seminars and forums, which attract between 600 to 1,000 participants.

"This is how we collect listeners' opinions about our programs. We define what kind of program listeners like, whether they like the program hosts, the program mix and content. We consolidate their opinions and give these views to our program director to enhance our show," she said. "We want to keep our show fresh and informative, and provide the latest news, as well as quality views and analysis from our hosts to make sure listeners keep tuning in."

Fine balance
Like any other media, Metro Broadcast needs to walk a fine line to keep all of its stakeholders happy. "Without our listeners, why do we exist? Without our advertisers, how do we exist?" Ms Ma said. "We truly understand that our customers want every dollar that they spend with us to bring returns, so we cooperate closely with them to deliver an advertisement campaign that will have the maximum impact."

Ms Ma understands the differences between radio and TV advertising strategies. Both, however, must be creative and be broadcast repeatedly to ensure that they sink into audiences' minds.

"If advertisements run only once, listeners probably won't fully catch it as everyone is always in a hurry," she explained.

To ensure advertisers get good value for money, Metro Broadcast shares the findings of its surveys with its customers so that they can see why some campaigns are more effective than others, which provides valuable feedback to improve future campaigns.

Born to be bold, Metro Finance is expanding its presence in the Mainland. With the help of CEPA, Metro Broadcast launched its first joint program with Radio Guangdong in 2004. Last year, it launched Shanghai-Hong Kong Direct Line, a joint program with Radio Shanghai Media Group, and will soon be broadcasting over the airwaves in Beijing with the China Central Radio Station.

"The feedback that we received from audiences on these joint programs is encouragingly positive," Ms Ma said. "I am sure we can make the programs a success, especially since our philosophy is to always turn any negative into a positive."
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