The Christmas season brings our format’s greatest opportunity to welcome new listeners. While this may seem a no-brainer it is not something to be taken for granted. No other format has the opportunity to eliminate its biggest barrier for growth (that it plays unfamiliar music for new folks) while doubling down on the core “why” of the format – that God became man and changed history (even for unbelievers).

So how does a first time listener become fan? More specifically how does someone that doesn’t know Big Daddy Weave from Bo Diddley transform to preferring your station over all others?

It’s called assimilation; the time it takes to turn a casual observer into a fan. It is the most important metric for measuring growth. Perhaps we should study those that do it well. Did you know that Disney has a 70% return rate on first time visitors?

“Walt viewed his theme parks almost as ‘factories’ that produced delight and entertainment.”

Gregory Ciotti, “How Disney Creates Magical Experiences.”

Consider how your radio station would grow if 70% of those that tuned in for Christmas music programming stayed with you through the new year.

How do you welcome new listeners (if you do at all)?

I hear that a church in Alabama that gives first times guests a Starbucks card and a handwritten note from the pastor.

My church places signs along the road that say, “We’ve saved you a seat,” or “We’re so glad you’re here.”

First time visitors to Target Field in Minneapolis are given buttons to wear and their names are shown on the scoreboard.

My dentist calls each of his new patients just to find out how they are doing. (Now I have his cell phone number and can call him to talk about dental floss anytime I get the hankerin’).

My friend Brant Hansen has created an online/on air “Guide for New Listeners,” including stuff like “Everyone is welcome. That means everybody. Democrat, Republican, Tea Party-people, atheist, agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, young, old, hip, not-hip, married, single, divorced, pro-choice, pro-life, white/black/Hispanic/Pacific Islander/whatever, artists, jocks, loners, depressed, Joel Osteen fans, John Piper fans, tall, short, thin, thick… freaks of all kinds: You are welcome here.”

It’s simple. Your station will not grow without attracting new listeners.

But now that you’ve gotten them with Christmas music what will you do to keep them?