When the ad rep from radio station WCBC-AM called and suggested that Ray Johnson do live ads, he was reluctant. Eventually, though, the owner of Ray Johnson Home Improvement in Cumberland, Md., decided to give it a shot.

“Now we'll never stop doing it,” says office manager Carrie Stock, who's been the one to go live on the station owner's popular morning show since last year. “It just works so well.”

Stock has numbers to back up her opinion: The company tracks how customers heard about Ray Johnson, and in March, five sales worth a total of $14,373 came from the weekly ads, which cost $50 a pop under a one-year contract.

Doing live radio made her nervous at first, Stock says, but station owner Dave Norman fills in any dead air. The three- to four-minute spots are ad libbed, although the station always asks Stock ahead of time what the promotional topic will be. That can run the gamut from seamless steel siding, soffits, fascia, and gutters to replacement windows, doors, patio rooms, and sunrooms.

Colors, styles, and special sales are discussed, Stock says, but never prices. “We do this just to gain interest so people will call or visit our Web site,” she explains.

Norman uses his show to get up on his soapbox and offer opinions on local issues and politics, making him a bit of a local celebrity. That status seems to rub off on his advertisers. “One of our customers came up to Ray in the showroom and was so excited to meet him,” Stock says. “He said, ‘Wait until I tell my wife I met Ray Johnson.'”

People seem to trust what they hear on the radio. “Sometimes [Norman] will give a little testimonial because we've done work for him,” Stock says. Listeners contact the replacement contractor and say, “Dave says you do great work, so I thought I'd give you a call.”

For all that, Stock doesn't even have to leave the office. She now does the spots by phone.