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Are You Chasing Print When You Should Be Selling Other Media?



By Tony Silber
09/27/2006

In sales, one of the perennial truths is that publishing organizations are chasing revenue this time of year, frequently against a projected budget shortfall.

Another thing that hasn't changed is that marketers cut back when their own companies are tracking short of plan, and the first thing to go is their marketing spend. That's when "fourth-quarter-itis" takes hold.

"Revenues don't evaporate in the fourth quarter;the maybes and promises turn into no's," says publishing consultant Steve Rosenfield. "But everybody should be able to sell something everyday. How many publishers are running their sales organizations with that in mind?"

And that leads directly to what's different in a world where media is moving online. Both marketers and publishers have a whole new array of media options, so the challenge now is where to put the emphasis: Do you chase print dollars for the last few issues of the year because in many cases that's where the budgets are highest? Or do you try to make up the shortfall in print by selling more e-media, which you can more easily get into this budget year? Folio: asked a variety of publishers to discuss their strategies. Their responses were complex, encompassing all of the pressures and opportunities that salespeople people and their managers need to balance.

"There is always money for a good idea, don't forget that," says Gary Berger, advertising director, corporate sales, for American Media, publisher of Star, National Enquirer and Shape, among other magazines. "The issue is that marketers and media staffers are always looking for the next best thing. Some print partners aren't set up or developed properly to offer the right idea. It may be because it costs too much or they don't have other mediums to build a cross platform deal. We are always working on the best deals possible for our clients. Cross-platform selling is what is getting it done for us."

At Dowden Health Media, the emphasis is also on the new and off the print. "We certainly continue to look at print ads in the final months of the year," says journal group president Bob Osborn. "But more and more, our salespeople are chasing things like podcasts that can be turned around quickly and be delivered this year. More than anything, it depends on strong sales management and salespeople that get it to make these new things happen without losing focus on the core business."

One key is the ability to have an immediate impact. With online media, you can get results right away, and e-media is not so exotic anymore that it's risky. Consider the position of Steve Davis, vice president and group publisher at SRDS: "We are definitely still chasing revenue as the year winds down, but the focus is not channel centric," he says. "We can get them online ASAP and we still have a few print issues that haven't yet closed. They're all opportunities."

Focus On High Budget Categories
Still, the old school is firmly entrenched. "You can't blame salespeople for how they allocate their sales efforts vis-a-vis their quotas," notes Bill Furlong, president of the vertical search firm Search Channel and a veteran of b-to-b publishing. "Management should lead on how to allocate efforts by product mix. The manager needs to assess too if a shortfall is solely a sales problem, or a product or market problem, too."

Then there's the benefit of a strong market lifting all boats, whether the boat is ROP advertising, conferences, custom media or something else. Says Rich Eichler, CEO of Hart Energy Media, "Our success comes from being very revenue diverse. Fortunately for us, $70 oil has everything going in the right direction."

While not all publishers are forgoing print to chase e-media dollars, American Media's Berger is. "I would advise people to focus on ROI programs that are trackable and as turnkey as possible," he says. "Advertisers either want as much as they can get for the best efficiencies, or they want programs that can track ROI and do it at an affordable cost."

"The media world has changed drastically from five years ago," Berger adds. "If you aren't on the cutting edge or offering programs with advanced technology or ROI, marketers put you on the bottom of the pile. Social networking, database analysis and gathering hand-raisers is what marketers want, not a printed page. If all you are selling is pages then you are in a lot of trouble at this point in the game."

Five Things Sales Managers Must Know

ユ Salespeople will allocate their own time to correspond to their budgets and their pay plans.

ユ All salespeople should be able to sell something everyday. Are you running your sales organizations with that in mind?

ユ If you aren't on the cutting edge or offering programs with advanced technology or ROI, marketers put you on the bottom of the pile.

ユ This time of year is delicate because conversations are simultaneously taking place for 2007.

ユ If advertisers liked it once, they'll love it twice. And somebody, somewhere, is buying something!

By Tony Silber
09/27/2006







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