Tracking Behind Budget? An Adjustment Guide
Some practical tips for pushing through a first-quarter slump.
Always one of the most challenging periods to sell, a first-quarter revenue shortfall can set the tone for the rest of the year. Here, a cross-section of magazine publishers, both consumer and b-to-b, offer tips, strategies and best practices for pushing through a tough sell period while minimizing damage.
publisher | Electrical Contractor Magazine
When you have a really bad quarter, the first thing is donâ€™t panic. Remember, it is quarter one. Most of our budgeting expense items havenâ€™t been spent yet. And yet, depending on accounting systems, some publishers say letâ€™s stop everything.
For publishers, most fixed expensesâ€”paper, printing and peopleâ€”are under contract. Itâ€™s important for publishers who have a position in the market to resist making noticeable downgrades to things like paper and certainly be careful with your people. The question I ask with these downgrades is, are they really going to be worth it in the long run?
With important projects, prioritize them if you havenâ€™t already. You can always add the stuff back or resurrect it, but donâ€™t wait for quarter two, three or four. Focus your marketing and sales efforts on your best customers and prospects. Make sure youâ€™re protecting your base. You may not do as much new business development. Take care of those high-valued customers we all have that basically pay the rent.
Also, donâ€™t hibernate. Stay aggressive. Support your sales team. You donâ€™t want to end up weaker when the cycle begins again. Research has shown that those companies who at least maintained their marketing through these downturns come out in a much stronger position and their market share increases. My least expensive share of voice has come when everybody else cut back.
publisher | OK!
Weâ€™re currently up 47.2 percent in pages and 32.9 percent in ad revenue. That doesnâ€™t mean we donâ€™t feel that itâ€™s a tight market, but itâ€™s nice to be in this position.
Be ubiquitousâ€”the answers are not in your office. Be on the street. Entertain more. Be around your customers. Let your salespeople see that youâ€™re willing to make more calls than anyone.
Avoid paralysis by analysisâ€”we tend to savor numbers when theyâ€™re good and stare and fret over them when theyâ€™re bad. No amount of estimating will replace time on the street.
Done well, a sales call challenge for the staff during slow times can be motivating, fun and can produce results that ultimately happen when youâ€™re out there. Also, special, quick-hit deals can helpâ€”buy two pages in quarter one and get X later on, for example.
publisher | Harvard Business Review
I tend to focus on two thingsâ€”prioritization and targeting. People tend to think that if clients arenâ€™t going to buy, then whatâ€™s the point? Or they become frantic and start running around talking to everyone possible, trying to get a sale. I try to get people to slow down and think about what elements of the conversations are really having purchase.
I really try to combat against the shotgun approach, talking more and more to wider groups of folks. In my experience the wider and wider net exhausts people and doesnâ€™t really affect the bottom line as much. It can make you more diffuse, making it harder and harder to make a compelling case that someone should use their limited funds to invest with you.
For additional revenue, I look usually around the realm of digital or syndicated content offerings for a lower cost of goods sold item. I donâ€™t really look to events for that kind of stuff. It depends, but events usually require high input and longer lead time. I also tend to look at my business development pipeline, a full database I keep of ideas, to see if one or two things offer relative speed to market, ease of implementation and a reasonable cost of goods sold. Itâ€™s a matter of trying to create good closing speed. I try to green-light some things I might otherwise have waited on, or I look at the editorial idea that needs a champion that readers will respond to and advertisers will want to message through.