A Small Publisher Finds Success With A Custom Division
Buffalo Spree Publishing, a publisher of city and regional titles for Western New York, began its custom division seven years ago. Vice president of sales for Buffalo Spree Publishing, Barbara Macks, who also heads up the company‚Äôs custom operation, tells FOLIO: how a small shop can build up a solid client base.
While the publisher is currently working on redesigning an annual sales magazine for a payroll company, its custom work has historically included theaters, concert venues and spas. ‚ÄúWe publish 17 of the playbills for area theaters, concert halls, and other performing arts venues,‚ÄĚ says Macks. ‚ÄúWe also do everything from identity packages to magazine inserts, direct mail, brochures, posters and postcards for three major spas and salons in the area.‚ÄĚ
Over the past two years, Buffalo Spree brought 50 to 60 new clients on board, despite not having anyone dedicated to selling its custom offerings. ‚ÄúThe jobs that we get come through our sales staff. We have 10 reps, including myself. When our sales reps are in the field, they pitch brochures to our existing magazine customers,‚ÄĚ says Macks.
Price-wise, the custom collateral ranges from business cards at ‚Äúa few hundred dollars‚ÄĚ to theater programs, which can cost ‚Äúhundreds of thousands of dollars,‚ÄĚ according to Macks. ‚ÄúWe had one spa client spend $40,000-$60,000 over the course of a year on direct mail and brochures,‚ÄĚ she says. The annual revenue from Buffalo Spree‚Äôs theater programs in 2008 was around $500,000.
Buffalo Spree‚Äôs custom offerings do not include digital. ‚ÄúFor the most part, we keep out of that since we have no one on staff to do this yet,‚ÄĚ says Macks. ‚ÄúIf we get asked to do digital, we put clients in contact with freelancers or tell them we need to hire a Web freelancer. We planned to get into it heavily last year, but because of the economy, it‚Äôs been put on the back burner. We are truly in the print business.‚ÄĚ
To get (and retain) clients, Macks says honesty is the best policy. ‚ÄúIf clients ask about using an ad agency for these kinds of custom jobs, we say go for it. We can‚Äôt give a complete campaign to include TV and radio. But because our magazine looks the way it does, clients know that what they get from us will be gorgeous.‚ÄĚ
While custom still remains ‚Äúat the bottom of our repertoire,‚ÄĚ Macks says it accounts for 15 percent of the publisher‚Äôs total revenue, up from 10 percent five years ago. Ultimately, the goal is to increase custom to 25 percent of total revenue.