Up Close and Personal
Ad sales at most national magazines involve a “virtual relationship” between rep and client, one usually conducted over the phone and e-mail. For city and regional magazines, however, ad sales is up close and personal. That’s an advantage when trying to reach the actual decision-maker on the client side. But it can be the kiss of death if that decision-maker has a problem with the magazine or their rep.
Some draw a line between the challenges facing city titles versus regional titles. “City magazines probably have to deal with ad agencies more than regional magazines do,” says Michael Zivyak, formerly of music magazine Spin and currently publisher of 25,000-circ Berkshire Living, which serves a rustic corner of southwestern Massachussetts. “We mostly deal with business owners, the people who have a direct relationship to whether a business is successful or not and a direct relationship to the budget. It’s a very different and refreshing way to selling advertising.”
On the other hand, problems with clients can be hard to overcome. “With large national agencies, if you’re not getting a response from one person, you go to another and keep going until you find a champion for your brand,” says Zivyak. “Locally, you really have one chance. If you’ve bonded with that person, great. If not, you’re out of luck. At an agency you can piss someone off and move on to someone else. Here, I’m dealing with a business owner and I need them to want to spend their money with me. If they don’t like me or my salesperson, that’s a problem.”
Berkshire Living, which generates more than $1 million and expects to be up 50 percent this year, has three salespeople in addition to Zivyak, who says he carries 50 to 60 percent of the revenue. The magazine competes against the local NPR station and local newspapers to a degree, including freebies. “We’re the only place where people can showcase their brand in a glossy four-color magazine,” says Zivyak. “The magazine helps sell itself. You walk in with it and people are either impressed or they’re not.”
Berkshire Living sponsors local events to raise its own profile. “We do a lot of knocking on doors and attending social events;our chamber of commerce has networking events and you tend to run into all your clients all the time,” says Zivyak. “That is very different from when I was with a national magazine.”
Even larger markets deal with the same issue. “You live with your advertisers,” says David Peeler, publisher of What’s On, The Las Vegas Guide. “If you give them a good value and treat advertisers right, it will come back to you in multiple ways. The local advertiser will likely be there for years, whereas the national brand manager will be gone in 18 months.”
While all advertisers may have the same basic goals, they do have different expectations and capabilities. “Las Vegas is a unique market,” says Peeler. “We’ve got 42 million visitors per year and there’s a lot of people vying for their attention.The local advertisers are more sophisticated than usual. Ad budgets can rival those of many national brands.”
What’s On does have specialists on staff selling Internet packages to customers that are Web specific. “Look at the Googles and the Yahoos, there’s a whole national movement of people trying to get greater depth of coverage at the local level,” says Peeler.
Spice Up the Pitch
417, which covers the region in Southern Missouri with that area code, has three full-time sales people, a publisher and general manager, and a rep for its Idea Home special publication. “Of those six, three do it full time, the rest of us do it along with our other jobs,” says director of sales Angie Henshaw. “Our big categories are medical, travel, retail and health;when we lay out the year, we strategically create travel and home sections related to those core pieces of business. Then we have a reason to walk in the door.”
417 is on track to generate more than $2 million from special issues this year. The same rep sells a client on the magazine and the special issues.”There’s enough cross-over between the regular magazine that it was not beneficial to the client to hear from different people,” says Henshaw. “It’s more efficient to keep it within one account manager.” 417 is just starting to see demand for online ad packages, according to Henshaw. “That’s one of our goals for 2007,” she says. “It’s a natural progression.”
BizSanDiego enters a crowded local market this month but sees an opening. “What works is getting in front of them,” says publisher and co-founder Brian Sacks. “Someone told me she hadn’t had a publisher ever contact her in the four years she’s been advertising. Those are the types of things that give you an advantage. Doing it over the phone is one thing, doing it face to face is another.”