The World Association of Newspapers organized a two-week Advertising Sales Training Program for Sudanese Newspapers executives in March. One topic was the importance of knowing your readers and product and how to develop categories of expertise, prospect clients and build up clients list. Marilyn Honikman, former marketing and sales director for the The Weekly Mail (today the Mail and Guardian), in South Africa and current marketing manager of “Big News for the Business Owner”, led the training.
This is the first of a series of summaries of the course sessions.
Know your Readers: When newspapers sell advertising what they are selling is access to the readers. Newspapers need to know to you who your readers are and what advertising they would find useful. Find out what your readers do and what your readers buy. This knowledge of their habits will benefit you in infinite ways.
Newspapers need to know how educated their readers are, what they own, what they might want to own, how much money they have. You will not approach any advertisers until you have conducted solid audience research. For example, how many of your readers own a business? If your readers are people who need security companies because they own small businesses, there will be all sorts of other services they will also need, such as short term insurance or vans and trucks.
Something newspapers know already about your readers: They are educated. You are reaching the educated elite. They will probably want to educate their children. Find out what courses are available for learning in your country or outside. They are probably also interested in books. Find out what sorts of books they like to read.
Honikman gave an example: “My former newspaper started out with about 8000 sales per month. When we did our first reader research we discovered that our readers loved reading. South African book publishers had never advertised and that was the first category that we decided to focus on. The first supplement was four pages on Children’s books and we secured 50 percent advertising for it. Because we had learned from our reader research that our clients liked books and reading, the advertising worked, and the book sales soared, making very happy clients.”
Know your Newspaper: Above all, newspapers need to know their product. They need to know the circulation and have proof of this. Newspapers need to know where it is distributed. Newspapers need to know the content of your newspaper inside out.
Developing Categories of Expertise: There are a number of categories of potential clients and markets that can be developed, such as cars, vans and trucks, computers and cell phones, security, courier companies, plane charters, courses for study, books, and NGO activity, to name a few. Newspapers need to develop expertise about each category and build up dossiers about these products. You could start looking to find out what you can learn about them on the internet. Or you could find out where their offices are and pick up a brochure. Go into banks. Banks advertise. You could walk into a bank and pick up the brochures or question the people at the front desk. Go visit the security companies. Ask them who their clients are.
- Example: Targeting the NGO sector
The NGO sector might not last forever, but newspapers may have about 10 years. There are two ways you can make use of NGOs in a country. There are companies that need to be reaching NGOs to advertise their products to them and there are NGOs that need to reach your readers.
Remember you are first going to go out and research this sector. Talk to NGOs, meet with them informally and ask them about their offices, their cars and their homes. Then you are going to make an appointment. You are going to visit the NGO office formally and are going to do a fact finding visit. Before you go, you will have done some informal research so that you can talk some sense to them.
NGOs need office space. Who would you go to in order to find people who want to advertise office space? Real estate companies. NGOs also need vehicles. They also need staff. This introduces a whole category. Does your newspaper carry staff recruitment advertising? If so, this is an area you can all develop. They need accommodation: we’re not just talking about the big hotels, but also bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, or furnished apartments. These might just be little ads, but they can take up a whole section, like classifieds. NGOs could also need security companies, and they would be interested in restaurants, hospitals, and tourism. In all these categories, NGOs can find what they need in your newspaper.
The relationship goes both ways: the NGOs can be the reader that your client wants to reach and NGOs can place ads for staff in your newspaper.
How do you make sure that NGOs read your newspaper? Get lists of the NGOs that are based in your country. You can hand deliver your newspaper to them. There are Arabic speaking NGOs as well. This is not part of the sold circulation, this is what you call ‘certified free distribution’. You build a definitive list and you can show your advertisers who is on this list. NGOs are most likely doing a good deal of research about the news and what is happening in your country– so if you deliver the newspaper, there is a pretty good chance that the newspaper will be read.
Prospecting clients: 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of clients. Those 20 percent are the people you are going to have to build the long-term relationship with. You are also going to constantly be trying to get more of your clients into this second category. When you are prospecting clients you must ask yourself a few key questions:
First, have they got a budget? Will they be able to pay for advertising? If not, you are wasting your time.
Second: Will they benefit from advertising? Get the right fit. Make sure they can usefully advertise in your newspapers, otherwise you are wasting both their time and your own.
Building your Client List: Once you’ve prospected your clients, you need to begin to build up your client list.
You do this two ways:
Develop your relationship with existing clients: If they are still happy with you and still consider themselves your client, nurture this relationship. If they have advertised before, it is likely they will advertise again. So start with your old clients from your archives. You make sure that they are still receiving your newspaper and that they see you often.
Prospect for new clients: How are you going to do this? Get the clients from your competition! Your competition is not only newspapers. It is radio stations and television. It is billboards. Anyone who advertises is a prospect. If people put flyers in your post-box; collect them. If you see a truck driving past with a brand and an advert. Note this down. These are potential advertisers. Put it on your list. Investigate and then keep it or cross it off.
Keeping track of your clients: When you have developed a category of clients, you are going to starting building up your list of contacts. If you are working with a contact book, you are going to need another book where you put down the day’s date and you write down and make notes on every phone call and every visit you make. You might think this is a lot of trouble, but it is like gold, because two months or six months later, you’ll pick up the phone and you’ll say to them what they told you when the spoke to you some months ago and they’ll think ‘this person is brilliant’.
Find a system that works for you! If you don’t already have a method of building up a contact list, maybe you can start this afternoon. Buy a book, or start a card system. Or use a computer. The important thing is to choose a system that works for you. This must be a system that enables you to build up a list of contacts in categories and that enables you to keep track of every phone call and every visit you make. Even if you just write one sentence about a single phone call.
Next week: The importance of developing a relationship with your client and how to find the person with the authority to buy.