Sales promotions are essential to newspaper revenue growth: Foster Sales

September 8, 2015

There are still a few publishers who remember the years when the greatest share of a paper’s display advertising simply walked in the door. There’d be a full-page slick from National Foods or some other grocery chain, a weekly J.C. Penney Co. display ad, another Goodyear Tire or Firestone slick needing only the local dealer’s logo and even a somewhat regular ad from the Illinois Central Railroad.

All of that nationally placed advertising has disappeared from smaller communities the last 30 years. Those franchises that are left tend to depend on pre-printed inserts to maintain a local presence.

Most local dollars today come from the small boutiques and personal service providers overlooked by yesterday’s publishers as too small or too difficult to deal with on a regular basis: accountants, lawn mower repair shops, recycled clothing stores and beauty salons.

But contrary to common logic, when properly solicited and serviced these once overlooked local prospects can often provide greater total revenue that the tightly budgeted franchised firms. They just need a little help in the form of a sales promotion targeted to reach their unique customer.

At Iowa Information Inc. we sell at least a half-dozen promotions every week: One-time sale and community support pages, once-a-month contract pages, season-long special sections sold to a different market each week and high-impact, high-revenue annual sections honoring everything from a fictional college to all FFA chapters in the four counties to the area’s 17 football teams.

The funny thing is, our advertisers expect us to walk in with such packages and sometimes have asked a sales representative without one “What’s the deal? Don’t you have some special promotion this week?”

Advertising sales promotions are necessary for a number of reasons. Local businesses want to advertise and know the importance of keeping their name, product and service in front of the public. They just don’t know when, what, where and how to advertise. That’s the important information you as the publisher, sales manager or salesperson provide.

Plus, with so many limited distribution, flash-in-the-pan, electronic and print media in every market place, a local newspaper advertising promotion provides an excellent opportunity to explain, once again, the true value and reach that only the community newspaper offers. Many regularly scheduled small-budget promotions can lead to a regularly scheduled run of paper commitment as the advertiser’s confidence grows.

Here are some examples of the various kinds of advertising promotions aggressive publishers can use to build the bottom line.


One-time Promotion: 12 Common Services Page

One of the best closing lines is “and we’re only doing it this week.” It’s that one-time opportunity that requires the buyer to make an immediate positive decision. The publishing of full pages, broken into an equal number of same-size ads makes this promotion easy to sell. The pages are sold to various groups including contractors, restaurants, car dealerships and interior designers. The price for the 12, 2 x 5 ads (see example above) is determined by dividing the publication’s full page price by 12, multiplying that amount by 115 percent and rounding the figure up to any convenient amount. We sell the pages over the phone or through face-to-face calls.


Once-a-Week Summer Promotion: That’s My Ride

This is a sure winner for the paper, advertiser and one of your writers. Created for our weekly “where to go and what to do” publication, DISCOVER!, the tabloid page is half display ad and half advertorial. It is sold to car dealers, automotive restorers, motorcycle and four-wheeler dealers and even boat and personal watercraft dealers. Along with the traditional ad the page features a first-person review about the quality of the ride, design of the vehicle and the joy of just taking control of the wheel. The writing assignment is passed among those of the editorial department who enjoy the first-person experience of taking the “ride.”


Once-a-Month Promotion: Home Building and Improvement Specialists

We’ve done this page for years using our own artwork. This year, Metro came out with a new page design that upgraded the look to a new level. Our inside sales department sells the package late in March and it runs once a month from April through September. Each of the 21 squares is priced at a figure equal to 1/20 of our full-page process color price.


Community Support Promotions: National Safety Month

We sell more than 200 different community support pages a year in our various publications. They’re an easy way to solicit advertising dollars from professionals, non-profits and regional manufacturers as well as traditional advertisers. The National Safety Month page is a good example because of its unusual design and simple yet effective listing of supporting sponsors.


Community Support Promotions: 4th of July, Thanksgiving, New Years

Every holiday provides a good reason for another community support page. Memorial Day, Labor Day and Election Day are particularly good opportunities to solicit dollars from normally unapproachable prospects including local, state and national politicians.



Multi-Week Promotions:

Regional 7 x 7 Sections

Every summer we publish 15 or more uniquely themed weekly sections in The N’West Iowa REVIEW reporting a fresh look at many of the communities we serve with that regional newspaper. This year the project was titled 7 x 7 and featured seven interesting facts about the community—including how the town got its name—and seven feature stories about seven residents everyone would find interesting and a worthy friend. Modular eighth-, quarter-, half- and full-page process color ads are sold exclusively to businesses and professional services in the featured community. This series has been so successful we’ve been able to repeat it with different themes for more than a decade.


One-time Major Promotion: Northwestern College Leadership Conference

When Northwestern College, located in nearby Orange City, approached us to help promote its new late summer Leadership Conference, a special section seemed a natural advertising sales project. The tabloid, published weeks in advance of the event in The N’West Iowa REVIEW, was also handed out to all participants and presenters at the three-day event. The articles included extended biographies on the organizers and presenters, a guide to the campus, information on the college’s new masters degree program and details on the topic and information to be offered at each session. Modular ads were sold to banks, manufacturers and others in Orange City including the college itself and the Chamber of Commerce and New Business Development Office.

Aggressive publishers and advertising managers, committed to dominating all other media in their market, need to be ready to “turn on a dime!” Almost any newly announced event, newly won major award or business expansion is reason for a special section or at least a special page. It gives sometimes hard-to-sell prospects a reason to advertise. But you must move fast. Usually only with the first media calling upon them gets the order. Along with a growing list of regular advertising promotions, it is important to stay alert for every opportunity to get instant dollars through otherwise unnoticed changes in the community. © Peter Wagner 2015


Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the award winning N’West Iowa REVIEW and 13 additional publications. He is often called “The Idea Man” and is a regular presenter at state press association and publishing group conventions and conferences. He’ll be presenting at the fall New York Convention in September and at North Dakota in October. You can contact him regarding his programs “100 Ideas for Fun and Profit.” “Seven Steps to Selling Success” or “Watch Your p’s and q’s” by e-mailing or calling his cell 712-348-3550 anytime.

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