When a publication is headed for trouble

June 5, 2012

By Bob Berting

It’s rare for a newspaper to head off a marketing strategy problem before a crises is upon it. More often, at times, it takes the sudden entry of a new competitor in the market, a serious plunge in sales, or a similar emergency to get a strategy change. The answer is to evaluate the publication’s marketing program on an objective on-going weekly basis.
Here are six ways that the publication is heading for trouble:
1. Cutting rates become the driving force to get sales.
Deep discounting, constantly offering “special deals” is an indicator that the publication is using lower prices to beat competition. Customers see the publication as just a low cost medium, and don’t see any other value in doing business.
2. The publication can’t be differentiated from competition.
It is vital that the publication maintain a unique identity that distinguishes it from the competition. This branding process is ongoing and under constant review. The question is—how often is it reviewed?
3. Steady stream of sales gimmicks.
When one special promotion runs into the next, customers soon think that nothing is really special. Instead of getting customers on an ongoing campaign, the publication floods the market with signature pages, national widget month, and other one-time fluff promotions that threaten the budgets of advertisers who want to put their money in campaigns that get response.
4. Sales management tactics change arbitrarily.
Instead of a roller coaster of contests, trips, and bonus programs, the publication needs a unified plan of rewards that will motivate the salespeople on an ongoing basis. This can be an incentive plan based on increasing sales, any activity that helps dramatically the image of the publication in the marketplace, etc.
5. More and more leads come from the sales force.
Salespeople should develop leads, but if they are the primary source of new business, the publication has a marketing problem. Even the best salespeople can’t be at the right place, at the right time all the time. The publication needs a well-developed marketing program to keep its name in front of prospects, so when they’re ready to buy, the sales staff can enter the picture from a position of strength.
6. Customers start saying “I didn’t know you did that.”
Even when long-time customers don’t have a clear picture of the publication’s overall capabilities, it’s a sign that marketing is failing. So many times, a booklet or brochure showing all the publication’s services can be effective because it clarifies and reinforces what the publication offers. Of course an effective website is another powerful tool. But that’s another story. © Bob Berting 2012

Bob Berting is a professional speaker, newspaper seminar leader, and publisher marketing consultant who has conducted more than 1,500 seminars for the newspaper industry. Bob has a new webinar program “Getting New Business and Keeping It.” for print media associations. The four consecutive week course covers four, one-hour topics: three-call selling system—understanding media competition—creating eye-catching ads—working with hard to please customers. Every association member purchasing the course receives a free Bob Berting e-book for the newspaper industry “Dynamic Advertising Sales and Image Power.” State, Regional, or National Association leadership can contact Bob at 800-536-5408 or bob@bobberting.com to see when his course will be conducted. Berting Communications is located at 6330 Woburn Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46250.

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