Going The Extra Mile: Counter Sales

April 30, 2013

By Stanley Schwartz
Managing Editor | Publishers' Auxiliary 

Buying one’s newspaper at the local convenience store is nothing new, but persuading the owner or manager to put the paper on the counter by the register, does take some finesse.

Cathi Utley, general manager of the Hermann (MO) Advertiser-Courier, said it comes down to having a great working relationship with local retailers. She said she walked into the local BP station’s convenience store and asked the manager: “Why aren’t you putting my paper on your counter?”

It’s not quite as easy as that, Utley noted, as she talked about how she ended up in this popular Missouri tourist destination. Eight years ago, she and her husband moved to town from Arkansas. His job transferred him Utley said, and at first she attempted to do just the domestic thing, but that only lasted a few weeks.

There was an opening at the local paper for a salesperson, and Utley, who has extensive telemarketing experience, jumped at the chance to get back into sales.

“This is a fabulous place to live,” Utley said. Hermann boasts several wineries and hosts several desirable festivals during the year, including the popular Octoberfest.

“When I first started at the paper,” Utley explained, “I made it a point to meet (all the retailers) in town.” She wanted to build a strong phone list; one she could use extensively when selling. The town of 2,000 is not that large, but Utley noted that she can do more over the phone before lunch than if she pounded the pavement all day, going door-to-door. All she needed to do was build great phone rapport, after first making her introductions.

“I didn’t want them to cringe, thinking I was going to try to sell them something every time I came in the door,” she said. Instead, when Utley goes into local businesses, she’s there to shop. She’s big on buying local.

“I can buy everything here, but clothes,” she said.

“I think they can tell how much I enjoy living here,” she said about the retailers and the paper’s readers. Her children are on the ball teams and she attends all the events. Utley and her family have adopted Hermann as their hometown.

The 3,900-circulation Advertiser-Courier is printed on Tuesdays and distributed by mail on Wednesdays. People who want to get the paper early, can either head to the local convenience store where the papers are dropped off on Tuesdays or peruse the paper online.

Utley said that after a recent snowstorm, there were 15 people waiting for the owner of the convenience store to open up so they could get a copy of the paper. The weekly is the oldest business in Hermann. It started as a German paper 146 years ago and eventually merged with another local paper, becoming the Advocate-Courier. Utley is also general manager of a second weekly 12 miles away—the New Haven Leader. Both papers are owned by Lakeway Publications, a group of community newspapers based in Morristown, TN.

“We do combo sales with that paper,” she said. There are two gasoline stations in Hermann. One is in town and the other is across the Missouri River. The Advocate-Courier is on the counter in both of the station’s convenience stores. Recently, Utley said she was in one of the stores and overheard the clerk asking each customer that came to the counter if he or she needed a copy of that week’s paper. That was a bonus for her. She had not even considered asking for the extra sales pitch, and quickly ran out to get her camera to capture the event.

The stores even keep phone lists to call customers to let them know when the paper is in, Utley said.

“They’ve been doing that as long as I’ve been here,” she said, adding that that service may have predated her move to Hermann.

Having content local residents want to read is important, too, Utley said. The paper prints from 12 to 40 pages, depending on what is being covered. The graduation issue is extremely popular, she added.

“Anything with children in it is huge.”

stan@nna.org

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