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Make Your Ad Sales Pitches Advertiser Centric

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM

A reader's question: What was wrong with our ad promo?

By William Dunkerley

Q. How can our advertising sales efforts become more effective? Our last campaign really bombed. We sent emails to our entire prospect list with the headline "Put us in your advertising budget." We emphasized that issue because it is raised often by prospective advertisers when we make sales presentations. The advertisers respond favorably to all we tell them about our publication. But when it comes to responding to our request for an order, they explain that they'd like to advertise, but they just don't have us in their budget. Maybe next year, they say. Although we targeted their budgetary concerns in our promotion, we got no response at all. What was wrong with our ad promo? Is there a better pitch we can use to win a spot in their budgets?

A. I think you've misinterpreted the advertisers' signals. When an advertising buyer tells you that he would really like to advertise but simply doesn't have the money, he's usually just being polite. The real message behind those words is that the advertiser hasn't been convinced that he should advertise with you and now wants to end the conversation.

If the advertiser had been truly sold on the benefits of advertising with you, chances are that he would have found the money somewhere. That's often done by shifting advertising from one publication to another.

The "we don't have the money" resistance is one variant of what's called "false resistance." Other variants include "Send me a media kit," "Maybe later," and "We're cutting back on advertising." They have an air of plausibility and sometimes even a hint of truth. But if you had convinced the advertiser that there would be a compelling benefit from advertising with you, you wouldn't run into that false resistance. Yes, there are times when these kinds of answers constitute a factual response. But those times are rare.

How should you handle false resistance? You can directly counter real resistance. For instance, an advertiser might turn down your pitch with something like this: "Our product is intended for people who are left-handed, and we prefer to advertise only in publications that target that demographic." If you have survey data to show that your readership has a strong segment of lefties, you can counter with that statistic. It may even be true that your publication is a better CPM value for reaching lefties than a smaller, more targeted publication.

But if the resistance is false resistance, there's no point in countering it. That's because you're dealing with a false argument from the advertiser. You are better off just changing the subject, pretending you didn't hear the "no," and making a clearer pitch of the benefits that correspond with the advertiser's needs and objectives.

That brings us to the theme of your email promo: "Put us in your advertising budget." That is a seller-centric approach. It is all about you. And unless you are trying to sell an ad to your mother, it is doubtful that the advertiser is all that interested in you. The theme you used is neither attention-getting nor alluring.

A better theme would speak specifically to the needs and interests of each particular advertiser. That makes it hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all approach for an email promo like yours.

However, there may be some generic themes that would interest everyone. For example, if you recently had a circulation increase, you could try a campaign like this: "Get more exposure to good prospects than ever before. Our circulation is up, but our rates are still low. Advertise now and get more for your money. Hurry, before the rates go up."

You wrote about your email promotion, but I wonder about your person-to-person selling. Are you relying too much on a mass mailing and not doing enough one-on-one selling? Most ads and contracts are sold one at a time. This is the most effective modality because you can target your sales messages to each unique advertiser. If one advertiser is looking for wide brand exposure, you can pitch how he or she will get it by advertising with you. If another advertiser is looking to penetrate a certain segment of the market, you can present a plan for doing it by advertising with you. The idea is to find out what the advertiser is trying to achieve, and then tell him or her how it can be accomplished by advertising in your publication.

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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