Sell your advertisers with statistics

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Armed with research about their readers' buying habits, ad reps for Jones Media newspapers are making measurable revenue gains.

How measurable? Try $248,000 in 2014 for The Daily Times, a 17,000 circulation paper in Maryville, Tenn., and $168,000 for The Greeneville Sun, a 14,000 circulation daily in Tennessee.

Senior Vice President John Cash said Pulse Research's AdSeller program accounts for the successful change in how the sales staff does business. The program is based on detailed surveys of readers' current and future buying habits, which is used to create annual plans for current and potential advertisers.

Jones Media comprises 11 daily and non-daily newspapers in East Tennessee and western North Carolina. Advertisers of all sizes now have access to "really good, valuable, local purchasing information that nobody's ever really done for our customers," Cash said.

"Our advertisers want to know what our customers plan to buy. We can tell them what percentage of households said they plan to buy this type of car, this type of truck, this type of financial service, this type of medical service. It could be any type of category: over 550 categories to choose from."

The papers also have research on which businesses are top-of-mind when compared to their competition. Cash said a paper would list all the restaurants, pharmacists, car dealers, retail stores, etc., in its coverage area. Readers taking the survey were asked to say where they shopped or ate during the preceding 12 months.

Admittedly, the process could take 20 to 30 minutes online, so the newspapers recruited readers by offering prizes. The papers needed a minimum of 100 completions each to get viable results, but some got as many as 200 or 500, Cash said.

With the results in hand, ad reps were trained in how to sell with them. Cash said sales people started with a multiple-page presentation, then later used the one-page presentation that Pulse Research perfected to make quicker presentations. The more detailed presentation is for clients or potential clients who want to know where they stand versus their competitors. Those who find themselves at the bottom of the market share get special attention.

"That created a really good opportunity to show where they could increase their market share if they started doing business with the newspaper and our websites," Cash said. Packages can be put together involving the newspaper, its niche publications, special editions and digital products.

But surprisingly, the sales staff has had more success with a lower pressure approach, he said. Ad reps are told not to try to get a commitment at the time of the presentation, and they are eligible for bonuses based on numbers of presentations per month.

"It's really important, we found, not to try to sell [clients] something right off the bat," Cash said. "It's just much better to come out and talk with them about their survey, give them a little more detail and ask some probing questions first, and then we'll come back with a plan and a proposal that will take them throughout the year.

"That's when we can start selling the regular paper. We can start selling the special editions that we do, the niche publications we may have, the digital products we have. We can then propose something for the whole year, or if they don't want to do something for the whole year, a minimum of 90 days."

Advertising sales are tracked with as much attention to detail as the survey results, Cash said.

"It's a very simple, detailed tracking mechanism, because it's an opportunity for all our managers to log in and really check and see who's created what, when they presented it and what has been sold. We can critique whether the presentation was a good one or not. And we practice with them and make sure they have a really good presentation before they go out."

So far, 90 percent of the new revenue has been from print, but Cash said that may be a function of the previous newspaper websites, which he described as "poor." Jones Media has launched all-new websites in the past year and the company is now focusing more on advertising packages using the improved digital capabilities.

The AdSeller program requires well-thought out, detailed questions for the survey at the beginning of the process, Cash said. It also requires follow-up on the part of the newspapers to justify the monthly license fees paid to Pulse Research. But getting in the client's door is relatively easy, he said.

"Everybody wants to see a survey that's about their business and local. They just can't get it anywhere else."

For more information, contact John Cash at john.cash@jonesmedia.biz.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the eBulletin, is a freelance writer and editor based in coastal Alabama. She is an award-winning veteran of more than 30 years in the newspaper business. Reach her at jbnicholes@att.net. Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

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