GREAT IDEAS

Promoting a healthy business community

How Traverse City sells total package advertising

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In outdoor-minded Traverse City, Mich., the Record-Eagle sponsors community activities that include the TC Trimdown weight-loss contest and a series of road runs among other health-related events. It also publishes a health and wellness magazine every other month, serving a community on the shores of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay that depends on tourism, especially in the summer.

So it wasn't a stretch for the newspaper to create "Healthy Community" advertising packages last year. "The financial health of our local businesses is very important as well," said Shawn Winter, director of advertising.

The goal was to sign up businesses for monthly packages that included every form of advertising the Eagle-Record offered at different price points depending on size. Winter said the businesses could reach every audience, try out forms of advertising that were new to them and do so on monthly budgets and contracts of six months or a year.

"We wanted to deliver a total audience message," Winter said. "What we wanted to do was deliver advertising through our daily newspaper, our TMC product which goes to our non-subscribers, through our newspaper website, so they reach people who are reading us online but may not be reading us in print. And then we also wanted to deliver what we called digital tactics, but [are] basically targeted online banner ads that we sell through the Google network or Facebook."

Clients could select from monthly packages named Endurance, Fitness, Stocks and Bonds, and Bull Market. The packages also included purchases in the paper's lifestyle and health and fitness magazines that are distributed in the some of the papers and at drop sites in Traverse City. The Record-Eagle circulates about 15,000 papers daily and 20,000 on Sundays; the numbers rise during the summer tourist season.

The packages also came with bonus advertising such as client logos on the paper's own print ads for a running series and road race it sponsored, and – in some cases – free half or full pages. Winter recommends offering added value to encourage advertisers to sign up for contracts of at least six months, such as a free half-page ROP ad at any time of the customer's choosing during the period.

Revenue generated from the campaign exceeded $150,000. "It was very successful for us," Winter said.

The campaign will start up again within the next couple of weeks with the goal of re-signing participants and seeking out new accounts. The campaign runs roughly through the end of March although the staff is willing to sell a package at any time.

For other markets that may want to consider similar packaging, Winter suggests starting out on a smaller scale with perhaps two different types of advertising.

"One of the things you want to do is an experiment in your market, and find out what pricing will the market bear and what products will the market bear? What I mean by that is every market is a little different. There's definitely no one-size-fits-all. You need to find out, where is the sweet spot that small- to medium-sized businesses will buy? Is it $500? Is it $700? Is it $1,200? You want three or four price points that are going to be very marketable."

The packaging approach also allows the ad staff to educate clients about the possibilities of different formats and show them the results over time.

"Everyone is selling targeted banner ads. But for a lot of small businesses they hear about it but they haven't done anything with it and they don't really know where to begin," Winter said. "So it gives us a way to educate them on this type of advertising and try to get their feet wet without making a huge commitment."

This time around, he said, the magazines won't be included but will be sold separately. The ad sizes are different from those of the newspaper, and because the magazines publish on different cycles the pricing didn't fit well into the monthly packages.

Winter also recommends keeping the sales staff motivated with incentives such as bonuses based on amount of sales.

Overall, the sales team needs to emphasize reaching a media company's total audience through the different platforms, Winter said. "Deliver the most audience that you possibly can, so they get the most bang for their buck."

For more information, reach Shawn Winter at swinter@record-eagle.com.


Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes, a regular contributor to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's 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.

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