Going after the competition

How BH Media’s Alabama Group takes advertisers away from other media


The five newspapers in BH Media's Alabama Group signed up 77 new advertising accounts in about six weeks last year through an in-house sales competition called "Let's Play Takeaway."

The goal is to win new accounts away from competitors and regenerate inactive accounts. Advertising representatives compete among themselves for prizes ranging from $75 for the person bringing in the second-highest number of new accounts up to $500 for the salesperson who generates the highest amount of new revenue.

The competition is about to begin its third year, said Steve Smith, regional publisher of the Dothan Eagle/Alabama Group. Last year's contest booked more than $50,000 in revenue from the targeted accounts, including compounded revenue after the six-week contest ended.

Group papers are located in Dothan, Opelika-Auburn, Enterprise and Eufaula in Alabama as well as Marianna in the Florida Panhandle.

"It's a way to have some fun and create energy across the entire group and all of the sales teams, and then the individual reps as well. You're competing on a team level and an individual level," Smith said.

The contest also encourages the reps to put their sales training into effect, he said. Each person is asked to present a list of 10 to 20 prospects. Since some people will come in with the same prospects, they are divided among teams to provide a balanced contest.

"They're active advertisers in the market. They were inactive with us, and we're turning them into active advertisers," Smith said.

Last year, the 20 sales reps in the contest started with 200 prospects. All prospects were actively advertising with somebody else.

"There are constantly new forms of media popping up in every market," Smith said. Competitors include other print media, online, billboards, magazines, shoppers, broadcast, digital and social media.

"The contest is aimed at quickly capturing advertising dollars already flowing within the market. Those dollars are readily available; we just need to sell the ROI value of our products and services," Smith said.

"The prospecting aspect of the contest complements our sales training in terms of needs assessments and the effective presentation of our print and digital products and services that meet those advertiser needs."

Three cash prizes were awarded to the top three revenue producers and two more went to the salespeople who signed up the most new accounts.

The contest effectively creates a group-wide audit of advertising dollars and sources in each market that the papers aren't already capturing, Smith said.

"There's a new competitor every day trying to capture ad dollars in some form or fashion. We want to stay a step ahead of them."

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.

advertising sales, Dothan, BH Media Group, Smith
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