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Digital Transformation Journey | Part 3

Understanding Business Needs

Most newspaper’s advertising revenues are underperforming. Business seems to be slipping away. Advertisers don’t seem to be interested in advertising. “They are going someplace else” says your advertising team.

One of the primary reasons for this revenue loss is because newspaper organizations have lost the vision of how they fill a clearly defined need. A new product, new event, new publication, new technology, new ideas for doing business – these don’t matter unless you can demonstrate a need that is getting met by these products, technology and ideas.

In my career, I have been pitched numerous business start-up ideas, as well as new product ideas from existing companies. The question I ask back when I hear the exciting business idea is, “Who needs it?”

“Well, everyone does,” is the heartbreaking answer. This is usually followed by an impassioned description of the product or idea.

I have found the most common mistake with print media (and some broadcast) is when they develop their ideas, they take an inward view. They are looking for fast results. Results that will please their investors or Wall Street. Instead of exploring what the advertiser or client may need, they focus on what they themselves want to do. It’s a simple trap. A common mistake. And it can be deadly.

A good starting point to gain a better understanding the business needs of your advertisers, is, well, from your advertisers! This can be a daunting task for most advertising leaders and even publishers. (no worries, we can provide assistance!)

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. Don’t take on every category in the market. Instead pick three categories.Examples would be a category that is under performing year over year (let’s say dentist offices, auto dealerships and real estate).

  2. Have your finance folks generate reports for the last three years for the accounts that are currently advertising or have advertised in the past (from your sample list).Have them do some magic and create a pivot table that shows by month, year and advertiser name and categories. This gives you a side by side comparison, date range view.

  3. Next, create a sample group from this list.You will want the consistently top 2 advertisers in each of the three categories.You will also want 2 advertisers from each category that have dropped out over the past two years.Finally, you’ll want 2 advertisers from the each category that are new in the past year.

The next thing to consider is bringing these groups together for a free form open and honest discussion with key members of the newspaper. A round table. This would include: Publisher, Editor, beat (topic) reporter, Circulation, Ad Director, Account Reps (print & online). We recommend to schedule these as breakfast or lunch meetings, held in a neutral location (like a country club or nice restaurant) that have a private dining space.

You’ll want to gather, in this neutral and informal setting, information about their current feelings and attitude about your newspaper or media outlet. How they feel about your news coverage, how the product looks, how and when you deliver the product. You’ll also want to cover their perception of the effectiveness and efficiency of your products. It will also be important to get a feeling for what they think they need and do not need from your product.

You’ll also want to learn how they made decisions to: continue with you year over year, stopped or started.

From here you can begin to build a road map from your sampling. You can take the information learned and survey a wider group, but the focus group that I am suggesting would be a good representation for a smaller market. Metro markets would take a larger, sometimes different approach.

Once all of this information has been assimilated, review your rate structure and current product mix for these groups (ensuring you are delivering positive to the top line and the bottom line). Understand the business demographic of these groups … number of offices, number of employees, and other important information.

From here you can develop the plan of how and who you will be approaching. To seek and find your next advertiser that perhaps you have missed along the way. In addition, how you will approach your current accounts with precision. The proper product mix and seasonal timing. How to get to yes with a more consistent manner.

This kind of organization thought process will deliver a remarkable ROI!

For help in putting this kind of strategic data points and “HOW” list together, please contact Bill Cummings – This could be the difference from a good ending to 2016 and a strategic start to 2017!

Next Up: Embracing Audience


Bill Cummings is a Sales & Marketing executive with extensive experience catalyzing rapid revenue growth while controlling multimillion-dollar program budgets. Sharp advertising and marketing acumen across national publications, niche markets, classified verticals (autos, real estate & employment), legal and private party segments. Collaborative communicator continually focused on building relationships and positioning high-performance teams for unprecedented success. He is available to speak at workshops or meetings; lead off-sites; conduct rate analysis; forecast where your next sale will come from; coach your leadership team (advertising, management, content) and is available as an expert witness or M&A subject matter expert. or (949) 293-0280.



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