Convincing advertisers newspapers work is difficult, but not impossible

“We tried newspapers. They don’t work!”

“We tried your newspaper. It didn’t work!”

“I tried advertising on your newspaper’s web site a few years ago and really didn't get any new business from it.”

You have probably heard the above refrains — not once, not twice, but a few times too many. How do you answer these objections?  They are tough to overcome … but not impossible! 

Consider this strategy:

First and foremost, acknowledge that you have heard your potential advertiser’s objection … show some empathy!  Remember, too, that objections are not problems. They are opportunities to excel!

After acknowledging that you have heard them, resist going on the defensive. Rather, ask this simple question: How do you know? In most cases, retailers, service providers or small businesses simply don’t know whether their advertising has worked, in terms of generating sales results, regardless of the investment cost or its nature.

As you know, many reasons could contribute to a less-than-successful ad or promotional effort: An initial error in identifying the target audience which, in turn, may have lead to incorrect media selection; poor merchandise or sale offered; weather; poorly designed ad copy.  Also, the retailer may believe but cannot confirm poor performance or the ad tracking results may not be available. Or there may have been poor positioning on the newspaper’s web site.  Or a better competitive offer from some other retailer offered at the same time. It is not always possible to review a past unsuccessful advertising investment and determine the reasons it was not a success.

Inasmuch as many small businesses may not know how to effectively determine whether their advertising investment generated results or not, you have an opportunity for a teachable moment and an opportunity to build your integrity and relationship with your potential client.

Help your current and potential advertisers understand the value of tracking their advertising investment and its effectiveness – the results of the ad. Tracking results helps to identify which media best reach their target audience, which product or service promotion yields the best results, and when is the best timing (daily, weekly or monthly) for ad placement.

A relatively easy method is to track revenue changes. Two weeks prior to scheduling the first ad in an advertising campaign, the retailer should review total revenue for the entire store in a given time period (e.g. each day). The retailer should then monitor total revenue during the advertising campaign (e.g. while the ads are running).  And finally, the retailer should analyze total revenue for the entire store in the same given time period (e.g. each day) two weeks after the ad campaign is completed. In addition to tracking revenue, number of transactions, overall inventory changes and changes in advertised inventory are additional means of tracking ad effectiveness in a similar manner.

Ask your potential advertisers for a couple of minutes to allow you help them to map out the future rather than redesigning the past! Explore with your potential client some strategic initiatives (where are you now? what do you want to move away from? what do you want to move to?) by asking questions … and more questions (how do they plan to grow their business, describe your best customer, etc.).

Once you have clarified your potential advertiser’s goals and introduced a tracking method, begin rebuilding the value of newspaper products and your newspaper’s various products. Who reads newspapers? Who reads your newspaper or visits your newspaper’s web site? Back up your value statements with proof positive — testimonials, both from your readers and your advertisers.

Walk your prospect through your newspaper, pointing out some successful and campaign-orientated advertisers. Let them hold your newspaper and watch how they interact with it. What do they like or dislike about it?

Visit your newspaper’s web site. Point out its everyday strengths and ongoing resources (breaking news, local and current reference tools, obits, community information and events). Then just listen. “Nothing I say today will teach me anything. If I am going to learn anything I need to listen!” What valuable feedback is being shared with you? What short term and long term potential exists based on this new client information?

Last but not least, always encourage your current and potential advertisers to invest in an advertising campaign. A single, one-time promotion or ad puts your newspaper franchise and you at risk and, more importantly, wastes your advertisers’ ad dollars and time.

One-time coupons to track response should be refused! Again, don’t put your newspaper franchise and you at risk. Coupons are a promotional vehicle.  They also bring in a less profitable customer for your advertiser.  

Once you have acknowledged your prospect’s objection, outlined the benefits of tracking their advertising investment response and rebuilt your newspaper product’s value, then demonstrate proof-positive — offer a different point of view or a solution or a proposal and close the sale.  Ask for the business!

Advertising campaigns + Methods to track their effectiveness (Results) = Advertiser success (Growth) and ongoing investment in you and your newspaper products.

By Chuck Nau

Chuck Nau, of Murray & Nau, Inc., is a publishing consultant with more than 25 years of experience, having served the Seattle Times, Knight-Ridder Newspapers and the Chicago Tribune in a number of management, marketing, media and sales capacities.

Nau’s work as a publishing consultant includes clients who are newspapers, publishing associations and niche publications. His practice enables him to put his wide range of publishing experience to work for publishers, sales management teams and senior managers on both a day to day and special project basis. He has assisted clients as a management consultant, sales trainer, facilitator and coach/mentor in advertising, circulation and marketing areas.

In addition to his consulting practice, Nau has spoken to and conducted workshops for a number of national publishing groups, state press associations, and newspaper organizations throughout North America. He has written a series of columns covering topics in advertising, management, marketing, and sales which have appeared in various newspaper industry and press association publications.