Mike Dragosavich is not your typical publisher. But, he fell into publishing like many of his peers have: by accident. After a career in pro football, he settled in Fargo, North Dakota, and started selling VIP cards, fliers which became brochures. Now, he's turned a magazine into a marketing agency.
Now with more than five magazine titles under his belt, Mike leads Spotlight Media with a focus on both publishing and a full suite of marketing agency services. This business model is not only profitable, it’s also catching the attention of publishers across the country looking to set themselves apart in their markets.
We sat down with Mike to discuss the basics of building a magazine into a marketing agency, including:
- Which marketing services to consider offering first.
- How to juggle projects that combine publishing and marketing.
- Why publishers have the upper hand against ad agencies.
How do you make a leap into the marketing services space?
If you’re considering jumping into agency services, you may be thinking, “we have all of the designers and the writers. We have the resources, but how does it fit together?”
Mike advises to start with some services you can roll out easily. For his business, this has been videography:
“Right now, for videography, we get 4000 dollars an edited minute. That’s profit, because the demand is there. [We build] it into sponsored content opportunities: a 5-page story in an issue. Maybe photography...and about 40 other things in a checklist format. Now they’re an agency customer and a publishing customer.”
By catering to the needs in his business community, in this case videography, Mike is bringing in a new customer that can benefit from all of his team’s varied services.
“Most now use us for video all the time”, says Mike. “Everyone else who charges for video, they don’t have a way to distribute the video. We can help get the video out there [instead of it getting] buried on the blog.”
Good Project Management Is a Key to Success
The key to succeeding in marketing agency services is effective project management. Mike is a big proponent of Basecamp, but really it comes down to selecting a tool that works with your project management team and your clients. Mike says,
“We emphasize project management, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals, how to track things, how to have good meetings, etc...Publishers are natural project managers. We are deadline-driven every month.”
Specifically, Mike credits good software and a capable team with Spotlight’s ability to juggle five-figure marketing projects alongside bread and butter agency jobs like sponsored content packages. “If you offer services, you won’t be successful if you don’t manage the projects.”
From an organizational level, Mike assigns project management duties to a team of 3-4 people who oversee allocation as a whole. Rather than managing each account, they act as utility players who jump in to make sure that everything is on track and running smoothly.
Businesses Get Comfortable With Teams They Trust
If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready for a quick hypothetical! Let’s say you run a business and you decide to place print ads with the publishing side of Spotlight Media. Now, you want video work done, and you know Spotlight offers that service. You’re already comfortable with the team, and you’re happy with the work that’s been done to date. The decision is easy.
“Most of the service customers come from our publishing side. They’ve worked with us before, they liked the result, and they come back. It’s like a discovery day with a client for us,” says Mike. His approach to project management is also team-based, which ensures connectedness to multiple people at Spotlight:
“We don’t assign one rep to a business, we assign a six-person team per business. When a rep leaves, [advertisers] aren’t as closely tied to the rep, which reduces churn.”
Magazine Into a Marketing Agency: It Just Makes Sense
Ask any publisher about their advantages versus ad agencies, and they’ll give you an earful. Mike is no different, but he adds that this point of view is actually the key to his sales approach:
“What are our advantages as publishers? Agencies don’t have magazines. If you sell someone a video, an agency can’t distribute the video. They can’t give them four free ads as a value-add. We have creative people, and we tell stories. Why wouldn’t you trust us to help tell your story? Sell your advantages.”
If you’re running a magazine, it’s time to consider offering marketing agency services. You have the creative team, but you have so much more—a sales team, a distribution channel, and an audience to connect with the businesses that need your help.