In this follow-up to our Why You Need to Start Selling Custom Publishing article, we’re going to address the finer points of custom publishing sales. We reached out to Todd Lemke, owner/publisher of Omaha Magazine, and Ross Furukawa, owner/publisher of Santa Monica Daily Press, to get some real-world sales advice.
Who Should I be Prospecting for Custom Publishing Sales?
If you run a newspaper or magazine, and you’re not yet selling custom publishing, you may be wondering where to start. Both Todd and Ross agree that your prospecting should be focused on long-term sales opportunities.
For Ross, long-term opportunities boil down to a few key categories:
- Annual Events
- Business Improvement Districts
- Healthcare Businesses
According to Ross, “If you can find an event or a time of year to pitch to business improvement districts, it’s a good place to start...Maybe even fund it with economic recovery funds. You can even allocate some of those funds to pay for a portion of [local business’] ads.”
From an industry perspective, Ross is also hot on healthcare. “It’s also a great sector, with a lot of money, and their core competency isn’t publishing. [For example], you can tap into eye doctors, dentists, and insurers.”
Todd, on the other hand, has developed a slew of niches over more than 30 years in business. “The advantage of [carving out] niches is that once you establish yourself, people come to you. You’re always in the bid cycle.”
One of Omaha Publishing’s largest niches is county business books, with a total of five different county books throughout the metro area. The largest county book sees a $200,000 profit.
Todd also urges publishers to consider universities and the arts:
“A lot of [schools] have sports publications, and budget cuts have forced them to cut their in-house teams. The arts are another niche to consider. Arts publications and programs are great recurring products. Omaha actually produces one [on a weekly basis]. The ad bank is pre-sold for the year, which makes the job relatively easy.”
Distribution Is a Massive Custom Publishing Selling Point
Distribution can be incredibly costly, and it’s difficult for non-publishers to navigate with efficiency. Todd adds that for many businesses, savings on distribution costs can essentially “pay for” the publication’s production.
Case in point, he mentions one key example, “Omaha does a B2B magazine, and we have a business broker client. We create a 16-24 page section of our B2B mag just for her—we have the distribution.”
In some cases, he says, the insert can be polybagged with the publication. His printer can also overrun extra copies for the business to distribute to their customers.
To all of this, Ross adds another key point. Most organizations that require custom publishing don’t have a periodical rate through the United States Postal Service. This offers you a huge advantage when it comes to bulk mailing, and it's a great selling point for cost-conscious businesses.
Your Credibility Is an X-Factor in Custom Publishing Sales
In addition to distribution, there’s another distinct advantage that publishers can offer businesses, nonprofits, and associations: their audience list.
Without a publisher, businesses have to buy a mailing list. They risk their publication showing up unannounced and devoid of context, rather than alongside an established name. Todd adds, “It’s fine for customers who already know them, but for potential new customers, it just doesn’t have the same impact.”
But lists work both ways, and you can request vendor lists from your custom publishing clients to kickstart the ad sales process. Todd adds that these lists go straight to the sales team to add a personalized touch as they start to sell the publication.
Finally, Always Take Credit for Your Work
One more simple-but-important tip: Todd reminds publishers who are new to the custom publishing game to always include your business info in the masthead. You’ll most likely get bids if businesses are aware of you, and it’s the key to building niches. Do good work, and others who see it will seek you out for themselves. Isn't that what we all want, anyway?