Getting Started on the Right Foot with Advertisers by Trevor Battye

By Trevor Battye, Partner, Clevers Media

Getting started with advertisers is often more about asking the right questions than it is about presenting the information. Once you have the answers from advertisers you will be better able to present the information about your publication that is most relevant to those advertisers.

New Relationships

Leads from advertising can come from anywhere. You can see an ad on a billboard or in a competitor publication. You can see something on TV, or see a business that might be a good fit as you walk down the street.

Member-Based Organizations

An important question to ask is what are the major member-based associations in your magazine vertical? Could you offer them a volume based advertising discount?

Some examples:

  • The Directors Guild of Canada
  • The Association of BC Book Publishers
  • Calgary Chamber of Commerce
  • Real Estate Board of Vancouver
  • Alliance for Arts and Culture
  • Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals

Could members pool resources and buy an ad together? Here’s an example. Note the cost of this full page ad is $525 divided by 12 publishers is $43.75 per title.

Sources for New Leads / Relationships

Your Board: Many publications have some form of board of directors. Whether an editorial board or a formal non-profit board, boards can often provide a great resource for new leads/introductions to new relationships. Remember these are people who have already expressed an interest in your organization.

Competitor Publications: You should keep a regular eye on competitors, both those who are in the same vertical as you, as well as those publications that provide similar editorial coverage. Don’t be worried if a competitor publication has a larger circulation, as there may be reasons an advertiser wants to advertise in both!

Suppliers to your organization: Many publications have never asked their suppliers if they would consider purchasing advertising or sponsoring the publication. If you can prove to your supplier that advertising in your publication could bring them additional business they are open to listening. This works particularly well with suppliers you have long-standing relationships with or if your publication is celebrating an anniversary. Once you’ve identified the organization you want to pitch, the next important step is to identify who you should be pitching.

Identifying the Right Contact in a Potential Advertiser

Start at the top of the organization you want to advertise, like the CEO or VP/Director of Marketing. There is a unique opportunity when approaching a new organization to start as high up in the company as possible. More often than not, this leads to the CEO or Director of Marketing passing word down that they would like to move forward to those who are in charge of execution.

Gauge familiarity with your magazine brand—has the client/lead seen a copy of the publication and your e-newsletter? Advertising sales is about selling a physical product. People need to see the magazine before they buy it. This is as important in print as it is on the web.

Communication Schedule and Preferences

When starting a new relationship you want to clearly establish what the advertiser’s preferred communication style is. Do they prefer email, phone, text, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Message? What is the preferred style of the industry that advertiser operates in? For example, construction does a significant amount of communication, whereas other industries do not.

Equally if not more so, it’s important to create a schedule with advertisers. While this may begin with an email or mailed media kit, you need to determine the best way to follow up.

Once you identify the advertisers that you are ready to pitch, you need a good pitch letter to get them interested in your publication. This, combined with making sure they see a copy of the publication, is important to get any new relationship off on the right foot.

Elements of a good pitch letter—Here’s an example

  1. Specifics related to that particular advertiser and vertical
  2. Other advertisers from the same vertical who advertise with the publication
  3. Relevant reader survey data / editorial info
  4. A schedule of when you will follow up

What are the key marketing periods for the advertiser?

For some that’s fairly obvious as many businesses have a key season (i.e. Fall Books) or Holiday Giving. But for others it’s less so. Have you ever celebrated Fluevog Day?

What are their existing key marketing tools? Enews? Product catalogue? Samples? Social media posts? How can you deliver these to your audience of readers?

Who is their product for? Your publication probably has a fairly wide audience or perhaps a number of segments. Which one is of the most benefit to the advertiser, despite being focused on your magazine’s editorial themes?

What value can the advertiser provide to your reader? Sometimes it’s sampling a new product or new content. What can your publication do for the advertiser that they can’t do for themselves? Consider that as a publication brand your strength is bringing people together around your editorial environment and you can deliver that in ways that a brand cannot, as you deliver the audience and the editorial arena for the advertiser to join. Consider if you are already doing or could provide the following: Events? Podcasts? Sponsored social media?

NOTE: All of the above require significant resources including time to develop, so before building any of the above you should check with your existing and potential advertisers to gauge their interest before launching.

How to Handle Common Objections

Ask why not?
This will often give you additional information about what might be a better fit for the advertiser. Here’s a sample of how to ask why the advertiser is not advertising by email. Depending on the relationship, sometimes the best way to ask why an advertiser is passing is to do this by phone as quite often people don’t want to put the reason in writing.

“No budget”
When do they plan their budget? How much do they typically spend on ads? Where do they spend most of their budget?

“Not the right time”
What are their key marketing times? What is the most important time of year for their brand / organization?

“Not sure it’s going to be a fit for your magazine’s audience”
This is a common objection particularly when starting a new relationship. Consider a contest and use the results to prove your audience’s interest in the product/service/advertiser brand.

How to Improve Existing Relationships

Advertiser Surveys: Create an opportunity to listen to advertisers. Too often in the media business we find ourselves pitching. The key to a relationship is to listen, and the best way to listen is to ask specific questions about how the client is interacting with your advertising. Note these questions should be questions that you are able to act on. Here’s a sample of an advertiser survey. Note that unlike a reader survey you don’t need to offer a prize, as you are trying to make the advertising experience better for advertisers.

Keys to Success

  1. Ask about things you can deliver on.
  2. Follow up—Likely two emails and a phone call to get an answer.
  3. You can’t please everybody! Look for commonalities.
  4. Share the results with your advertisers! They spoke, you listened: now here’s what is coming!

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Trevor Battye at or 647.376.8090 (Toronto) and 778.773.9397 (Vancouver).

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