Help Buyers Buy

President’s Letter
by Jim Elliott

Sometimes publishing companies neglect the little things that might make it easier for buyers to buy.  With all of the technological reasons to create a workflow that works better for the publisher, it is too easy to forget to put the buyer experience first.  One of our clients, Jeffrey Stoffer of The American Legion, thought our readers would find it helpful to learn about his experience when he tried to execute a buy within a single day in several local markets. I hope you find it interesting, and would appreciate hearing from you.—Jim Elliott

Excerpts from an email from Jeffrey Stoffer, Director, American Legion Magazine Division, reprinted with permission: 

I have spent much of the day trying to place advertising in eight regional markets across the United States – urban, suburban and rural – and I have some thoughts.

I have searched the web looking for print and digital opportunities to promote the live webcast of The American Legion Baseball World Series. I have been trying to place ads in Milford, Conn., Florence, S.C., Omaha, Neb., Bellevue, Wash., Brooklawn (Gloucester County) N.J., Moline, Ill., New Orleans and Lakewood, Calif. The easiest placements, not surprisingly, were in the smallest markets.

Seven out of eight numbers I called took me to recordings. Those recordings were often difficult to follow and did not offer a route to retail advertising, which is what I was seeking. One website required me to register my email and fill out a form and then decode that weird letter thing that you can never read in order to learn about advertising opportunities. Talk about making it tough on the customer.

Most websites I visited did not surface a “How to Advertise” button. They hid this information deep in the bowels of the ship, as if ashamed of it. That frustrated me. Soon, I realized that if I am to find a live person willing to take my ad, I would need to conduct a website search, call the recording, wait for a call back or conduct some kind of online registration adventure that simply would take too much time for me to place ads in my eight markets in the eight hours I had to do it.

In one case, I asked the rep to tell me the circulation of the newspaper. He did not know it. In every case, the rep asked me for my budget, to which I asked for the rate per impression or by the column inch. I never got call backs from some of these reps, and the contact information too often contained the sales marketing executive or some vice president but none of the real sales force who can take a call and get your ad in. One had a sideways PDF of its rate card, but I did not understand the connection between the print and digital products.

It was obvious from this exercise that much needs to be done to wed print and digital advertising opportunities. I would have loved a print-web package, as we have discussed before – the Omaha Steaks approach (by the way, Omaha was one market where I could not figure out how to place an ad).

Websites need to be very clear about advertising. Click here to advertise. There is no shame in this. Contact information. Make it clear. And if you give me a phone number, make sure someone is on the other end to answer, in person. I know that makes me sound like Andy Rooney, but it’s true. I often saw, when I did find the advertising contact page, titles I did not understand, leaving me unsure who to contact. Some called them advertising, and some called them marketing contacts, sometimes on the same site, different people for print and online. More often than not, I was left confused and frustrated to not have a really super-intuitive, easy way to buy advertising online. In a word, each site’s disposition in this area was “clunky.”

My point is that it makes sense for The American Legion Magazine and Web products and, from my day’s experience, many others, to really develop crystal clear landing pages for advertising placements, include phone numbers to real people and not rely on some over-engineered web platform to do what salespeople do. Just some thoughts.

As I finish this ordeal, I realize I come away not having spent all of my budget.  Good for me. Bad for the media companies who didn’t make it easy for me to do business with them.

Update: In order to complete our contract with one newspaper/website, credit reference paperwork, we were given two fax numbers, neither of which worked. (No fax number was provided in the rep’s contact info.) The first fax attempt went to a message machine. The second one, which they sent as a better alternative, was disconnected.  My assistant ultimately scanned the paperwork and e-mailed it. We await response.