When a publication is headed for trouble

It’s rare for a newspaper to head off a marketing strategy problem before a crises is upon them. More often, at times, it takes the sudden entry of a new competitor in the market, a serious plunge in sales, or a similar emergency to get a strategy change. The answer is to evaluate the publication’s marketing program on an objective on-going weekly basis.

Here are 6 ways that the publication is heading for trouble:

  1. Cutting rates become the driving force to get sales

Deep discounting, constantly offering “special deals” is an indicator that the publication is using lower prices to beat competition. Customers see the publication as just a low cost medium, and don’t see any other value in doing business.

2. The publication can’t be differentiated from competition

It is vital that the publication maintain a unique identity that distinguishes it from the competition. This branding process is on-going and under constant review. The question is—how often is it reviewed

  1. Steady stream of sales gimmicksWhen one special promotion runs into the next, customers soon think that nothing is really special. Instead of getting customers on an ongoing campaign, the publication floods the market with signature pages, national widget month, and other one-time fluff promotions that threaten the budgets of advertisers who want to put their money in campaigns that get response.
  2. Sales management tactics change arbitrarilyInstead of a roller coaster of contests, trips, and bonus programs , the publication needs a unified plan of rewards that will motivate the salespeople on an on-going basis. This can be an incentive plan based on increasing sales, any activity that helps dramatically the image of the publication in the marketplace, etc,

5. More and more leads come from the sales force

 Of course salespeople should develop leads, but if salespeople are the primary source of new business, the publication has a marketing problem. Even the best salespeople can’t be at the right place, at the right time, all the time. The publication needs a well developed marketing program to keep their name in front of prospects, so when they’re ready to buy, the sales staff can enter the picture from a position of strength.

6. Customers start saying “ I didn’t know you did that”

 Even when long-time customers don’t have a clear picture of the publication’s overall capabilities, it’s a sign that marketing is failing. So many times, a booklet or brochure showing ALL the publication’s services can be very effective because it clarifies and reinforces what the publication offers. Of course an effective website is another powerful tool. But that’s another story.