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Palmer Newspaper Group Generates $250k in New Online and PRINT Revenue through Innovative Business Directory Program

The Challenge

The Blinder Group recently worked with the Palmer Newspaper Group of WEHCO Media, which consists of five newspapers located in Arkansas--Texarkana Gazette, The Sentinel-Record (Hot Springs), El Dorado News-Times, Camden News and Banner News (Magnolia)--to find a way to leverage their locally built online directories to help them grow both print and online revenue.

Can leading with an online sale really help a media company build revenue with their core product? It works for local Yellow Pages—an industry that, on average, is generating 15% of their revenue from online sales, but is spending 100% of their marketing efforts on digital.

According to the recent Borrell Study Main Street Goes Interactive, even while the economy was struggling, local online spending continued to rise with the strongest growth coming from local small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who had (and continue to have) "high hopes for the Web to save them." Says Mike Blinder, President of the Blinder Group, "SMBs are craving a solution to help them grow their businesses during tough economic times. If newspaper sales teams do not provide a solution, someone else will."

Mike Blinder of the Blinder Group worked with all five newspapers to develop a sales program that utilized both the locally built online directory and the print product.

The Solution

Each newspaper had a locally-built online directory that included a search bar at the top of the newspaper's website where visitors could search for local businesses by key words or category. The program created by the Blinder Group allowed each newspaper to offer 30 exclusive advertisers the opportunity to have an enhanced listing inside the online directory which meant their business would be listed first in its respective category.

The enhanced listing was linked to a "Business Profile" page that included additional information (special offerings, maps, coupons, etc.) and was populated with "keywords" about the advertiser. Each "Business Profile" page was placed within the local newspapers' website. Placing a properly coded page with advertiser information within a newspaper site actually assists advertisers in being found higher on the results pages of online search engines, as part of the "organic results" of the search process. This model of "Search Engine Maximization" has been proven by a number of newspapers with great success.

"We like to blend these local search products that we have launched in hundreds of markets over the years with an active and passive component," says Blinder. "I always tell local advertisers that it is great to be part of a search product where you are found actively, but let's not forget the passive audience." Toward that goal, each newspaper created a widget for the right rail of its website that lifted information from the advertiser's directory listing and rotated it throughout all content pages of the newspaper’s website.

The final piece to this solution for local SMBs was a print component of the local Business Directory where each advertiser appeared every week and once a month received an advertorial feature in the directory. "We gave them the best of everything," says Blinder. "We gave them an enhanced directory listing solution, offered them banner inventory on the website, and we even added print to the mix."

Sales Support Materials

The Blinder Group also assisted in the production of the associated sales support collaterals necessary for this program's deployment. A simple, easy-to-follow multiple page flyer was developed so the advertisers (and the sales team) could easily grasp the features and benefits of this sales program. Too often, media companies do not graphically explain the online portions of sales programs in an easy-to-follow manner. This creates confusion during the sales process. The Blinder Group has vast experience in creating such sales presentations.

Sales Team Training

The Blinder Group conducted an initial training session with the traditional salespeople all five newspapers to instruct on:

  • Prospecting new multimedia business
  • The basics of multimedia marketing and how the medium works
  • Best practices in selling online solutions
  • The benefits of bringing interactive products to market
  • Methods for using the Web to garner more market share
  • How to attack the competition with online offerings
During that training, the sales staff was supplied with proven support documents that re enforced the training, as well as provided an appointment-setting script to assist them in setting up the calls.

The training sessions conducted at each newspaper also included content informing the sales teams of the Blinder Group's scheduled return visits, in which "4-legged" sales training/closing calls were performed with the reps, to assist in the launching of the new program. Salespeople were urged and encouraged during the meeting, to set up a large amount of appointments, with qualified "decision-makers" of area businesses.

Guaranteed Revenue Generation

One of the key elements in ensuring sales success of this initiative is garnering advertiser approval of meeting attendance, as well as the validity of the concept in general. Some of these advertisers are new to marketing their business online and feel wary of trying new ideas. One of the most effective means of accomplishing attendance and acceptance is to introduce the advertiser to an industry respected "outside" consultant who has had success with similar programs, with similar businesses, in similar markets, all across North America. That is why many media companies contract with the Blinder Group to perform "4-legged" sales training/closing calls with traditional ad reps, to assist in the launch of programs like the one defined in this document. Also, during these assisted, "4-legged" sales training/closing calls provided by the Blinder Group, the accompanying salesperson learns new, valuable techniques in how to sell innovative programs, like this one, in an effective manner.

The Blinder Group has a proven track record of generating high "closing" ratios, resulting in significant revenue for client media companies that have deployed this form of advertising sales initiative. For example, during these assisted, "4-legged," sales training/closing calls with the sales reps in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Blinder Group achieved an 85% "closing ratio" during the initial visit when the call was performed in front of a "qualified decision-maker," resulting in over $90,000 of online and print revenue. As a whole, the Palmer Newspaper Group has generated nearly $250,000 of online and print revenue for its five newspapers from this innovative program.

"We had great calls, very qualified calls—we knocked it out of the park," says Tom Overton, Advertising Manager, Hot Springs Sentinel-Record-WEHCO/Palmer Newspapers. "The way Mike presented the information and program to the sales reps allowed them to be successful in their efforts to communicate that to their advertisers. We actually have a waiting list of businesses looking to participate."

Contact Information
For Hot Springs (AR) Sentinel-Record-WEHCO/Palmer Newspapers
Tom Overton
Advertising Manager

For The Blinder Group:
Mike Blinder, President
Blinder Group Inc.
(727) 847-2464

The Blinder Group
Tampa Offices: 6139 Fjord Way
New Port Richey, FL 34652 USA
(727) 847-2464 ~ (727) 847-5959 (fax)

SPEAKING PROGRAMS, seminars and workshops

CONSULTING/TRAINING: Strategic Planning ~ Basic Sales Training
Multimedia Sales Training ~ Assisted 4-Legged Closing Calls

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