friday, 7 july of 2006

Migalhas International

Law Firm Marketing

Are ads and articles in "special issues" worth the investment?

Often, no.

As publications compete for advertising dollars, publishers look for ways to make their newspaper or magazine more attractive to advertisers.

Ad salespeople want you to think your marketing opportunities mushroom when they publish a special issue. But that's not necessarily true. Here are six costly misconceptions about special issues:

Misconception #1: Special issues attract prospects who have a great deal of interest in the subject. Not necessarily. True, the readers may have a high level of interest, but those readers may not be the prospects you want to attract.

Misconception #2: Special issues attract a greater number of readers than ordinary issues. Not always true. Unless the publication mails to a larger mailing list (or distributes to more people in other ways), any increase in readers may be merely more people within the same family -- or more people within the same company. This means the number of prospective clients (a family or a company) may stay the same.

Misconception #3: Special issues offer advertising rates lower than you could otherwise get. Often not true. You could probably negotiate the same rate -- or a lower rate -- even without the special issue.

Misconception #4: Special issues focus a lot of attention on the lawyer who buys the ad or writes the article. No. In fact, the opposite may be true. If the subject of the special issue is fairly narrow, like estate planning or family law, you could find many competing lawyers in the same issue, like in the yellow pages. Potentially, this increases confusion among the lawyers and dilutes the attention any one attorney receives.

Misconception #5: Subscribers are more likely to keep a special issue than an ordinary issue. No. When prospects find an article in which they have an interest, they usually keep it for reference. Whether it's in a special issue or a regular issue doesn't matter.

Misconception #6: The publication distributes this special issue all year. Maybe, maybe not. In many cases, the special issue is sent at the same frequency as other issues. And even when the publisher promises to distribute the special issue at trade shows and conferences, this usually means only until they run out of copies. They almost never reprint the special issue.

When a sales rep approaches you about advertising in a special issue, here are 11 tough questions you might ask:

Question #1: "How many actual copies of this special issue will you print?" Publications generally talk in terms of "readership." This is the number of readers they estimate will read each issue. If they print 20,000 copies, and estimate that 4 people read each copy, they will tell you the special issue's readership is 80,000. If you want to bring this inflated figure closer to reality, ask the number of copies they will print.

Question #2: "How will you distribute this special issue?" You're in a strong position when they mail copies to individual subscribers, if those subscribers are your prospects. In addition, if they offer them at trade shows and conferences, that adds a little. But if they don't mail them to subscribers, and put them instead at "key" pickup points, you've lost a lot of value.

Question #3: "Over what period of time will you distribute this special issue?" Some publications distribute them for several months. Others distribute them only until the next regular issue comes out.

Question #4: "After you publish the special issue, when will the next regular issue come out?" This helps determine the shelf life of the special issue compared with how quickly it becomes yesterday's newspaper.

Question #5: "What are the demographics of your readers?" The fact that they offer a special issue for lawyers -- or about a specific area of law -- is meaningless if the special issue does not reach your target audience. Numbers alone aren't enough. You need to reach qualified prospects.

Question #6: "Will the reader demographics change based on how you distribute this special issue? If so, how?" The publisher may drop off large quantities of the special issue at hotels, office buildings, schools, senior centers, and so forth. While this can increase their distribution, these issues may not reach your potential clients.

Question #7: "How will you promote the special issue so I reach more of my target prospects?" Do they plan to use an advertising campaign? Will they conduct direct mailings?

Question #8: "What exactly am I buying?" Publishers generally offer something different from an ordinary ad, with the hope of attracting you to this special issue. Here are typical offers:

-- Buy an ad and receive an article of the same size. If you buy a full-page ad, you'll also receive a full-page article. They may offer you reprints of your article at no cost.

-- Buy an ad and get an article of a fixed size, often 250 to 500 words.

-- Buy an "advertorial", which is an ad that looks like an article.

Question #9: "Can I buy a guaranteed position to help me stand out from competing lawyers?" You may be able to buy the inside front cover, the page across from the table of contents, or the back cover. If the sales reps intend to fill the pages with your competitors' ads and articles, you'd do well to guarantee the position you want.

Question #10: "When is my payment due?" Some publications ask for payment at the time you reserve your advertising space. Others will bill you after the publication comes out.

Question #11: "Will you please summarize what you offer and send it to me in writing?" Often, ad reps make representations that aren't entirely quite true. And without anything in writing, it's your word against theirs. Also, since many ad reps work for one magazine one month, and another magazine the next month, they can be hard to track down. Make sure you get their representations in writing.

© Trey Ryder

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