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The 7 Steps
The primary goal of media buying is to match your goals (your target audience(s)) with the magazines' capabilities (their readership). While that sounds simple, the financial realities of publishing almost always mandate that the magazines use a certain amount of creativity when presenting their circulation statistics to prospective advertisers. This becomes like a game. You've got to find the little things they don't want you to know. This is especially true when evaluating circulation.
How do you effectively match a magazine's circulation with your needs?
The First Step
your marketing and sales teams need to establish who your buyers really are for the product you wish to market. It's not enough to say that you sell to the "broadcast market" for instance. Your reps or direct sales force may actually be selling to several different people at the same station. Do you only sell to the chief engineer? Do you only sell to management? Is the CFO involved in the buying decision? My favorite "rant" from bygone days is that "Buildings Don't Buy Equipment." People buy, so knowing the people (by job title) to whom you sell is the first critical step. Don't assume that you know (if you are in marketing). Poll your reps in the field. Do internal and external research. Just as you can't build a building without a sound foundation, you can't market products without knowing exactly who buys your product. (Just as a side note, while you're polling "the field" ask your customers why they buy your product. You might just find the "hook" for your next promo in the answer.)

The second step
is to match the magazine's circulation with your customer. If your customer is the news director, or instance, you want to be sure that the magazine in which you advertise is the primary read for news directors. Magazines that say that they "also reach" news directors may be adaquate second tier buys, but aren't going to be effective as your primary buy. (There are tricks to use when evaluating magazine audit statements, but we'll get into the reading of a BPA statement in future rants.)
Step three
is to be sure that the editorial matches the readership. For instance, if a magazine says it's the primary read for news directors but when you read its editorial you don't find anything that a news director would find informative, the magazine cannot be an effective media buy.
At this point you need to take a few additional steps. You MUST read the magazines. There is no excuse for not reading a magazine you are considering for advertising. Also, you are the buyer, the magazine is the seller. They need to give you information, not rely on old relationships, show you how "fat" they've gotten, or trot out their latest redesign. Make the sales reps (in writing) justify their circulation and editorial as it applies to your primary buyer(s). Do the same with the magazine's editor. You'll be amazed at how divergent the editor and rep's viewpoints can be. Ask the editor to tell you who (by job title) he pictures in his mind when he puts together the magazine; for whom he writes the magazine. If your ideal customer is one of many job titles the editor or space rep puts forth, you should probably look for a more focused magazine.
Step four
is comparing all of the above steps for all magazines that are in contention for your ad dollars. Make a spreadsheet.
Steps 5 and 6
are settling on the primary magazine that you will use to carry your message to your target market, calling the rep in and negotiating. Negotiate "value added", web ad adjuncts, research, use of mail lists, printing (if you want the magazine to print collateral or inserts as part of your "deal"), etc.
Step 7
is to "work your plan" as the professional marketing types say. Don't keep changing your ad plan. If you studied it, pored over it, gave it your best effort, then you must give it a chance to prove itself. Advertising requires patience and maturity.


From the rant hole...
I've spent nearly 25 years selling advertising in trade publications to virtually every related video and audio market. I think I finally know enough to advise existing and prospective advertisers on how to be most effective in choosing media.
There are some tricks to this, but for the most part it's common sense. Once you know how to look at readily available information your advertising expenditures will be far more effective and buying advertising will be far less unpleasant.
Some part of being a better media buyer is attitudinal. You don't have to tolerate harassment from space reps or publishers. You can make studied and logical decisions and stay with those decisions. You can buy media once and not have to revisit the decision until you are ready. You can eschew leaping into "special" issues, deals and supposed opportunities. You can, thereby, stay within budget. You can train the magazines to be receptive to your marketing needs rather than theirs. You can negotiate meaningful "value added" deals as well as attractive pricing without infuriating publishers. You can use the magazines to help slide you into e-commerce. And you can do all this while maintaining a good PR relationship.
What I hope to do over the next few months is produce a template on effective media buying. If you like this stuff, let me know. If you hate it, let me know. If you disagree, think I've finally lost my mind or should be "put away" be sure to tell me why. "Rants" are fun, but "interactive rants" can be really valuable for us all. Send me your experiences both good and bad with the magazines. I love funny stories about media guys especially. Lord knows I've committed enough faux pas myself to fill a book.
What does global distribution and target audience have to do with you?Read Herb's Rants and find out.
©eTech International 2001