Finding Advertisers for Your Publication

Finding advertisers and sponsors ain’t easy.

Think about it. Most of the ad money being spent these days — at least the online ad money being tracked — is going through interactive agencies or divisions of ad agencies.

The decisions are being made by media buyers, planners, and directors who have game plans that you’re not privy to, budgets that you cannot know, rules that you’ll find out about when you break them, and clients whom they would prefer you never contact.

These buyers, planners, and directors are besieged daily by reps from the major networks, portals, rep firms, and big-name web sites, ALL pitching them the same story — they’ve got the ideal demographics, or psychographics, or whatever. They probably have a hard time keeping it all straight.

Frankly, I feel sorry for them and would not want that job for all the tea in China.

That being said, if you are looking to build long-term profitable relationships with a great set of sponsors, I’d avoid these reps as much as possible.

This is not to say they’re bad or that there’s anything wrong with them. It’s just that when you look at what they’re up against, it’s damn near impossible to build the mindshare necessary for a long-term, sustainable relationship. And profitable online publishing — when you get right down to it — is about long-term, sustainable relationships.

You’d have better luck expecting fidelity from a rock star whom you’re dating than building a long-term sponsorship with most media buyers. Neither party can help it. There’s just too many other pretty gals and/or handsome guys coming on to them to stay faithful.

So what do you do?

First, understand the needs of your audience.

  • Do you know what products and services your audience needs in order to solve the problems they encounter every day (hopefully problems they can get more information about on YOUR web site)?

  • Do you have a sense of what it costs them NOT to have those problems solved?
  • Do you know what they are willing to spend in order to solve them?
  • Do you know what they DO spend in order to solve them?

Second, find out where the solution providers are.

  • Subscribe to all the magazines that address your topic and know which companies are making long-term advertising commitments to those publications, as well as to other media.

  • Find out all you can about the conferences, trade shows, and events where these companies can be found, and attend as many of these as possible. Become a fixture in the exhibit area. Get to know the sales and marketing staffs of these companies. Understand who they are trying to reach and what they are trying to accomplish. Learn their lingo, their politics, their problems.

Third, become as visible as possible.

  • Become a regular contributor or columnist in the leading trade publications and/or consumer magazines.

  • Develop your speaking skills and build a reputation for making quality, pitch-free presentations at the various events for the industry that you are in.
  • Network like crazy at the shows, conferences, and events you attend.

Your objective is to develop a solid understanding of the problems that both your audience and your potential sponsors face every day, and to become the agent that gives each of them access to the solutions they need in the way they want. You need to build credibility in both camps in order to do so.

You need to be able to speak fluently to both of your core constituencies, and to do so, you really need to understand what they are up against.

If you are truly in touch with your readers and subscribers, you will know who the best companies are to put in front of them.

If you are truly in touch with your sponsors and advertisers, you will know who to talk to in order to develop the relationship. You will know what segment of your audience will mean the most to your sponsors and advertisers, and how they can most effectively reach this segment. The ad vehicle you propose could be banners, text ads, sponsorship, streaming media — you will know more than anyone else the best way to reach the right segment.

If you’ve really done your homework in getting to know the needs of your audience and the aims of your potential sponsors, and you have developed strong credibility with both — your job in building long-term, sustainable, mutually profitable relationships will come as naturally as breathing.

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