Anyone in the newspaper
industry has heard the mantra of local, local, local for years.
Every city has a Home Depot, a
Dennyís and a Target. But it doesnít have your favorite pizza shop or nightclub.
These small, local businesses are what make all of our hometowns unique. And
they are the ones most likely to be ignored by a newspaperís advertising sales
staff. Why is that?
Many of our clients report the
same basic issues to us. They recognize the fact that a newspaperís strength
lies in its local connection - not just in news but in advertising as well. But
their staffing and budget restraints force them to focus on and serve the needs
of the big verticals.
Even a pure commission model
is complicated. Devoting the required support, administrative and management
resources may detract from those coveted categories of business.
Check the frequency
No one denies the necessary
and appropriate focus on cars and homes and jobs. But think about this: How
often does someone buy a car? A house? Change jobs? And how often does someone
change their oil? Or repair their home? Or go to lunch with co-workers? For that
matter, how often does a person go grocery shopping?
Individually, these Main
Street businesses probably cannot afford a big ad buy. Even collectively, it
will probably take a very large number to equal a single large account.
That isnít the point. The
model isnít only about that monthly invoice.
Instead, itís offering unique
local content that will make your newspaperís Web page a destination site.
You can do that by building a
pyramid with a broad base of small merchants that drives the traffic to support
higher revenue, but less numerous, regional and national retailers.
Coupons heating up
The coupon sector is heating
up. Ignore it and the clock keeps ticking, giving more time for competitors to
devise their own new online revenue models.
Doubt it? Here are just a few
of the stories that made my in-box light up over the past few months:
*June 20: Yahoo! releases a
new plug-in for Messenger that keeps coupon content always in sight for users of
this very popular program.
*June 26: Cellfire announces
its new system to distribute coupons via cell phones.
*Aug. 15: Google announced a
deal to distribute ValPak coupons as part of Google Maps. Google Maps also now
include a free, simple, self-service interface for merchants to create their own
Coupons are used by businesses
of all sizes, but theyíre often the bread and butter for smaller merchants.
In-paper advertising, especially in larger markets, is just too expensive - or
at least too scary - for them. A shared direct-mail piece, or even better, a
free program through Google, is more to their liking.
The good news
The market is fragmented with
many players, both local and national, competing for the small merchantís
advertising business. The good news for newspapers is that none of them has the
local promotional power, and feet on the street, which newspapers have.
Although the Google
announcement may seem quite threatening, there is still time. Most small
business owners are extremely busy (thatís why itís called a busy-ness) making
the pizza, coordinating schedules, etc. They just donít have the time to learn
about some complicated Google Maps program and then actually spend the time to
make the coupons.
If Sally Nailshop has an ad
program in place, itís probably because some ad person orbited the store for a
month to land the business.
And it probably hasnít changed
much since she opened up her first shop over on Elm Street in 1982.
But thatís not the case with
New Sally. New Sally is scouting out locations, and getting her business
license, and building a marketing plan that includes online marketing.
Given time, theyíll all be New
The bad news
If you donít have staff, you
canít knock on Sallyís door. If you donít have appropriate online tools in
place, you wonít get New Sally either.
Although we strongly recommend
having staff to service this market segment, we recognize that just isnít
possible in many cases. But you still can build an online coupon marketplace by
assembling the core pieces from a number of sources, including:
*In-paper. Your paper is full
of coupons each week. You could build an online coupon for these merchants
(taking advantage of all the Internet has to offer) or the print ad could be
ported to online. A number of companies provide these services, or you may have
the internal resources to do it yourself.
*Create a print coupon book.
The print component could add enough revenue to justify the effort. The online
component helps make the sale and kicks in additional, nearly costless, revenue.
*Self-service. This may be
your best option for the smallest of businesses, especially if you cannot add
staff to mine the strip malls. Promote the tool heavily, and not just by
slapping up a banner ad. Remember, New Sally needs you to go after her. Consider
targeted direct mail and telemarketing. You can develop a good leads list by
just gathering all the coupons that arrive at your house each month.
*Smart partnerships. A number
of companies already have coupon content and would love to have you as a
distribution partner. Be careful. Make sure that they actually have a good
number and variety of businesses in your market. Other companies can provide you
grocery coupons or coupons good for online-only entities.
*Go out and make that sale.
Finally, identify larger entities that distribute coupons and donít advertise
with you. Establish the relationship with the coupons - itís low risk to them -
and grow it into a much larger commitment. You might make this a call center
initiative or a way to increase territory value with a three-day sales blitz.
Beliveau is vice president, newspaper operations for online coupon provider
Boodle. He can be reached at email@example.com