One of the ways that startup publishers can achieve their ad revenue objectives is by hiring the services of an independent magazine sales representative. Magazine sales representatives can literally jump start a new title and put it on the fast track to success. However, there are a lot of pros and cons to utilizing their services.
So, you’re probably wondering, what exactly do magazine sales representatives do anyway? In a nutshell, they sell or solicit advertising. I will discuss their duties and responsibilities in more detail a little later on. However, it’s worth mentioning that utilizing a wired magazine sales rep for your publication can be both a blessing and a curse. When effective, your magazine sales rep can be a good vehicle for getting new ad accounts. The converse is that your rep could possibly be a source of revenue drain-since you the publisher will be responsible for all ancillary costs associated with your sales rep’s ability to perform his/her duties-with little or no return on investment to show for all your hard earned dollars invested.
So what can magazine sales reps do for you? Well, the bottom line is this; the primary reason that magazine publishers choose to use an independent magazine sales rep is to insure a steady ad revenue base. Quite simply, you can usually hire reps and get them out into the market with no upfront money (or very little), office space, computer equipment, car or health insurance. All you essentially have to offer your sales rep is just a percentage of the new business that he or she brings to your publication. And with a start-up, as with any new business venture, minimizing upfront expenses is crucial.
Another important reason new publishers use magazine sales rep firms instead of hiring a full-time sales staff is the hope of benefiting from the rep’s existing relationships with advertisers and media buyers. In the final analysis, in addition to having an informative well put together media kit; business relationships can play an important role in getting an advertiser to place an ad in your publication. If you’re a new publisher trying to break into an existing category, you are certainly at a disadvantage no matter how great your idea. A magazine sales rep firm can build a buzz around your title fairly quickly. A sales rep can also act as a sounding board for your magazine idea. If your concept is marketable, chances are the sales rep will want to work with you. If, on the other hand, it isn’t, most magazine sales reps won’t waste their time. So, if sales reps aren’t returning your phone calls or seem otherwise disinterested in your publication, it might be a good idea to reevaluate your concept, mission statement and business plan. Of course, there can be any number of reasons why sales reps may reject your business; it could simply be that they have too many other clients, conflicts of interest or even lack of experience in a particular category. However, by in large, magazine sales reps can serve as a good barometer for the viability of your concept.
It’s important for startup magazine publishers to remember that magazine sales reps will not completely share the enthusiasm or be emotionally tied to a magazine like the publishers. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t much of an incentive for sales reps to sell new launches. Most sales reps will have to work twice as hard, if not five times harder, to sale new startups.
Statistically speaking, magazine sales reps know that very few startups make it past their first year, let alone become commercially viable. In addition, it’s typical for new titles to start off with a very small circulation. Since circulation and ad rates are interdependent-the larger the circulation, the higher the ad rates-the financial incentive can be very low. So, for many sales reps the time and effort necessary to make it to profitability just isn’t worth it. This doesn’t mean that new magazine publishers won’t be able to retain the services of a magazine sales rep. Simply put, new publishers should be aware of the challenges that sales reps face and as a consequence, be prepared to offer generous incentives in order to entice sales reps to handle their publication. In addition, and just as important, you will need to provide the proper selling tools so your magazine sales rep can be effective at advertising procurement. Independent sales reps need adequate materials to sell a title, just as staff salespeople do. So, at a bare minimum, this means having a professional media kit with market research and clear and concise demographic information to back up the pitch. This point can’t be overemphasized because it is your media kit, and not your magazine per se, that will ultimately seal the deal for the vast majority of advertisers!