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Expectations are like icebergs

by John Foust – Newspaper Advertising Trainer
Raleigh, NC

Saundra’s experience as a sales manager has given her a unique perspective on client relationships. “Most sales people in the advertising business are taught to discover problems and prescribe solutions to those problems,” she said. “Too often, a sales person hears about a problem and says, ‘We can fix that. Just advertise with us, and everything will be fine. It’ll be fantastic.’ I think that’s a flawed approach, because it sets unrealistic expectations.

“A long time ago, I heard that expectations are like icebergs,” she explained. “Only ten percent is above the surface. It’s the ninety percent you can’t see that can sink your boat. The obvious things are above the surface: when the ads run, how much they cost, and copy that has been proofed for typos. The hidden expectations – the things below the surface – are their expectations on the results the ads are supposed to generate.

“Expectations can be our best friends or our worst enemies,” she said. “When we meet – or exceed – advertisers’ expectations, they feel good about our product and want to run more ads. But when the ads let them down, they might move their ad dollars somewhere else.”

Saundra went on to say that she teaches her team how to bring hidden expectations above the surface. “Advertisers are going to have expectations whether or not we bring up the subject. The key is to have some control over those expectations. We want our advertisers to understand that an image campaign is not going to make their cash registers ring right away. And we want them to know that a response campaign has to make the right offers in order to create immediate results.”

Here are some key points:

  1. Ad results drive ad sales. An old friend in the advertising business once said, “When you’re catching rabbits, don’t move the box.” In other words, when an ad strategy produces good results, it makes sense to continue that strategy. On the other hand, if a merchant’s ads in a particular media outlet produce disappointing results, he or she may think, “Ads in the Gazette don’t work.”

When ads start running, there’s a lot riding on results.

  1. Go for measurable outcomes. The surest way to convey the value of running ads with you is to measure results. It’s hard to believe a statement like, “Car dealers get good responses from advertising here.” It’s more convincing to say, “Ace Motors ran a two-month campaign with us last year, and they generated x-percent increase in sales over that same period in the previous year.”
  2. Look for comparisons. On one level, you can compare ad response rates within your own paper. (“When Advertiser A changed from image ads to weekly specials, their response rates increased x-percent.”) On a deeper level, you can compare results with other media outlets (“Advertiser B moved their ads from XYZ Media to us and generated x-percent increase in traffic.”)

Selling requires us to manage expectations. That’s a good way to melt a few icebergs.

(c) Copyright 2017 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: john@johnfoust.com