Supplier Interview 

Successful ad management: a question of inputs and outputs

Knowledge is power. Few would disagree with that time-worn phrase and, as Publishing Software Company’s Steph Cope tells James Evelegh, it’s the foundation stone of a successful ad sales operation.

By James Evelegh

Successful ad management: a question of inputs and outputs
Photograph: Andras Vas on Unsplash.

Not knowing stuff slows teams down, blunts insights and undermines confidence. Sales executives go into negotiations blind and sales managers make important decisions based on incomplete information.

That is why, says Steph Cope, sales and marketing manager at Publishing Software Company (PSC), they put so much effort into the reports suite of their Advertising Manager (Adman) software.

Whilst having the key information available at your fingertips is a potential gamechanger, the concepts of information gathering and reporting are actually quite simple – deceptively so. Essentially, it’s a matter of getting your inputs and outputs right.

1. Inputs: Collecting the right information and organising it properly.

In his 1982 book, Megatrends, John Naisbitt wrote: “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”

He wasn’t speaking specifically about publishers, but he might just as well have been. Most publishers have most of the information they need to be able to make the right business decisions. They just can’t get hold of it. It’s dispersed around their organisation, siloed within different departments, contained on a spreadsheet here, a contact book there, in emails or on untranscribed voicemails. Hugely valuable information but completely inaccessible.

Publishers need to collect the right data into a robust, well organised and unified database structure – a single repository of information.

Steph Cope.

The database needs to be intelligently structured so that information is not duplicated and, crucially says Steph, it needs to be designed with publishers in mind. The problem with generic CRM and sales management solutions, she says, is that they have not been tailored specifically for the publishing industry, so do not take into account things like editions, time-based bookings, ad dimensions and positions, artwork – these all have to be crow-barred in later. So, field selection and layout, system set-ups and defaults all need to relate to the publishing environment, in addition to taking care of general business requirements like full customer and order history, contact and correspondence details along with user-defined coding options.

The old adage of ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ means that however well structured your software is, if it’s not used properly then the information you get out of it will be sub-optimal. Getting this right has two aspects – team buy-in and team training. That is why, says Steph, PSC always recommend cross team involvement and buy-in when a new publishing client comes on board. “Involve them in the journey and train them properly from day 1,” says Steph.

Skimping on training is a false economy, because it will lead to the system being used inconsistently or sporadically.

Systems like Adman come with lots of user-definable fields so that, for instance, publishers can code up prospects by ‘type of company’, ‘product’, ‘size’ and the like. Time spent getting this right early on will pay dividends later, as illogical or duplicated code options will be avoided. The price of rushing this step is that, in all likelihood, most of your clients and prospects will end being coded as ‘other’, as sales reps struggle with the confusing coding options provided and opt instead for the path of least resistance.

2. Outputs: decide what information you need to manage your business effectively.

With the right inputs in the right place, publishers find themselves in a very strong position to take advantage. Now it’s a question of pulling out the information and presenting it in a way that senior management can use.

PSC’s Adman software comes with a KPIs dashboard (onscreen as soon as you login), a set of 250 (and growing) reports already plumbed in plus a customisable report writer that enables clients to create their own reports, slicing and dicing the information any which way.

PSC’s reporting suite provides instant access to key performance, marketing, accounting and production information.

These reports, that have been developed and refined in consultation with PSC’s customers over the course of three decades, allow managers to drill down to get the key information they need at the push of a button; to quickly answer questions that make a quantifiable difference to their business: How much are we selling? How much space is still left to sell? How does our performance compare to last year? How is my team performing? Who’s my star salesperson (and who isn’t)? Who advertised in our special feature last year, but has not booked this year? Who hasn’t paid their invoice? Who are we still awaiting artwork from? Which prospects are most relevant for our forthcoming supplement?

Every publisher in the country, whatever system they use, could answer those questions, but how long would it take them?

Yes, knowledge is power, but knowledge delayed means opportunities missed. If questions take too long to answer, then decisions are either deferred or made on the basis of incomplete knowledge – also known as a ‘hunch’.

“Individual hunches can quite often be right,” says Steph Cope, “but management by hunch is unsustainable in the long term.”

“Timely access to accurate information is hugely empowering. I would encourage publishers to ask themselves the simple question: how long does it take me to get hold of the information I need to run my business successfully? If the answer is anything longer than a few seconds, then please give me a call to see how PSC can help.”

Publishing Software Company

Steph Cope | steph@p-s-c.co.uk | 020 8088 2737 | www.p-s-c.co.uk