Find Ad Buyers in All the Wrong Places!


Check out Carl’s unconventional, winning path to decision makers in the ad sales game.

True niche confession: I only lasted one year in the corporate world. After 12 long months of working for a big magazine publisher, my boss very diplomatically said, “I don’t think a structured corporate environment is really the right place for you.”  

I was confused and asked if he was firing me. He said well, not really, but it would be a good idea if I started looking for another job!

So I ended up starting my own publishing company at 26 years old. What were perceived as my weaknesses in the corporate world, such as not following proper procedures, or coming up with my own solutions to roadblocks (and other corporate infractions) have served me quite well as an entrepreneur and in my ad sales career.

Here’s an example of a common ad sales hurdle and how to overcome it, Poobah-style:

You can’t seem to get through to a decision maker
You’re often told that “Frank Johnson” is your contact for advertising. They aren’t really lying–he is the one that places the advertising and sponsorship agreements. But more often than not, Frank isn’t the true decision maker! This type of contact person tends to be more an admin or middle manager that is the designated “stalling person” to lock the gates when salespeople come calling. Of course, I am polite to them and jump through the hoops they set up–but there is another way.

My crazy entrepreneurial solution
I contact all sorts of influencers within the company that are NOT the advertising contact. You know the people I am talking about–they’ve been with the company awhile, now they are the Product Manager or Marketing Manager or Assistant to the Ad Manager or Interns or PR People or Salespeople or the President. I’m calling, emailing and talking at tradeshows to all these other people that most ad salespeople never even think of engaging. This move has served me very well.

The Product Manager is excited to tell me about all the innovations the company is implementing. Salespeople will give me an insight into their target audience and what is working and what isn’t working. Marketing and PR people are giving me an idea of what their budget is and where it’s being allocated. The Assistants and Interns are giving me intel (aka gossip) about the people and company that is very useful. The President (whom I call or run into by accident–wink, wink) tells me they don’t have anything to do with advertising decisions: but we all know that they are truly a big part of the buying decision and I want them to remember me.

So what do all of these people have in common? NONE of them have been trained to NOT talk to me or stall me, unlike the gatekeeper. And they do influence the buying decision. For difficult and larger accounts, my untraditional approach has worked out fantastic!  Sure, rules and procedures are good for most things–but that’s not always the case in the ad sales game!


Carl Landau

About the blogger: Carl Landau is Grand Poobah of Niche Media. He is a media/event guru, SF Giants fan and part-time blogger. His 15 minutes of fame took place in the mid-eighties when he launched his famous, “Buy an Ad, Get a Cat” ad campaign. He has long since patched things up with the SPCA.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau–Niche Media’s Grand Poobah–also created a blog all about creating and marketing targeted events:  Check it out!

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