Just the Facts, Ma’am – Better Magazine Ad Sales Research with Surveys


Surveys are an important tool in your ad sales tool kit!

In case you haven’t noticed, the business of selling advertising has changed. I remember fondly the days when selling ads meant “print” ads and the most sophisticated question was, “How many readers do you have, and what does it cost?” Now clients say, “I want a data driven understanding of the influence your readers have over the buying process.” Huh? Say what?

In our data-driven world, surveys are a powerful way to gather information to make a successful sales pitch to today’s client. Your advertiser doesn’t want to know how much it costs or how many impressions he’ll get. He is looking for a multi-media platform to promote to people who are proven to have influence to buy his product. He wants to know what your readers consider to be the most reliable way to learn about his products and what convinces them to make that purchase.

First, choose a way to build and distribute your survey. I use Survey Monkey but there are many other services. You can even get add-ons for Facebook and other social media sites. Plumb your various email lists, distribute through your Facebook page, or use your website to reach the target the group for your survey. Keep them simple and short, and make sure to let participants know how much you appreciate their time! Here are some sample questions from a ten-question survey to select e-newsletter subscribers:

“What best describes your involvement in the purchase of products”?
A. Evaluate
B. Recommend
C. Approve
D. None of the above

“Where do you get your information on new products”?
A. Industry publications
B. Industry electronic newsletters & websites
C. Trade shows
D. Visit with a sales rep
E. Personal recommendations

“What most influences your decision to buy a product”?
A. Industry publications
B. Industry electronic newsletters & websites
C. Visit with a sales rep
D. Personal recommendations

Once you have your aggregate research data, break it down for your clients so they can understand. Don’t just throw raw data at them! From my enewsletter survey, 70% of respondents indicate they “approve” purchases for their company and 82% said they got their new product information from industry publications, e-newsletters and websites. Only 17% ranked a visit with a sales rep as a top category on either question. With this research I can show that my readers not only influence product purchasing decisions, but that they are looking to publications and websites like mine to get the information they need to make those decisions.

In other words, readers of our publications and electronic offerings still view us as the most reliable source of information when considering buying products.

Finally, don’t miss opportunities to follow-up and increase the depth of your research. Augment your results with a focus group at an event, industry meeting, or other gathering of your survey’s target group. The more you know, the better you can sell.

In this data driven world research is golden. Use it well. Good Selling!


Nancy O'BrienNancy O’Brien is a Camp Niche Ad Sales Training speaker and President of Nancy O’Brien Advertising



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