How Publishers Can Maximize Value from a Sales CRM Solution


Where does CRM fit into your business strategy? Here’s some tips on finding the right fit for your niche magazine.

For many niche publications, the prospect of implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform to manage sales activities has about the same appeal as dental surgery. You know you should probably do it, and you know you will feel so much better after, but that part in the middle just seems so awful.

Here are some of the most common objections to using a CRM database (sound familiar?):

 “We have a small number of reps and advertisers so we’ll just stick to using a spreadsheet.”

“The cost of licensing and training our staff how to use it is too expensive.”

“I don’t need another complex piece of software that no one ends up using.”

The above are valid concerns for sure, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you do your homework and pick a platform that works for you, your staff, and your budget. In a media world where sales reps and advertising partners are constantly changing, a CRM database serves as a digital archive of your communication with one another providing key customer insights to a sales rep assuming a new territory or client list.

So if you think a CRM platform may be worth the investment, here are some things to consider to ensure it delivers the best possible ROI:

Do Your Homework: Start your journey at industry websites like  Attend vendor webinars and read industry whitepapers from technology analysts.  Ask your peers in the publishing what system they use.  Engage an independent CRM consultant to help in requirements gathering and vendor selection.   

Key Features To Consider: CRM solutions can get very complex, offering features that the majority of sale organizations will never use.  Some important features to look for include:   

The Basics

  1. Contact management database that allows you to create contacts, assign account and manage leads.
  2. Mobile version provides remote access for your sales team.
  3. Scalable pricing plans that grow as your business does.

Valuable Additional Features

  1. “Communication sync” feature that makes it easy for your sales team to assign e-mails to specific customer records.
  2. E-mail and social media syndication capabilities to easily update customers about your publications.
  3. Sales funnel management features to forecast sales and track conversions.

Keys to a Successful Implementation: Appoint an internal CRM champion to own your implementation.  This could be a sales coordinator or intern.  Previous experience is not necessarily required, just someone computer savvy with the ability to see the benefit of CRM to the publication– not to mention their own professional development.  

Ensure that you set aside ample time for your champion to learn and configure the system as well as train other staff on how to use it.  Lastly, incent your sales staff to use the system by utilizing it in sales meeting and recognizing team activity.

Some Products to Consider: The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies but here are a few options to consider for the budget conscious niche publication:  Open source option from development community Github.   Some setup involved, it’s free.  The market leader in sales CRM it has an attractive entry level product called contact manager that costs $5 user/month, Professional edition $65 user/month.

Magazine  Specifically designed for magazine publishers this turnkey suite integrates sales, production, and billing information across all departments.  Costs $175/month +$47/month per user.

So if you do your research and keep these key factors in mind, you can set up a CRM sales platform that not only works well for your niche publication, it can have a direct impact on your magazine’s revenue performance. It’s worth the time and effort to get it right.


Kenneth Mac Clean About this blogger:  As the principal consultant with Community NicheKenneth Maclean assists online publishers in developing content and advertising strategies that increase audience engagement and digital revenue.



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  1. For me, spreadsheets just don’t stack up regardless of how talented you are with spreadsheets. CRM databases are the way to go. I currently work without any CRM management system, and it is not easy or fun. What makes it even more difficult is that everyone has their own spreadsheet they manage and nobody looks at one another’s spreadsheets or even cares to understand them.

    If you implement a CRM system, you must be ready to hold all staff accountable for utilizing it and keeping it up to date. Remember, it is only as good as the data that is put into it.

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