Jim Hart is a partner in the Phoenix-based companies Integrated Advertising Solutions and Client Rush Marketing. He was interviewed by Inlander Editor Mark Fitzgerald.
So Jim Hart, what is it you do?
I help newspapers step back from what they’re doing on a daily basis and figure out ways to improve their profitability, whether by growing revenue or on an expense-side basis.
And which route do you find newspapers taking to sustain profitability?
Nowadays, I feel more like a hospice doctor. Unfortunately, I’m finding almost nobody who wants to embrace or pursue print revenue in the spaces where I’ve usually worked. Now I’m basically trying to coax them to a soft, or at least softer, landing.
To a direct mail guru like yourself, that’s got to be disappointing.
I think (many newspapers) got into non-subscriber direct mail not because they thought it was a good idea, but almost with the idea that if we don’t do it, someone else will. It just took one advertiser going away or the downward pressure on rates and a lot of people find themselves upside down or almost upside down.
So too many papers are not thinking strategically about their print TMCs or ROP?
Yes, what most disappoints me is a lack of strategy on how can you leverage print in today’s market. Print will make a resurgence. There’s a lot of research I’ve seen (recently) that print is coming back as a reaction to the invasion of privacy in digital target marketing that involves tracking people. It’s really not a stretch to say if you properly position print you can have effective ads that are measurable. Print is at the top of the sales funnel, and we’ve got to stop using it as if it were at the bottom of the funnel.
Here’s an example, you run a quarter-page print ad that drives them to a website for more information and contact. You follow up on those contacts. Now you’re intelligently using print ads to drive traffic that is measurable and attributable to the print ads. We know, for example, that 97 people went to the website, 20 clicked on the contact link, and we know four bought in a transaction begun by a print ad.
You’ve said that a lot of your inspiration to go into sales came from your father, a car salesman.
To this day, it amazes me how valuable the basic process of sales remains. It’s staying in touch with people, and getting back to them. My dad always used to say—I don’t think it was original with him but maybe from (sales motivator) Zig Ziglar—that the purpose of making a sale is to get a client, not just a customer. He sold cars, and the recidivism rate of customers—if I can use that for something other than prisoners—is typically 10% who come back to the same dealership. His rate was like 70% or 80%. Repeat business is the world’s way of saying they’re buying what you’re selling.
You’ve been a frequent speaker at Inland conferences and webinars. What’s the association’s appeal to you?
Inland is one of those unique combinations of smart planning—in terms of what (the association) is going to put in front of people—and attracting people who show up at its conferences because they want to, and not because someone told them to go. They are people who are going to go back and implement what’s they’ve heard. They are there for the actionable stuff—and they are the people at the right level of their organizations to actually go back and do stuff.