Serving free paper publishers, sales managers and salespeople in NY state

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Practice What I Preach?

It has been some time since I updated this blog for which I have a long list of reasons I can supply: people I can blame, circumstances beyond my control, acts of God, sun spots and more. Fact is there are only one person to blame (moi) and one reason to give: lack of discipline. My wife tells me to stop beating myself up all the time so enough about that. Instead I will focus a paragraph or two on why discipline is more important and more difficult to maintain in your sales career (and elsewhere) than ever before.

My father was in sales, way back in the day. Was in the retail shoe business in the 1950's (and downtown Auburn, NY had a host of locally owned shoe stores) and then sold cars until he passed away in 1974. Professional discipline was required: show up to the store on time (9AM), dress professionally, smile and pretty much go home and forget about it at 5PM. Five days a week, occasionally six. Never on Sunday. Run an ad in the Pennysaver or newspaper and wait for people to come in. Check! It worked.

My son is in sales, very modern day young man. As a youngster he always wanted to play games on the "puter" (a Commodore 128!) and has taken to the Internet, social media and all things digital as a way of life, which it is for almost all young people today. They are constant communicators, welcoming new media and platforms because they have grown up doing so.

That leaves the rest of us, those in the middle. We learned our trades (and many habits) from people of my father's generation and are trying to hire, reach and sell to people of my son's generation. That's not to mention trying to reach, hire and sell to people of our own generation who are just as mixed up about media, communications and demographic habits and trends as we are. At least that is my guess, based on very unscientific research of me and my peeps. We all claim to be users (have a Facebook page and Twitter handle) but can't say that we are totally comfortable with it or good at it.

For the record, an excellent report from Pew Research on social media users today is HERE.

And people still read newspapers (thank God), in fact newspaper readership is healthy and still primarily done in paper and ink. Pew has an excellent report HERE for that information.

So, the discipline factor. We in the middle have to use our expertise to continue to develop great (not just good) print products that attract readers and advertisers and generate profit. At the same time we have to become social media mavens, not just claim to be users.

HERE is a good introduction to using social media...and HERE is a compilation of tips to become a guru (or so they claim).

It takes practice, practice, practice to get good at the ever-changing social media world. It takes time. Time takes discipline. There is no link to click that makes you more disciplined, nor is there a quick fix tutorial that will bless you with the attitude of a lifelong learner.  It is within each of us, we just have to tap it. Daily. I hate to say it but "24-7" because it is.

I never thought I would say this, but I think I am jealous of my father.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Don't forget to do this...

I am writing today to share a link to another blog that was promoted in an email I received this morning. 


Please note that I do not have a horse in this race:
1. I am not promoting the book that is the subject of the blog.
2. I am not promoting the email subscription they are inviting you to join.

I simply like the message. Focus on less, produce more. 

For some time now I have experienced "memory loss." It's called CRS (Can't Remember Stuff, although another "S" word is often used...but this is a family friendly column). I don't recall if I already put sweetener in my coffee, forget people's names, where I set down the screwdriver I was just using, stuff like that. I referred to it jokingly as Early Onset Dementia. Then I started working part-time as a chaplain in a local nursing home with a population of folks who suffer from real memory loss issues. Without sharing the profound impact some of these folks have had on me it will suffice to say that I have stopped joking about my supposed memory issues. I know now that I don't have them, but I have indeed lost focus. There are both personal and professional ramifications. 

One item in the blog that really struck me was this statement: "The human brain is a processor, not a hard drive." Makes sense when you think of all the processes within our minds and bodies that the brain runs. For most of us we breathe, blood pumps, eyes see, little decisions are made with no conscious effort at all. The problem we have is that we are asking the brain to process so much more, and most of it is not necessary to accomplish what we want that day, that week or in our lifetime. Fact is, most of the non-necessary stuff impedes our brain's ability to focus on what is truly important. 

So before you click the link above to the blog, take a piece of paper, draw a line vertically down the center of it and write "Personal" at the top on one side and "Professional" on the other. Then write down your most important goals. Focus on the ones that will give you what you really want in life: love, happiness, success and so on. Then read the blog and pay attention to suggestions on how to clear your calendar of the stuff that really doesn't help you get where you really want to be. 

I am going to do the same right now. Before I forget to do it. 


Be sure to join us for the FCPNY Leadership Summit in Syracuse on October 5 & 6 and note that your graphic artists can attend the Tuesday session with Ed Henninger and the Graphic Awards luncheon at no charge. Details are HERE

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The cure for what ails you may be closer than you think

I have discovered a benefit to aging: you get to take more time off from work for medical reasons. Hahahahaha. I jest of course, but there is a personal track record of the increasing occurrence of medical aches, pains and doctor visits one endures as they over-ripen.

Case in point: had to have some x-rays taken this week. The woman taking the "photos" made small talk while waiting in between shots. "What do you do for a living?" she queried. "I work for a free paper publishing trade association," was my proud reply. "What are you gonna do when that goes under?" was her quick (and cold) retort. After a nano-second of reconsideration, she added "I mean I hope you'll be able to retire before they stop making newspapers."

So I work in a dying industry...and I look old, too? X-rays are something, aren't they?

It was not the first time someone offered such best wishes to me, and you have heard them, too, if you are a print industry person. Public opinion of what is printed on newsprint and delivered daily or weekly to area homes and newsstands really isn't bad, but the vast majority of readers probably agree with the impression that our days are numbered. I say probably because I don't have a stat on public impression of our anticipated longevity. I looked for some research on it, but found none. What I did find was a lot of surface gloom and doom articles but many that also showed a more realistic vision (if one took the time to read all the way through).

Here is a quick summary synopsis of what I learned:
1. Paid circulation continues to fall.
2. Local and national retail display sales dropped again in 2014, as they have done since the recession was born in mid-2008. 
3. Numbers of free standing inserts delivered by newsprint media are holding steady, producing profits but always in play.
4. Successful print media must have an interactive online presence that delivers strong, local content.
5. There are people who still like the feel and experience of a paper and experts believe there always will be, but the numbers are smaller. 

Nothing surprising there. What caught my attention in my searching is the clock that is running, toward the next economic tightening. Experts talk about recessions coming in six or seven year cycles, and that means the next one is closer than the last. A lot closer. The exact date and the depth are unknown, of course, but as long as experts predict it will happen, most consumers will catch the Chicken Little bug, stop spending and help bring it to fruition.

That said, what have you done to not just survive but thrive in the next slump? FCPNY will help provide ideas on two fronts this October, both in the same venue: the Leadership Summit. First, we have an excellent lineup of speakers and presenters who will talk trends and the immediate future of print and digital venues. They have ideas to use now. Second, your peers in this industry, association members and associates,  will be talking and sharing, both informally and at structured idea exchange sessions we have scheduled. 

We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity, right in your backyard at the Genesee Grande Hotel here in Syracuse. CLICK HERE for more information, and thank you. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Find Answers and Feel Good at our Leadership Summit

I decided not to shave during my early July vacation and now have a closely trimmed beard. I also was fitted with new glasses recently. I took advantage of the opportunity to really change up the style I usually wear. Finally, I have started a new nutritional program (I refuse to call it a diet) in which I am building improved eating habits and utilizing additional vitamins and supplements to build energy. To sum it up, I am really trying to come up with a new, fresh look.

Unfortunately, I still look like crap. Photo proof included. I feel better, though.

You may remember Billy Crystal's Fernando Lamas impression on Saturday Night Live some years back. "Remember, it's not how you feel but how you look," he would say in 'Nando-style, "and you loook mahvelous!" It was very funny, mainly because of Billy Crystal but also because of the absurdity of it all. At least it was absurd then, but today it may very well be closer to the truth and beliefs of many folks and companies we deal with. Good looks and outward appearances are a must for success it seems.

If you are a publisher or salesperson with a print publication you are constantly evaluated by the amount of content -- paid advertising and editorial -- that you deliver to readers. The "look" of your publication. Given the costs of producing and delivering a newspaper, shopping publication or magazine today it can get very expensive to include a higher imbalance of unpaid content to give your pub a look of success when you are struggling. But success breeds success; new advertisers are more likely to invest in a campaign in your product if you appear to have the ads (and confidence) of other businesses in the market. That's why so many digital-only publications have popped up; there is little overhead and including extra content is cheap. The problem -- and you know this already -- is the lack of value, investment, margin and profit that digital and online-only products typically produce. 

I don't have the answer but there is one out there.

Join us at the Genesee Grande Hotel in Syracuse, NY in October (5th and 6th) for FCPNY's Leadership Summit. We will be seeking answers to these challenges and more. We have put together a great group of print and digital experts (and the digital people all have print backgrounds!). Best yet, your peers from around the state will be there to share what they have tried, what they do and what they are thinking about doing. It is a very small investment with a tremendous opportunity at hand. 

Conferences are for our members but we welcome guests who meet our membership criteria to join us and see what Free Community Papers of New York is all about. 

Our conference brochure is HERE and you can reach me at 877-275-2726 or tcuskey@fcpny.com.

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Workplace -- it could be a lot worse, and you control how it goes!

So, do you think you have it bad at work?

These two stories appeared next to each other on the local news website in the Syracuse area this morning:

Kim Jong Un executed defense chief for sleeping during meeting, spy agency says
Fall asleep at a meeting in the USA and you might get fired, or you might get handed a cup of Starbucks. In North Korea you apparently go before the firing squad. And you thought your boss was a jerk?

Upstate NY ex-postal carrier faces prison for dumping Bed Bath & Beyond ads
If a 12-year old carrier dumps papers he probably gets fired and maybe Mom grounds him for a day or two. A postal carrier gets fired and goes to prison. And his wife probably gets really, really angry with him.

The common thread here is a simple lesson: screw up on the job and you pay for it. For those involved in advertising and marketing sales, the corollary is truer: screw up and you don't get paid. Your client doesn't get paid either. Nor does your company, the source of everything you have to sell for. 

There are large, obvious errors, such as leaving a client's ad out of a paper. No one gets paid. The point today is that you may be making many more, less obvious errors that are costing you, your clients and your company even more money over time. And they are so basic:

1. You don't suggest -- no pressure on the customer, just ask "have you ever considered expanding your market area? Would you be interested in discussing a new campaign that will help you build your market share? We have a print & deliver insert product that we can target specific neighborhoods with -- should we look at that for the new line of tractors you're carrying?" We get caught in our routine...so make your routine better! Make it one of consistent suggestive selling that benefits your client.

2. You don't pay attention -- watch the small details; notice little things in your client's inventory: new items to promote, seasonal items that need to be cleared. Notice competitor ads and approaches that affect your client's results and strategy. Pay attention to details like that. You probably do it for your top 20% -- expand that to your top 50% and see what additional revenue it brings you.

3. You don't ask -- for referrals, for additional ads promoting related services, for details on co-op plans, for sit downs to discuss annual plans and revised strategies. You know.

You are not going to be killed or incarcerated for missing these little tips. Fact is you are not going anywhere...you will remain in the income and opportunity level where you are currently seated if you continue to miss these finer points of your job responsibilities. I read a study on Ej4.com recently that stated 80% of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact on a customer. Here’s another interesting number: 44% of sales representatives quit after the first  “no”. Your job also includes hanging in there. Don't screw it up.

tcuskey@fcpny.com  1-877-275-2726

Monday, January 19, 2015

Zig Lives On Even If Cold-Calls Haven't

"Cold Calling Is Dead - Thanks to Social Networking. Get Your Free eBook. Download Yours Now!"

This headline is at the top of my LinkedIn page this morning. What has happened in our profession? Google "cold call" and results return more references to the demise of this sales staple as well as a couple of 2012 links explaining the finer points of the technique ("7 steps to a perfect cold call - CBS News", "Seven Secrets to Cold Calling Success - Entrepreneur").  Contradiction in the search engine! I am confused. When did cold calling die? Must have passed away when Zig Ziglar did, in November of 2012. I still love Zig, and miss his wisdom, captured in this Top Ten Ziglar Quote List, courtesy of Forbes.com:

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

8) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

Funny, but the term "cold call" isn't in Zig's list, be they dead or alive. As much as some folks want us to think that selling has changed (and we all need reprogramming with a fee payable to the trainer claiming to be the cold-call undertaker), the fact is that selling always has been and always will be about relationships, helping people and being sincere in everything you do. Successful advertising works the same way. So, if you're selling successful advertising, you'd better be twice as nice and twice as sincere.

Aside from learning how to write up an order and using some helpful tools, there really isn't too much else you need to know.

If you need help with the tools that FCPNY provides as member benefits-- AdMall, CVC Audits and more -- contact Tom at tcuskey@fcpny.com or call 877-275-2726.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

IOT -- It's not short for "IDIOT", at least not yet.

God speaks to me. Often, unfortunately. It's not that He has a lot to say to me; He has to repeat Himself several times before I actually listen. I am working on that and I am getting better at listening.

Case in point: IOT. I have heard the term twice now in the past three days from very legit sources. Repetition merits listening to. If you are new to the term, as I was, it stands for Internet Of Things. My first exposure to the phrase came from a friend who owns a fast growing, high-tech lighting company. You'll see an example of his work if you watch this year's Super Bowl (they lit the Phoenix stadium where the 2015 game will be held). He was talking about LED lights they design that have built-in transmitters that communicate constantly with a central station that monitors the status and condition of the lights. Keeps everyone on top of maintenance. He said "this is the next big thing you're going to start hearing about: the Internet of Things!" He was right. I heard about it again, this morning, on a news report about the huge high-tech product showcase that is going on in Las Vegas this week. The Internet of Things is all over it. Not only are people connected through our enabled devices, the devices themselves communicate with each other and take care of their business, if you will, without our direct assistance. The Internet of Things. 

Like everything new it is part exciting and part scary. I know I have seen sci-fi movies where smart machines take over the Earth. That's not the scary part, it's the exciting part. Here is scary...

Our clients would like to automate their marketing and advertising. There are programs that put a social media message out on multiple platforms at the stroke of a key. Reports come in that tell what kind of web traffic they are getting and where it comes from. Digital equals measurable, and measurable is good. Where are you in this mix? Hopefully, you're out in front of it. Digital changes so quickly that you have to become an everyday student of it…and then you can help your customers, your PRINT customers, make the most of it. Don't wait for your company or your boss to tell you to do this. It's up to you. You see, print isn't dead, it's alive and kicking in many forms. And it won’t die unless you kill it by not efficiently and intelligently attaching it to the new technologies that will always be coming our way. 

So don't become an I-di-OT. Get out in front of the wave. Learn a little bit more about new and existing products every day. Your advertisers have businesses to run -- they are looking for someone like you to take their hands and guide them through all of this, today and going forward. That becomes the exciting part. In spite of the looming Internet of Things, people still make ad decisions and pay the bills. And your job is to help people make their futures brighter. That makes yours brighter, too. Thank God!

Need training or assistance from FCPNY? Contact Tom at tcuskey@fcpny.com or call 877-275-2726.