All newspapers need a comprehensive Circulation Sales Plan to replace telemarketing starts lost under the Oct. 1, 2003 FTC/FCC Do-Not-Call rules. Here is a list developed by LCNI with field input. We encourage development of additional ideas and sharing with LCNI for benefit of all as we seek continued readership growth.

  1. Grow single sales with better draw management and opening additional outlets. Monitor sellouts, and increase draws at outlets selling out half the time or more over a month. Decrease at those with weak sales. Make recovery runs to large-volume outlets to avoid sellouts and freshen display. Work harder in partnership with ad department and drivers to open new outlets, concentrating on retail OTC. Seek to get locations close to the checkouts, perhaps paying higher commission to dealers working with you to sell greater numbers. We need to be in every Wal-Mart and K-Mart, grocery and drug store in our markets.
  2. One-Day sale call-ins, advertised in paper (single copies) and non-serve shoppers, perhaps radio tradeout, offering special price for one day only, or a few hours only. Emphasize credit-card payment. Citrus gets 90% or more prepaid. Getting people to call us is now the trick, and it is not as hard as you may think. Citrus has expanded to 5 call-in nights a month.
  3. Increase sampling by mail or carrier with offer flyer in every issue, not just the first and last ones. Carriers may be paid for delivery, or not, but with good bonus to carrier for paid starts. If they can get the order personally, that is even better. Mail offers should also provide credit card payment option and a bonus for PIA. This has been the best tactic for several LCNI weeklies other than telemarketing. And we still have hopes that some of you can grow advertising with a planned schedule of say, 1,000 extra copies a week in a ZIP code, or a monthly full-county sample to all subscribers. Try to grow both circulation and advertising.
  4. Run more single copy inserts. Weeklies should run at least monthly, and multi-weeklies should run weekly. Dailies should mix Sunday, Friday, other good days. If you have a strong newsbreak, you should shove one out that day to reach new readers. Print low-cost dinky dropouts on green or canary stock, or use up plants old wider stock (with banner strip down side promoting offer) if you are on 25-inch or other narrower web than in recent past.
  5. Promote money-saving coupons. Virtually all LCNI newspapers now carry SmartSource coupons regularly. Many also carry Valassis coupon packages monthly. Promote the value of these money-saving manufacturers coupons that makes the newspaper worth far more than its single-copy or subscription price. Use this point in house ads, inserts, telemarketing calls to former subscribers and non-subscribers alike, web site subscribe boxes, etc.
  6. Improve direct mail tactics, including return envelope in outbound envelope to increase return rather than just mailing postcards asking people to call during daytime hours only. Send people to your web site as well. Regular mailing should be made to former subscribers testing a variety of offers with term, price, and premiums. All 21 CDS-qualified papers should mail offers to nonsubscribers.
  7. Offer kiosk sales in greater frequency and quality. LCNI Sales Agent Contract, for either door-to-door or kiosk sales, can be used to contract local people (which I recommend) rather than outside firm. Partner with major advertisers to offer coupon for merchandise discount in store that day.
  8. Special-event bulk sales at festivals, anniversaries, pageants, sports events, etc. Find sponsors to buy copies for free distribution to attendees at booth or with hawker, or sell special-edition copies (with wrap promoting event) for reduced price such as 15-25 cents a copy. Call LCNI to discuss ideas and approaches.
  9. Boost web starts with secure server to increase the amount of credit card sales e-mailed to the circulation department. Offer ‘Four Weeks Free’ banner or Pop-Up box, and have a ‘Subscribe’ button on all pages of your web site. Web starts are very low-cost, less than half that of a telemarketing start, and retention is much better. Direct mail pieces should refer people to your web site as well as provide call-in opportunities. Some papers are quadrupling the number of monthly starts via the web. Your web address should also be promoted on every page of the newspaper and shopper, renewal notices, and other communications.
  10. Classified subscription sales program. Carroll County Times led the way on this in LCNI, and there is room at our newspapers to generate more sales from these customer contacts. Incent classified reps and other front-office staff for starts (as Linda Miller does at Riverland News), or use the classified customer list to call or mail customers an offer. (Other industries are pushing hard to turn all customer contacts into sales opportunities. We now MUST do so as well.)
  11. Requested Sample card program. Idea list and sample available. Many papers have done this, but need to reinvigorate. You might also extend this offer in house ads, flyers, and to prospects that do not want to buy up-front. Try to get the cards in registration packets for parents registering children for school each fall, or in local utility companies to catch new movers.
  12. Bill stuffers to classified and retail customers offering a special rate to subscribe because of their customer relationship with us already. LCNI can help.
  13. Use remnant space for circulation ads rather than just advertising, as too often the case, so that we can promote EZ Pay and other sales promotions, especially in shoppers. Ask for it!
  14. Use Datafast, new mover source providing weekly e-mail lists so HH can be called before they have time to sign up for Do Not Call lists at their new home. The addresses can also be sampled for 4-8 weeks, then mailed an offer as well. Citrus has tested for telemarketing and had promising results at 27 cents per lead. They also plan to add direct mail as a contact method as well. The offer includes all telephone companies, listed and unlisted numbers. Call David Raboin at 888-254-9083 or e-mail
  15. Emphasize Retention. We can not be smug about reader complaints on delivery, whether by carrier or mail. Dailies need to provide more options of various terms, from Sunday-only to three-day packages. We need to also share reader complaints about the editorial product with editors, and ask them to be responsive about corrections of fact, news left out of the paper, and failure to cover local events. Do not take no for an answer. Do what you can to retain an unhappy customer. Use teamwork tools to have a cross-functional readership team in your newspaper. Offer free classified coupon to annual subscribers worth up to half the subscription price value.
  16. Discount wisely. Unavoidably in tough economic times, and a difficult readership environment, we need to discount entry-level subscriptions to get readers to try our paper. We may even need to consider permanent discounts to some reader segments (as Tony Ridder of Knight-Ridder advocates) as cheaper than incurring the cost of a new order. Perhaps subscriptions in low-income areas should be priced lower to reduce churn and reselling costs. While we do not particularly favor ‘senior’ discounts, since many have more discretionary income than other reader segments, some seniors on low fixed incomes may deserve consideration. Code those accounts to receiver lower rates.
  17. Test new premiums. Deannie Baxter regularly shares ideas for new premiums, like cookbooks, sports and patriotic wearables, etc. Think what may appeal to your local readers.
  18. Carrier sales. While often disappointing in the past, we should try new approaches to get as many carriers as will to sell new starts, both on their own routes and outside their territories, where home delivery exists. Pay as much or more for a carrier start as you would telemarketing, as they retain better, and are worth more.
  19. Continue telemarketing. Despite diminishing numbers, we should still work to maximize sales from those willing to be called, using either outside vendors like Circulation Solutions. Former subscribers should be worked hard as well with the limits of DNC law (up to 18 months since last payment). Citrus, which has done phone sales well at low-cost in-house for years, continues that. For those who choose to continue to work with contractors like Circulation Solutions of AL, we will ensure they fully understand the compliance issues. And don’t overlook sales for regional papers if you have a good calling operation, like Citrus does for four weeklies. The KY Classified Call Center is selling to non-subscribers placing classifieds. NEW: We should also use our classified systems to compare our classified customer list to our subscriber list, and ask Circulation Solutions to call those that do not subscribe under the 18-month exemption for an existing business relationship. Kentucky papers should be able to get list from E-towns KCC center.
  20. Improve your newspaper. Several of you have made gains by producing a better newspaper. MetroWest, Henry County, Spencer Magnet, Sentinel-News, Leitchfield, and Williston all come to mind. Expand use of correspondents to enhance news coverage cost-effectively. If you need more staff, make the case and ask for it. If you need to pay more to get better staff or keep a good editor, step up to the plate and do it. All of us should believe that quality pays off, but too many of us try to save our way to prosperity rather than growing our way by offering better value.
  21. Shift or Allocate Resources to Circulation Growth. If 50% fewer dollars are spent on telemarketing, reallocate those dollars to other efforts. Some KY papers using the classified call center have had the opportunity to free up classified time from your circulation manager. If those hours were reallocated to growth activities, it should pay off in increased circulation and support for higher ad rates. Many circulation managers now lack enough time to do their entire job, and smart managers will find ways to provide the time to work on growth, which will become more labor-intensive without the ability to contract out as much telemarketing as we have the last 4-5 years. We salute those of you who have found more time to devote to circulation growth and retention Galax, Pioneer News, and yes, even small weeklies such as Riverland News. Circulation growth only occurs where and when it is a management priority.

Revised November 2007