How Magazine Supplements Can Boost Sales

Right now, many organizations that sell traditional advertising are struggling — especially if they’re selling advertising into print magazines. If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone.

But don’t jump overboard.

While it’s true that many buyers have already moved or may want to move their dollars from legacy platforms into new platforms, there are still ways to boost sales and keep your print advertisers around.

The Right Mindset

A number of folks have told me that they’ve simply accepted that print ad sales are down, and that’s just the way it is. Rather than fight for those ad dollars, restructure sales compensations, figure out how to deliver more value, or add advertorials, they’re instead reducing staff size, cutting out the annual holiday party and worse yet, sending fewer people for training. Please don’t take the path of doom and gloom.

The first thing you have to do is remind yourself that this is not going to be easy, but that it is doable. I know because I live it right along with you. I am still connected to the “real-world,” as I still sell into a publication that has seen its circulation drop every year for the past five years, but has continued to increase ad revenue significantly each and every year (despite losing major advertisers each year).

Next, you have to remind your print buyers and prospects that print is very much alive and doing well. There are plenty of facts to back this statement up. Yes, money is moving to digital, mobile and inbound marketing, but the fact remains that print advertising has, does and will still be an effective vehicle for advertisers. Arm yourself with the facts. One great source is’s “Tweetable Truths.”

Find the New Thing

Once you have accepted that this will be tough and have armed yourself with facts and figures, you need to take a step back and ask yourself: “What is something new we can do to create excitement and generate new dollars?” If you’re stumped, look at what your competitors are doing. If you’re still struggling, look at what successful publications outside of your industry are doing.

Often times, the answer is simply adding a new one-time product or a series of the same product. The most common example of this is the tried-and-true (and still highly effective) print supplement. These are most successful as a stand-alone piece, but can also work when used as a stitched-in insert to the magazine. If you love the idea but the print costs are too high for your budget, consider a bleed tab for a section of the magazine or if need be, introduce the supplements as a digital-only piece. The key here is to think about what is most valuable to your readers and create a whole piece around it. This could be a stand-alone reference/resource guide, case study supplement, Q and A piece or topic-specific supplement.

Creating this new vehicle can be exciting and inspiring, but like everything else new, it can come with unique challenges when you begin selling advertising. The biggest obstacle is usually that while your prospects think the concept is cool and enticing, they may be apprehensive about being in a completely new vehicle. I often hear things like: “Sounds great, call me at ad close and let me know who else is in” or, “I’d like to see the first one before I decide.”

So how do you overcome the “it’s too new” obstacle and get advertising in your new supplements? Here are five ways you can prepare in order to have an infinitely better chance at being successful.

1. Genuinely Show Your Excitement 

While this may seem like an obvious point, it’s an extremely important one. Much like you can tell when a family member or friend is feigning excitement about something, a prospect can tell when you are not genuinely excited about the new product you are selling. Hopefully, you will be excited about the new product and your enthusiasm will show. This will ensure you get started on the right foot with the prospect.

2. Limit Your Ad Space

Use the limited ad space to your advantage. You might say something like: “Mr. Prospect, the supplement will only be 16 pages and we are only allowing six advertisers in this supplement. I’m coming to you early in the game because you’ve been a longtime supporter of the magazine.” This can make the prospect feel both valued and excited. If your prospect pool is deep enough, consider offering geographic or product exclusivity.

3. Offer a Discounted Rate to Get Early Adopters In

While heavily discounted advertising is not good for a publication in most circumstances, this is one instance when it is okay to do so. Agreeing to a discount in this scenario shows your advertiser that you’re looking after their best interest. Just remember: Giving a discount doesn’t just have to mean slashing the price.

You can discount the advertising buy in a handful of ways. For example, if you need six advertisers in order to make your new supplement profitable, you might offer a discounted rate to the first two or three adopters. Then, when advertisers express their apprehension about buying an ad in the new vehicle, you can say: “Mr. Prospect, companies x, y, and z are already in. This thing is moving fast and we only have a three spots left.”

You may also want to offer your early adopters a discounted rate for a number of issues to keep them in. For example, you might say: “Ms. Prospect, I appreciate you jumping in. If you’d like, we’ll go ahead and do this at $X instead of $Y, and we’ll grant you that same rate next year to show you our appreciation of your early adoption.”

4. Incorporate Package Selling 

You may want to offer the prospect an additional incentive for advertising in the supplement. For example, you might offer the prospect an email blast to run in the month of their choosing just as an extra “thank you” for advertising in the new product. An email blast is a particularly good addition because it usually has a low hard cost and it doesn’t eat up real estate that could potentially be sold. If you choose this path, be sure you let your advertiser know the hard dollar value of their “gift” so that they don’t discount the value of your offer.

5. Offer the Right of First Refusal

In order to let the prospects know this really is the right time to get in on the new product, you can offer them the right of first refusal to keep their advertising position in the new product. The rate for the advertising spot may change in the future, but he or she will get the opportunity to always be the first to lock in a specific position. In the event that the new product really does take off, the prospect will be thrilled to have the right of first refusal, especially if ad space continues to be limited.

Supplements have been around for a long time because they have value for both the reader and the advertiser. It’s your job to help the buyer see the added value of advertising in these supplements. Doing so with just a few supplements a year can significantly boost your ad sales.

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