Can't We All Just Get Along? Here's How
That said, we need each other. Insert managers need brokers to place orders to generate revenue for their program owners, and brokers need managers to help their mailers reach their acquisition goals.
As an insert manager, I try to make myself invaluable to brokers by providing them materials, samples and as much information as necessary to help them sell my programs to their mailers. Here are several steps I take regularly that have helped develop solid relationships with many brokers.
Recommend the right programs. Brokers get calls, e-mails, letters, promotions, data cards, etc., from every manager in the industry. Some of this information is obviously appropriate and on the mark; some is overkill and unnecessary. When you prepare a recommendation, ask the broker to share with you what audience his or her client looks to reach. Discuss ideal demographics, household income, age, test quantities, etc.
Another suggestion is to review a mailer's continuation order history and match up the programs that are similar to those in which the mailer has been successful. This is a good way to ensure your reco is headed in the right direction.
Sending a recommendation that is highly targeted and what the broker seeks will earn a manager high marks from experienced brokers. The broker usually will look to you again as a resource in the future when needed.
Another factor when presenting recommendations is to provide appropriate usage as a basis for suggesting a particular program. You want to ensure that there is a similar type of usage on the program to make the mailer want to place a test order. If you don't have appropriate usage on the program, but the demographics suggest that it would be a good test opportunity, look at the usage from your owner's list rental file. Remember that insert media is just now seeing more and more usage from the direct mail side, so use your owner's list usage to convince brokers that a program would be a great test.
I've used this formula to secure test orders from fundraising mailers. This category of mailer is starting to use insert media more often. Last year, I secured two test orders in one of my programs based strictly on presenting the significant fundraising usage on the list side.
The bottom line when sending a recommendation is to keep it concise and provide accurate, updated information with specific and appropriate usage.
Face-to-face meetings. Schedule face-to-face meetings with the leading insert brokerage firms at least once a year. With most of the industry residing in the metro New York area, this shouldn't be hard to accomplish. Use industry events and conferences to meet with brokers who are not located in this area. The 45 minutes to an hour you sit down with these brokers at their offices always seems to uncover new business opportunities.
To have their undivided attention is rare in today's business environment, and it lets you establish a rapport with a broker that a call or e-mail just doesn't allow. When presenting your programs, arrive with updated data cards, collated envelope samples, catalogs, magazines, etc. Bring detailed order history from the brokerage firm so that you can discuss particular mailers and their upcoming plans. Last, but certainly not least, introduce the brokers to any new programs your company now manages and suggest which of their mailers should test them.
Finally, be prepared to discuss any fulfillment or customer service issues a broker might have with your company. Talking out a problem face to face can be easier than seeing a war of words electronically fly across your computer screen at work all day long, and it can lead to correcting issues/problems that develop within our business.
Broker visits are time consuming, requiring a lot of preparation before the meeting and follow-up afterward, but I always find them to be a successful venue to sell my managed programs.
Follow up, follow up and follow up again. After you've sent your recommendation and presented your programs during a broker visit, it's time to get some new orders.
Follow up with brokers regularly to find out if/when you will see that new order. To maintain some organization on this process, I've created a "pending business" folder within my Microsoft Outlook system. Depending on the broker (and how each prefers to be communicated with, whether by phone or e-mail), I will contact them regarding the status of an approved clearance or formal recommendation I've put together for them.
Generally, I do most of my pending follow-up over one to two days twice a month. This seems to work well for most brokers, and touching base with them on this type of schedule also lets a manager get a sense of whether they are working on any new projects (which would start the recommendation process all over again).
The information I've outlined in this article is obviously not a mystery or very complicated. As an insert manager, always remember that the brokers are your customers, and you need to respect the work that they are doing as well. I've found that by conducting business in this manner, most of my program owners have seen revenue increases in the past several years, which is my main function as their manager.
Now you'll have to excuse me, as I need to call a broker to tell her that she can't get the pricing she requested...