In 2006, the American Public Works Association (APWA) hired Mohanna & Associates to sell advertising for its national magazine, the APWA Reporter. Coincidentally, during that same year the APWA Reporter’s editor, Kevin Clark, celebrated his fiftieth birthday. “I can say with complete honesty that hiring the Mohanna team was absolutely the best fiftieth birthday present I could possibly have given myself,” he says. The following describes the reasons why:
For a number of months prior to hiring Mohanna & Associates, display advertising sales for the APWA Reporter had not met the expectations of APWA’s management. While management valued the service that APWA’s previous publisher’s rep provided, they believed it was time to move in a new direction.
According to Clark, APWA performed its due diligence and asked five firms for proposals. “Mohanna & Associates clearly stood out from the rest of the field,” he said. “They offered us monthly reports detailing their activities on our behalf, and they were the only firm to tell us that they would make face-to-face calls on prospective and current advertisers instead of relying on email and phone contacts. We felt that was a major plus.”
In the nearly five years that the Mohanna team has been with APWA, the sales reps have delivered new advertisers in every issue, and they have also been very good at retaining longtime advertisers. They also instituted bimonthly conference calls with the APWA staff, which has made for strong, ongoing communication for the entire APWA/Mohanna team.
Of course, the most important thing is to look at the numbers—the actual increase in ad revenue. To begin with, in 2007 Mohanna increased ad revenue for the Reporter by $72,000 more than the ad revenue sold in 2006. Having the additional time to learn about the magazine, in 2008 the Mohanna team’s numbers were outstanding: they sold an additional $159,000 beyond what they sold in 2007. In 2009-10, with the economic downturn, their sales have been very respectable and they have clearly held their own in this financial climate. And as of this writing (February 2011), their results have been outstanding in the early part of the year as the Reporter’s ad revenue is significantly ahead of budget with both the January and February issues.
These numbers make the APWA management and Board of Directors very happy, and as Clark says, the extra revenue has been outstanding. “The additional ad sales have allowed me to include more articles for our members, giving me the opportunity to increase the page count with each issue and to give our members a better magazine than they’ve ever received in the history of APWA,” he says. “Based on member surveys, the APWA Reporter is considered by our members to be the single most tangible benefit of their membership investment, and by giving them an excellent product they’re more likely to renew their membership when their renewal comes up again. So, the Mohanna team has not only increased ad sales and page count for our magazine, they are directly involved with the increased satisfaction level of APWA members.”
According to Mitch Mohanna, owner of Plano, Texas-based Mohanna & Associates, the sales team initially conducted extensive research and analysis about APWA’s publication and market, something that continues on a monthly basis. “We routinely collect relevant information about each prospect and advertiser including products and services offered, target market, and major competition,” Mohanna says. “This helps prepare the team when they make their face-to-face contacts with current and prospective advertisers.” As mentioned earlier, of the five publisher’s reps that APWA sent RFP’s to, Mohanna & Associates was the only one who indicated that they take the time (and expense) to travel and make personal appointments with advertisers. The only time that APWA’s previous reps ever had face time with advertisers was during the association’s annual conference, so it’s not surprising that ad sales had become stagnant with them.
Speaking of APWA’s annual conference—the International Public Works Congress & Exposition—the Mohanna team travels to each conference, where Clark and the sales reps spend time discussing sales goals and strategies. Most significantly, Clark accompanies the reps as they walk around the large exhibit hall, and together they visit with prospective advertisers about the benefits of advertising in the Reporter. “My reps have indicated how important it is to have the magazine’s editor with them as they talk to the advertisers, and I get to see the Mohanna team in action,” he says. “I can say, again with complete candor, that they really know their stuff. Our reps are very impressive, and they always leave the prospective advertiser with a positive feeling about advertising in the Reporter.
One of the reps also attends APWA’s annual North American Snow Conference, a smaller conference covering the snow and ice market within the field of public works. As at the annual Congress & Exposition, the sales rep walks the exhibit floor and has face-to-face time with current and prospective advertisers. By covering both of APWA’s shows, the Mohanna reps have dramatically increased ad sales each year. “Our sales teams travel to the annual conferences for all of our accounts,” says Mitch Mohanna.
As mentioned earlier, APWA and the sales reps have been conducting bimonthly conference calls for several years. According to Clark, these are basically times that the group can all sit down together, talk about ongoing strategies and goals, and “even have a few laughs,” he says. “However, I’m in constant contact with my reps on a daily basis through phone calls and e-mail. In addition to being the editor of the magazine, I’m also the display advertising liaison (a position I inherited a few years ago), so I continually communicate with Mohanna regarding space and materials deadlines, value-added benefits we give to our advertisers, etc. The reps are always very good about contacting me—for example, to get my permission to give a price break to a prospective advertiser that may be having a difficult time financially but would still like to advertise their product. And I constantly communicate with them regarding an extension of our deadlines, running a special promotion for a particular issue, allowing an advertiser a little extra time to send in their materials, etc. Our communication has been first-rate, and is one of the many reasons that I’m so pleased with them.”
APWA management has been pleased that Mohanna & Associates has been able to keep past advertisers and sign them over and over again. Signing “repeat” advertisers indicates that those companies find value in running ads in the APWA Reporter, and also indicates that the sales reps have developed very good relationships with those advertisers.
Clark also appreciates the fact that the reps have brought in so many new advertisers over the years. “They’ve brought in companies that I’ve never even heard of, but that obviously have a connection with the public works industry,” he says. “Of course, bringing in new advertisers is vitally important for any publication, as a magazine can’t thrive simply recycling the previous advertisers over and over. Bringing in the ‘new blood’ is very important, and the Mohanna team has been able to do that extremely well.”
The team also provides APWA with reports each month documenting which firms they have been calling, what the chances are in landing certain prospects, etc. These reports are very illuminating and allow APWA staff to see the amount of time and effort expended on selling for the Reporter. APWA’s management definitely believes that the Mohanna reps are spending the appropriate time on promoting the Reporter.
According to Clark, several magazine editors looking for a replacement for their current publisher’s reps have contacted him for his thoughts on the Mohanna team. “Typically the conversation begins with my being asked what we like about working with Mohanna & Associates, so I discuss all the great benefits that they provide to our organization,” he says. “The conversation typically closes with them asking, ‘Well, is there anything you don’t like about working with Mohanna & Associates?’ And I always say to them, ‘Well, their communication is great. They’re very pleasant and easy to work with. They travel and make face-to-face sales calls on our behalf, at their own expense. Our ad sales have gone through the roof. What’s not to like?’”
Mohanna & Associates has been a tremendous asset for the American Public Works Association. Advertising sales increase yearly, and 2011 appears to be on its way to a record-setting year. The APWA Reporter team and the association’s management are well aware that ad sales for their official magazine are in good hands.
The APWA Reporter, the official magazine of the American Public Works Association, covers all facets of public works for APWA members including industry news, legislative actions, management issues and emerging technologies. Visit www.apwa.net/Resources/Reporter.