As good as those numbers are, even they don’t tell the whole story. For that, we’ll have to go back to mid-2007, which is when AutoInc. magazine and its in-house salesman mutually decided to part ways. Afterward, the magazine staff knew it had a big decision to make: hire a new salesman or go with a publishers’ representatives firm.
“Anything new is scary, and we had always had ad sales in-house,” said Editor Leona Dalavai Scott. Angie Wilson, vice president of marketing and communications for the Automotive Service Association, concurs. “When someone is in-house, he is in close contact with other staff members because he’s under the same roof, so we wanted to ask all the right questions before we made the move.”
During this process, Scott and Wilson were in close contact with Mitch Mohanna, owner of Plano, Texas-based Mohanna Sales Representatives, which has 31 years of experience with association publications. Mohanna had been monitoring AutoInc.’s declining ad sales, and had approached the magazine about a potential partnership.
“Any conversation I had with any member of the Mohanna staff left me with the feeling that they knew their business really well,” Wilson says. “They really gave me a lot of comfort that they would be a true partner in our efforts to acquire the advertising we needed. The more we researched and the more details we began to share with each other, we realized they really were a good match for our needs,” she said.
Wilson was particularly impressed with how specific Mohanna was in the information he and his team presented. “They knew what their targets were, and they were very specific in setting goals as to how to reach those targets,” she said. “They were also very clear on the reports they would provide to us on a monthly basis that reflected their efforts.”
The partnership became official in the fall of 2007, and Mohanna’s team kicked into high gear. The firm has a very thorough approach it implements for each client. Its research begins with a careful market analysis wherein the team studies back issues, the magazine’s Web site, competing magazines and Web sites, and sources like SRDS.
“We then create a ‘War book’ that presents the benefits of our media vs. the weakness of our competitors,” Mohanna said. “We analyze the 20 percent of advertisers who spend 80 percent of the dollars, and we assign them as target accounts. And we’re not content with just telephone calls and e-mails; we schedule face to face meetings throughout the course of the year.”
Wilson said she was grateful for the way the Mohanna team handled the transition when they came on board. “They helped us go back and tie up loose ends that could have occurred during the transition,” she said. “They were a very good bridge to the advertisers we had in place already.”
AutoInc. had other processes in place that Mohanna was very happy to see. “Brand-building efforts are enormously expensive and time-consuming, yet they do it,” he said. “They also work with an excellent marketing firm, and they are willing to try new ideas we propose to them.”
For example, Mohanna suggested that AutoInc. add a “Letter from the Editor” column as a way of creating a welcome mat for readers and advertisers. “We’ve gotten really good feedback about the column,” Scott said. “Our readers are very faithful to the association and the magazine, and they really like that personal touch.”
In a similar vein, both Scott and Wilson are pleased with what they describe as a “good, strong working relationship” with the Mohanna team. Wilson utilizes Mohanna’s expertise in a variety of areas. “We can go to them and say, ‘This is what we’ve done before; what do you think?’” she says. “They’ll tell us, based on their experience, that this type of approach has worked in other publications, and this one hasn’t.”
Scott values Mohanna’s professional approach above all. “Professionalism is what distinguishes mediocre companies from exceptional ones. That’s a very important trait to me, and it’s undervalued in today’s society,” she says. “They are representing our magazine and our association, and I feel we’re putting our best foot forward by having them represent us in a professional manner.”
Mohanna’s lead team member for AutoInc. is Senior Sales Leader Amanda Daniel, whom Scott and Wilson describe as “fantastic” and “phenomenal.” “She worked really hard to understand our market – and us – really well,” Scott said. “She created a great rapport with us and is so easy to work with. Her hard work is really paying off.”
In addition to increasing AutoInc.’s overall numbers, Daniel scored several other significant successes. She sold a new advertiser on the Cover III position; she converted an existing ½ page ad into a 2 page spread on a 12x basis, and she landed a 12x contract with a major auto manufacturer.
“We had had a strong relationship with the manufacturer, but it had not translated into advertising sales,” Wilson said. “Mohanna really helped build that relationship, and it was great work on their part.” Wilson said AutoInc.’s ad sales had taken a dip before Mohanna signed on. “They quickly put us in a healthy range,” she said. “I don’t think we’d be where we are in this economy if we hadn’t worked with a team like Mohanna. We’re really excited about our 2011 predictions.”
Scott said advertising revenue is vital in these times. “Associations have been hit hard with memberships decreasing, and non-dues income is more important than ever. Seeing a 31 percent increase in advertising is phenomenal, and definitely a boost to our budget.”
Mohanna says when he and his team are successful, everybody benefits. “Associations gather more non-dues revenue, and members receive more information that can help them with their work,” he said. “Advertisers generate more awareness with a crucial audience, and Mohanna Sales Representatives gets to fulfill our mission as well.”
Wilson would agree the partnership is a win-win all around. “I remember saying to my colleagues, ‘This is one of the best moves we could have made; we have absolutely no regrets,’” she said. “I would highly recommend Mohanna to other publications, but not to our competitors. We need them on our side.”