E-letter: Investing in energy

Last week I received an e-mail from one of our advertisers asking for help. It said, “I need your help. I am reaching out to you to see if you can help me on some stats.” He went on to specify help in the areas of sales volumes, numbers of companies and construction numbers.

This is a fairly innocuous question on its face, but it raises huge issues.

Kerry Knudsen

First of all, we can provide those numbers. As an anecdote, when I was in school, our class was given a test. Each of us had different questions, so we couldn’t help each other, and we had 24 hours to complete the test. One of my questions was to find out how much steel was used in the right-rear doors of automobiles built in North America in 1937. I got my questions right and passed the test. Not all did.

So we can get the answers, but it costs. As those of you that have followed these pages can remember, we used to have a retrospective page, a guest economist and a current-research page. The thing is, each of these takes money – money we have been happy to spend in the advancement of the industry.

But we also once had ads we no longer have.

We bought Coverings in 2007. Within two weeks of the purchase closing, we got a call from a major advertiser, telling us what would be in our editorial for the July issue. I tried to explain that advertisers have access to the magazine, but not through disguised editorial and not at the expense of their competitors.

My explanation was not sufficient, and I was called to HQ for a dressing-down, which I accepted and responded to, but tried to gently and firmly hold my position. That advertiser has not been in the magazine since, nor have a half-dozen others that similarly wanted control of the magazine without the risks of ownership.

When asked, they typically say they don’t see the value in you as a market. That’s fair enough, I guess, but it doesn’t explain why they were once in every issue and have been in none since. It’s as if you did something foul to them and they have turned their backs. Or maybe they just want to control what you hear.

I was going to call them out by name, just so you could let them know you notice, but I decided it would not be fair. Some companies have fallen on hard times and don’t see marketing as a viable recovery tool. I would dispute that, but it’s their call. Other companies have been just as dismissive of the Canadian flooring market (seeing as how we are the only national floorcovering magazine in Canada), but might not make the list of major offenders. In any event, we don’t feel that we can provide an inclusive list, and you can do it, yourself, if you have any old copies laying around.

Some advertisers, like Mapei, Proma, Beaulieu, Tarkett and others made the transition, and they are responsible for our sector having its own voice in the media. They are supporting you, your company and your sector.

But the point is this. The best reason to advertise in a respected medium is to reach a market, and the best market is one that is loyal, energized and responsive to the media. That is, is the magazine trustworthy and useful? However, another reason for advertising is to support customers and the industry.

An industry is not an industry without one or more of three modes of communication, those being media, associations and trade shows. No communication means there is no industry — just a bunch of folks doing the same stuff here and there, all making the same mistakes, all reinventing the wheel and all subject to the same scams, governmental interference and oversight.

 

Information is critical. People actually kill for reliable information, yet the mainstream media will not touch small, focused sectors such as ours. We are not their market.

Coverings magazine has much to be grateful for. Our readers are enthusiastic and responsive, and our surveys are completed at exceptionally high rates to prove it. Our events are popular, and our readers’ comments are almost invariably positive and friendly. Importantly, our advertisers value you as a reader and they tell us that when we see them at shows or in meetings. You, as a floorcovering professional in Canada, matter. You matter to them, and you matter to us. We try every issue to make that clear by using our resources to supply fresh, independent, valuable business information for business.

For proof, take any of our issues and compare them page-against-page with other magazines in our sector. You will see which “stories” are for you, and which are for advertisers that buy out your interests. I learned from a cynical salesman-turned-teacher in school that you can own a magazine for cents on the dollar by simply buying the editor a pair of Nikes and a junket to Orlando.

However, it does not work that way. Magazines that try to work that way die. That’s why Coverings was for sale in 2007. The former owner’s best “friends” in advertising put him out of business.

I told the cynical salesman/teacher at the time this would happen, and he agreed. However, he said, business, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and a new victim will come along as soon as the first one is dead.

So I would like to thank our existing advertisers on your behalf for the time, effort, resources and interest they put into Coverings to make certain you not only get a magazine instead of a catalog. Importantly, I would also invite some of the long-missing suppliers that benefit directly from a healthy industry to join the march. You will see in our next issue that Coverings is putting its energy behind a reorganized National Floor Covering Association (NFCA). In addition, all of the critical economic indicators are up. There are more construction cranes in Toronto and Vancouver than anywhere in the U.S. Things are looking good.

Generally speaking, we need just under a page of advertising to pay for a page of editorial. We buy pages in increments of eight, so you generally see a 32-page magazine. We can do better if your suppliers can once again see the value in information they once did — that their competitors now do. We need to get back to double our current size so we can once again supply the business information you need and expect in a proper industry magazine.

And you can have an effect, as well. Let your suppliers that advertise in Coverings know that you appreciate their support, and that you recognize their investment is in you, in your access to credible, independent and targeted information, and in the health of the industry.

And if you can figure out the missing advertisers and see them on the street, please play reporter and ask them why? We are all dying to know.

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