Case Study

Design-Build Institute of America’s publication, Design-Build DATELINE


The Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) wanted to transform its newsletter into a monthly journal that would become the association’s flagship offering to members and to the industry. To do so meant significant increases in production costs. From no ad sales revenue at the start, we developed and launched a program that resulted in over $450,000 in annual advertising revenue in four years.

For producing its publication Design-Build DATELINE, DBIA had limited resources and no budget, but a goal of transforming the journal into a glossy, four-color magazine-caliber monthly periodical. DBIA turned to PAI to help launch an advertising sales program from the ground up. We planned closely with the client, and worked strategically as we built a program, with an eye on fast-track results, filling in gray areas that were necessary to drive success. We managed all aspects of the marketing and sales program, including the creation of media kits, implementation of an Editorial Calendar that mirrored key industry sectors and events, and incorporation of bundling opportunities. In addition, we performed customer service, ad trafficking, and regular invoicing services.

Marketing & Media Kit: Plan And Execution

Together with DATELINE’s editor, we planned the initial budget for launch, crafted our marketing plan and created a Media Kit. The first year we had to be extra cost-effective, so we utilized a hardcopy, four-panel self-mailer that included a built-in insertion agreement. We established a web presence for DATELINE, and then we began executing a targeted, timed, integrated, multi-pronged outreach campaign, incorporating key elements such as small batch target mailings, often including a personalized letter that highlighted specific opportunity recommendations, based on the prospect’s product or sector, and how it matched with the Editorial Calendar. E-mail campaigns ran in parallel with mailings, and awareness increased and leads began to proliferate.

We worked closely with the DATELINE editor to develop a calendar, recommending a main theme for each monthly issue that matched up with a robust sector or solution category to enhance the likely “sell-ability” of ads for that issue. We also researched the greater industry for key events and recommended that the editorial calendar include a spotlight on certain events and a corresponding advertising opportunity. Finally, we created four “anchor” issues that paralleled DBIA’s own key events, including specialty issues for two DBIA sector conferences, DBIA’s Annual Conference and Expo, and an Awards Issue. Ongoing, we kept a regular dialogue with the editor as future issues and articles were coming together. With advance knowledge of authors, we contacted their companies or agencies in time to present advertising opportunities to complement the author’s article.

Since we started from no ads, we determined that for the first year, we’d set the rates at a reasonably low level and offer an even greater incentive for advertisers to run in multiple issues and also to run full-page ads. Our objective was to fill a lot of ad pages quickly, (essentially using the proliferation of ads as an advertisement in itself; we sent copies to key target prospects and competitors of existing advertisers. Ads would beget more ads.) We increased rates each year, and in year three we set them to be at a high Cost-Per-Thousand (CPM) rate versus several key industry publications. However, we were competitively positioned based on the results that followed. We set yearly goals for both total revenue growth and growth in revenue per advertiser, keeping an eye on both metrics.

A key strategy we employed was bundling. Since we were also selling exhibit space and sponsorships for DBIA’s events, we’d include the “add-on” opportunity of running a DATELINE ad in the special “Show Issue” as we sold for that event. We created tie-ins between discounted ads in the conference show guide if a company also purchased a full-page DATELINE ad for the Show Issue. And, at the event itself, we’d recognize advertisers by delivering a “Thank you for Advertising in DATELINE” sign for them to display in their booth.

Each year starting in the late fall, we’d reach out and consult with advertisers to establish a plan based on the upcoming year’s calendar. Then, we made consistent, consultative, outbound calls during the “closing” cycle of each issue, supported by targeted mail and email campaigns. Since each issue had a primary sector or category focus, our call targets were typically defined well in advance. The results DBIA received were superlative—over $200,000 in advertising revenue by year two, and $450,000 through year four, with dozens of advertisers in each issue.

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