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Still using Excel to manage your ad sales? Why is that?

Too many publishers, PSC’s Laurence Cope tells James Evelegh, are managing their advertising sales using tools that are not fit for purpose. This means, he says, that they are making life unnecessarily difficult for themselves.

By James Evelegh

Still using Excel to manage your ad sales? Why is that?

It’s hard to imagine using 1980s techniques to produce a magazine. Couriers dashing back and forth between publisher and repro house, transporting physical photographs and texts, marked up galleys, and proofs.

Not using modern desktop publishing techniques is almost unthinkable.

Yet, many publishers are still using 1980s techniques to manage their ad sales, using generic office tools like Excel to record and manage sales.

According to Laurence Cope, MD of the Publishing Software Company, creators of the Advertising Manager software solution, the majority of small publishers use a combination of Excel, Word, pen and paper to manage their ad sales.

Each issue’s sales are tracked by creating a spreadsheet, often by copying and pasting from a previous issue (a risky procedure in itself). Each new sale is added until the issue is closed, at which point, the spreadsheet is sent over to production for flat-planning and accounts for invoicing.

On the surface, that doesn’t sound too crazy, says Laurence, until you start to consider the long list things that can so easily go wrong with such an approach. For instance, orders not being added to the spreadsheet and therefore being left out of the issue, signed order forms not being received and ads being disputed or series bookings not being applied to every issue in the booking.

Laurence Cope.

In addition to these problems, which usually involve a financial hit to the publisher, running such an inefficient system wastes considerable amounts of time. Booking forms take minutes to raise rather than seconds, orders have to be re-keyed multiple times, processes such as invoicing take hours rather than minutes, key reports take ages to prepare when they could be run in seconds. All this time adds up and could be used much more constructively by the publisher.

The fact is, says Laurence, that using a DIY approach is extremely time consuming because of the duplication of effort and extremely prone to error due to the unstructured way in which advertising orders are handled. It also makes it harder for the publisher to reach their full potential, because they do not have all the key information they need at their fingertips.

With a single title and single salesperson, a publisher can usually get away with it, but the ‘system’ can quickly fall apart when the publisher tries to expand either by launching a new title or taking on extra salespeople.

Why, I ask Laurence, would any publisher persist with such a fragile system to manage such an important process? A number of reasons, he says, familiarity, concerns about change, a fire-fighting mentality which means that they struggle to see beyond the here and now, the perceived cost and upheaval of moving to a proper system, and, last but not least, a lack of awareness of alternatives.

Why would any publisher persist with such a fragile system to manage such an important process?

There is a better way

A system like Advertising Manager has two major advantages over a DIY approach. Firstly, it holds all the sales data in one place, so sales teams, management, production staff, accounts all see the same up-to-date information. There is no need for rekeying and, because it’s cloud-based, it can be accessed anytime, anywhere. It is a single source of truth, which for anyone familiar with trying to coordinate multiple copies of databases, is a blessed relief. If the sales team also uses the contact management functionality within the system to manage their contacts, record call notes and schedule follow up prompts, then the publisher also has the peace of mind of knowing that they have something to fall back on when one of their salespeople leaves or is sick.

Secondly, it is tailored to the needs of magazine and newspaper publishers, and them alone. This means all the settings and set-ups, functionality, workflows, checks and controls, and reporting requirements that publishers need have been anticipated and plumbed into the system. Widget manufacturers would have no use for a system like Advertising Manager, and that’s a good thing.

“We have been providing our software since the 1990s to a wide range of publishers, so if a publisher needs something, I would like to think that it’s already in the system.”

A proper system results in time and cash savings, due to a reduction in errors, and will pay for itself many times over. “Certainly,” says Laurence, “I can’t see the logic in having to work harder to save paying a few quid for a program that saves so much time.”

Laurence’s mission is twofold, firstly to get publishers to stop using Excel to manage their ad sales and start using a proper publisher-centric system, preferably PSC’s Advertising Manager. The second, and this is probably a subject for another day, is to get publishers to, once they have made the switch to a proper system, to use the full range of available functionality. He estimates that up to 80% of ad management systems are not used! The 20% that is used still represents a game-changing advance on the DIY approach, but just think what further efficiencies could be gained by using the system to its full potential. But then again, the same could probably be said for every software system ever created, including Excel…

“Whatever your level of proficiency on Excel, if you are still using it to manage your advertising sales,” says Laurence: “then do give me a call. I would be delighted to talk you through the time and cost savings available to you.”

Publishing Software Company

Laurence Cope, Managing Director

Tel: 020 8088 2737