10 Question To Ask Your Media Sales Rep

Before you get excited about a good price tag or a shiny magazine cover, if the offer is too good to be true, step back and look at the bigger picture.

Money saved on advertising is not necessarily money well spent. The goal of advertising isn’t to save money; it’s to make money. Always be strategic with your advertising decisions. A few more dollars put to the right product can bring exponential rewards.

Here are ten questions to ask the next time a sales person drops by for a visit:

1. Is the publication good? If you’re familiar with the publication and know its reputation and approve, you’re all set. But if it’s not something you would normally align with and won’t make a good impression on new customers, no matter how good the offer, then just say no. You don’t want to tarnish your hard earned reputation for short term gain.

2. How long has it been around? If it’s a new publication, find out more about the company and staff. Are they credible and will they be in for the long haul? And chances are good you’ll be able to get a reduced rate. They need your ad.

3. Who reads it? Find out who actually reads the publication versus who it’s targeted for. The sale rep and marketing department may think one way, but without empirical data the reality might be different. Drill down with your questions with the sales rep until you get to an actual reader that you can visualize.

4. Who does it target? Again, always get to that one specific reader. If the publication targets “women”, a broad (no pun intended) range of one group, find out age, income, education level, likes and interested, married or single, kids/no kids. Get specific. For example, if your product is upscale trending clothing for women age 30 - 55, a free alt weekly newspaper in an urban area may not sound like the best match but if your actual customer picks it up every week, then it’s gold. Likewise, a glossy high end magazine might seem perfect but if your high end customer is actually an advertiser and not a loyal reader, this isn’t money well spent. Just because you think alike doesn’t necessarily translate into a money making connection. What might seem the right fit on paper isn’t always so in practice.

5. What’s the reach? How many people receive this publication? Don’t confuse readership with actual copies. Readership might be 25,000 but actually only 10,000 are printed. There’s a big difference. Readership is an average or estimate and the number of printed copies is a fact. Also, when the reach is vast but you only want to be in a specific area, don’t pass right away. People aren’t always in just one place over the course of the day. They may have home delivery or they may read the paper at their desk or work. Or on their phone any time.

6. Where is it distributed? That said, find out if the publication is going to households, businesses, on newsstands, in offices, direct mail, delivered. If it’s at your local grocery store, do you see it there? Is this where your customers are most likely to see your ad? If it’s direct mail, do you receive it and if so what do you do with it, and more precisely, what does your customer do with it? (Read it or toss it.) If it’s an insert, find out what else is inserted with it. Will it get lost with the other pieces?

7. How many copies are returned? Don’t be afraid to ask this. Rarely do I hear this question from customers. A rep can state with confidence that 17,000 copies are printed each week, but if five thousand of them end up in a dumpster, that’s not good.

8. Where will the ad appear? Placement can make a difference. Sometimes you will need to pay for guaranteed placement. For other campaigns it won’t matter. Ask and chances are you will receive.

9. Who will create the ad? Most media companies offer free ad creation. If you will be providing the ad, ask for a spec sheet.

10. What other options are offered? The sales rep might be under pressure to hit a goal for a certain product and not offer other items. Don’t be afraid to ask. Online, inserts, sticky notes, event sponsorship, social media campaigns… there are always other options available that may be better for your advertising goals. If the question of what your advertising goals are doesn’t come up, be wary. The most important part of the process is finding success for you, the customer. If your rep isn’t on board with this, find someone who is.


How will results be measured? Don’t let the rep put the onus on you. Establish your goals up front, the steps you’re taking to meet them, the roles of each of you has to get there, and then the follow-up. Be very specific with numbers and dates. Set up the follow-up meeting ahead of time. If you don’t hear back, ask. But a good rep will contact you before you reach out to her.