How one magazine lost thousands of dollars in repeat sales

A couple of months ago I advertised my services in a magazine. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great experience working with the sales department and it’s enough to make me think twice about working with them again.

What’s surprising, though, is how small and easily fixable their problems are. So I won’t name them here because it’s not my intention to shame them but I’ll describe m experience with them as a sort-of case study to show you how a bunch of little things can really add up when it comes to customer experience.

Let’s start with…

WHAT THE MAGAZINE DID WELL

When I called them in July to place the ad, the guy who took the call was really helpful and gave me a great deal because it was my first time advertising with the magazine. He was friendly and pretty easy to work with. He sent me the advertising contract right away, which I paid the same day. Deals, communication, and high responsiveness. That’s great!

But after that interaction, things started to go downhill:

WHAT THE MAGAZINE DID POORLY

They never spelled my name correctly. That’s kind of a little infuriating. (Disclaimer: I’m guilty of doing this from time to time so I fully recognize that this street runs both ways).

When I sent my ad into the magazine, I never received a confirmation that my ad was received.

I paid promptly for my ad but got an invoice about a month later with my name misspelled and a lower amount, and the invoice gave a somewhat clear warning to “please pay this within 7 days or your ad won’t run”. I suspect what happened was that my higher payment plus my misspelled name meant that the accounting department didn’t correctly match up my payment with the receivable. When I tried to rectify the situation with an email (both with the person who sent me the notice and with the person I originally worked with) but never received a reply of any kind.

I followed-up about the payment again, a week or so before the ad went to print, just to ensure that the invoice was now marked as “paid” and my ad would run. Again no answer. In fact, as I write this months after the fact, there has never been a reply.

After the date the ad was supposed to run, I sent another email to just check and see whether or not the ad ran. That email was never returned. I did a small spike in traffic to my website so I’m assuming that the ad ran. Unfortunately, the results of the ad were disappointing as well. (Note: I don’t blame the magazine for this. Advertising is an ongoing process. I did receive some results but no where near the results I wanted and I take responsibility for that — advertising is a process of tweaking and modifying and adjusting).

Then, about 3 weeks after the ad was scheduled to run, I got a call from a different guy from the sales department. He tried to sell me some additional ad space. He also mentioned in passing that my ad hadn’t run yet and I said, “I thought it had.” He put the phone down for a moment then came back and said that it had.

As you can see, it wasn’t anything major but it was a bunch of little things that made them appear that they just couldn’t get it together. I guess I’m kind of surprised because this is a decent-sized magazine company with offices around the globe and several publications. They’ve been in business for a while and supposedly have a decent subscriber list.

SIMPLE FIXES FOR A LONG-TERM CLIENT

So what could they have done better? Here are some tips — that not only apply to them but really these tips apply to any business:

  • Spell the client’s name correctly.
  • Answer emails. Even if there is no question in the email, or even if it will take a while to find out the answer, just acknowledge that you received the email.
  • Equip sales people to sell more effectively on the back end. If they were trying to communicate with me as a client, they should know what my ad was and when it was published.
  • Bonus tip: Why not also create a resource for first-time advertisers like me that educates me about the process and maybe gives me tips on how to create a better ad.

These seem so simple as I wrote them out. And they’re things we take for granted and don’t even notice… unless they are missing.

I’m purposely not naming the company because I’m not here to shame anyone and I may yet choose to do business with them again. They know who they are and if they happen to read my post then I hope that my recommendations will improve their clients’ experience as well as the magazine’s bottom line. But this experience is a great reminder for all of us that no matter who we are and what industry we’re in, we need to make sure to focus on even the little things in the customer experience because those little things can add up to some big things.

Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and he's a real estate investor and a copywriter for real estate investors.

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