Advertisers are important to newspapers, and newspaper staff members must manage the accounts they have with their advertisers. To improve that management process, The Review used its Digital Main Street grant to implement a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and pay for staff training.
The CRM is computer software that allows for better management of customers/advertisers and the orders they place. It is basically a central database that all staff members who have a responsibility for the advertising process may access to place instructions, comments, and specifications that are essential to the proper preparation, proof process and scheduling of the customer’s advertisement, whether it is for the print and e-edition, for the paper’s website (thereview.ca) or for social media buys.
“It saves time in the production of the paper and means that ads move through our production system and we can collect the information we need for run dates, website scheduling and for our social media placements,” says The Review Digital Project Manager, Travis Desjardins.
The former process involved a lot of pen and paper work involving sales sheets and other notes and emails exchanged between sales representatives and graphic designers. The new CRM eliminates the need for messages to be passed back and forth because staff can instead rely on a central repository for all of the information related to a customer order. The CRM allows work to be done more efficiently, especially if an employee is absent or there is a transition in staffing.
The CRM also gives a more accurate record of a client’s activity, such as how often they have advertised and the specific details of that advertisement. That information was formerly only part of The Review’s accounting records, which were not accessible to the sales team. But now, the sales team can view what is coming up, what has been invoiced and the client history. Clients are also grouped according to category, making it easy to contact customer groups for specific sales projects.
Attracting and maintaining advertising has been crucial for The Review during the recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when many local business owners were operating with reduced hours, curbside or delivery service only, which led to less revenue and often resulted in layoffs. At The Review, staff hours had been modified, and a minimal number of people have been working in the office to maintain physical distancing.
“It feels as if we set up this system just at the right time,” says Review publisher Louise Sproule. “Our sales reps could work from home just as if they were at work, because the CRM can be accessed from anywhere. In addition, because all of the related information to ad production was inside this system, our graphic designers can also work from home because they, too, have all the information they need to work from anywhere.”
Sproule says that it was more than a year ago that she realized she had moved the paper forward digitally in every area, with the exception of the actual sales and production process.
Now, orders are scheduled, and the publisher and graphic designers can see the run list for current and upcoming editions and invoicing clients is as easy as the click of a button. And now, customers can click and pay when they receive an invoice.
“It seems that with every digital step we take, three more paths open up,” says Sproule, who adds that the CRM has led to the creation of an online shop on The Review’s website through which clients can order, pay for and upload their own ads.
The print edition was reduced initially to once a month but has since returned to being published twice a month. However, a totally new e-edition continues to be published every Wednesday and new local and regional news stories appear daily at thereview.ca.
“As much as we ensure that our digital interface works for us, it has to ultimately improve our customer service and keep us relevant to the needs of customers. We try not to change anything unless, at the heart of it, it means something is improved for our customers. These are hard times for many businesses and certainly for newspapers. Any step forward that saves us time and makes us more efficient and better connected to our customers is a good thing,” Sproule added.
The Review offices at 76 Main Street East in Vankleek Hill remain closed to the public due to pandemic-related precautions, but staff are on the job and there are plans to re-open for a few days a week to the public shortly. “We are set up to conduct almost all of our business online, with the exception of delivering the newspaper, of course. For those who have no email and/or no internet, ads can still be called in to our offices,” Sproule said. And she is back on the delivery route, bringing back memories of when she purchased the paper back in 1992. For local residents who are “unconnected”, hard-copy editions are printed at The Review and Sproule delivers them Tuesday evening.
“It sounds like a lot but it isn’t. There is something fun about taking a drive Tuesday evening and dropping off copies personally to a handful of local readers who are without internet. It’s a small thing, and I don’t mind doing it. People have been so supportive and so understanding during these recent months. I am so grateful for all of the good wishes that come our way, week after week,” Sproule ended.
To contact The Review, call 613-678-3327 or visit https://thereview.ca/contact/ for a list of email addresses for various departments.