If something in your business isn’t working…

…try a different way.

Years ago I worked in the classified advertisement department of a globally respected broadsheet national newspaper.

The telephone sales staff were forever being exhorted to sell more display adverts: They were bolder, stood out from the page better, allowed the advertisers to use their logos and pictures (and they made more money for the paper) but nobody would buy them.

Why? Because classified display ads automatically went to the bottom of the page and every advertiser wanted his ad as high up the page as possible, preferably above the crease. So we asked our advertisers “If display ads went towards the top of the page would you use them more often?” And got a resounding “Yes”.

After weeks of haggling it transpired there were no production or print based problems with changing this rule, it was purely custom. So that left just the all-powerful editorial department. We struck a deal with the editor that display ads on the outside back page should remain at the bottom but we’d have free rein with positioning the remaining ones.

By asking the right question and listening to what our customers wanted we were able to overturn a ruling that had been in place for centuries but no longer had any sound basis in modern times. The classified advertising pages were more interesting, which meant response to the adverts increased, and the advertisers, the paper and the telesales made more money. Everyone was happy. And nobody minded that that the display ads on the back page were still at the bottom because everybody read all the personal ads there anyway.

So remember: If something in your business isn’t working it’s well worth trying another way!

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