In this month’s issue of Forbes magazine there is a great article about a couple of business consultants – Tough Love For Small Business: ‘Nothing Happens Until Somebody CriesThis article could have very well been called Tough Love For Performing Arts Program Book Publishing: ‘Nothing Happens Until Somebody Cries.’

You see, here’s the thing, if you are a performing arts organization and you are handling the publishing of your program books in-house, like it or not, your organization is a niche publisher. And if you are not treating it like a publishing business, you will lose money on it, guaranteed! Sure, funding may cover your losses, but it will always be a money loser for your organization. And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to use those funds somewhere else within your organization?

In the Forbes article, as these consultants start working with one of their clients, they use a pretty simple formula. Watch cash flow like a hawk, reward employees for performance only, cut costs viciously, and sell constantly. At Onstage Publications I’ve written extensively on how we implement these things every day. And if you are in charge of your performing arts organization’s program books, you need to get in the habit of looking at these every day as well. By watching these 4 key things you can turn your program book publishing business into a money maker instead of a money loser.

Watch Cash Flow Like A Hawk

In previous posts Get Paid Quicker From Your Advertisers and Staying On Top Of Your Program Book Receivables In 5 Easy Steps I discussed ideas on how to collect your advertiser receivables quicker.

You don’t need to have an accounting degree to understand cash flow. It can be as simple as getting with your accounting department and asking them if they can run you a weekly accounts receivable report for the program book advertising sold, and watch it like a hawk.

Reward Employees For Performance Only

Also discussed in a previous post Five Secrets To Getting The Most From Your Program Book Sales Reps I discussed setting up a competitive atmosphere for your program book ad sales reps. Along with this atmosphere, we have all kinds of program book advertising sales reports that are at our finger tips to measure everything that our reps are doing, and they are rewarded accordingly.

Set up program a book advertising sales report for yourself. If you have multiple program book ad sales reps, make sure each person is being measured individually so that you can reward them appropriately.

Cut Costs Viciously

Many times when we’re in discussions with a potential new client and we’re discussing their program book needs they will start to go off on a tangent about wanting a separate heavier paper stock for their cover, a magazine size as opposed to the traditional playbill size, full color throughout, etc. This is all well and good. But if the program book ad sales can’t cover all these “bells and whistles” you can wish for the moon, but until you’re able to cover these costs, you need a program book that makes economic sense for the current ad revenues. Then, and only then, once you are able to cover all your costs through program book ad sales, you can start to look at these types of add-ons if you really want them.

Printing is another area that we see all the time where performing arts organizations are not getting the best prices simply because they don’t know how to buy commercial printing.

Look at all the costs for your program book and evaluate what can be cut or reduced. Ask your current print vendor to give you a tutorial on the different types of printing and what drives the costs up or what drives them down. Research print buying on the internet. The more you know about buying print, the more you can reduce your costs.

Sell Constantly

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If nothing is sold, a terrible thing happens—Nothing! Program book advertising sales are going to cover your program book costs. But if you don’t have advertising sales, all you have are costs.

It is also important to keep a close eye on the amount of advertising you may be giving away. This “free” advertising is costing someone because it’s taking up valuable ad inventory. Sure, you will have sponsor ads that may have been negotiated as part of their donation, but be very stingy on all these “free” ads.

In a previous post The Never Ending Program Book Advertising Sales Campaign I’ve discussed ways to continue selling into your program books.

Program book publishing, just like any type of niche publishing can be hard. But if you are watching the right things, it doesn’t have to be as hard as it could be. Good selling!

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