Archived Webinar

You Can Grow Revenue and Audience with Geographic Information Systems (GIS)


Presented by  Erik Bohnhoff, advertising director, and Carlos Ruiz, director of business geographics, with the Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Defining Geographic Information Systems: Computer mapping with sophisticated spatial analysis capabilities. It is used by government agencies and in the private sector.  Newspapers use it in their sales and marketing department, as well as the news department.

What does the Star Tribune use this for? The paper has a dedicated GIS department that is focused on sales and marketing.  The department occasionally provides support to the circulation department, and by design, it is separate and independent from the GIS unit in the newsroom.

Main tools used by the GIS department:

  • GIS Platform: ArcGIS by ESRI
  • Market Segmentation Systems: PRIZM Premier by Claritas and Tapestry by ESRI
  • Consumer and Business Data Mining: Genie by Data Axle
  • Data Hygiene and Standardization: Mailers+4 by Melissa Data

Prospect targeting: GIS is helping the Star Tribune build deeper and stronger relationships with its advertisers, using their data — along with the paper’s data — to make better marketing decisions, both for the Star Tribune and its customer base. The paper either directly charges for the service or, more often, builds it into incremental opportunities to help win and retain business. 

Business intelligence: To retain and attract potential new advertisers, the Star Tribune partners — as a Business Intelligence consultant — with such marketers as: retail businesses, financial institutions, dealers (cars, boats, RVs, etc.), home services, professional sports organizations and entertainment.  Something they all have in common: they all use customer/subscriber/membership databases.

What can this data do for you? Using the data brought in from these advertisers, the GIS system is able to answer four crucial questions:

  • Where are your subscribers/members/customers coming from? (see slide 10)
  • Who are your best subscribers/members/customers? (see slides 11 and 12)
  • Where can you find more prospects like them? (slide 13)
  • How can we help you reach, engage and grow your customer base? (slide 14)

Erik Bohnhoff said it: “When we can identify who our core customers are and who those conversion segments are, we can message to them in different ways or move a conversion segment into a core segment or get really specific into a niche segment — making our marketing dollars go farther and be more efficient. That’s one of the key benefits that an advertiser sees from utilizing these services.”

Carlos Ruiz said it: “Once we identify the best customers … we’re going to focus on the best of the best. … The nickname for that segment is Winner’s Circle.” (see slide 12)

Creating the marketing strategy: After answering the first three questions above, the Star Tribune puts it all together in whatever marketing strategy makes the most sense for the advertiser — whether that be display, social, print, direct mail, etc.  In addition to using this to help advertisers reach their goals, the paper uses GIS to grow subscriptions (in print and digital).

How the Star Tribune is using one of its most valuable assets: Using its subscriber base (both print and digital) and addressable geofencing, the Star Tribune shared an example of how it helped a major home improvement retailer increase foot traffic to its physical stores.  Geofencing allows the paper to target advertising messages to a potential customer on a household-by-household basis, using their latitude/longitude coordinates.

You asked: How does the addressable geofencing compare in price to insert delivery? Is it about the same, more or less expensive? On a CPM model, Erik Bohnhoff said it is less because you don’t have the printing costs or the inserting costs.  

Routing delivery networks — GIS can help you find savings in time and miles: Last July, one of the paper’s delivery contractors gave notice that it would no longer distribute the paper’s products in a specific market area.  Before hiring new agents and drivers, the GIS department was tasked with creating the most efficient distribution network of routes so as to minimize the overall cost in time and miles.  Using ArcGIS Network Analyst and ArcGIS StreetMap Premium, the staff provided the paper’s director of state circulation with the time and miles needed to calculate the routes’ pricing and profit before meeting with prospective agents and contractor drivers.  As a result, no subscriber household or single copy outlet missed a delivery.

Recommended: Carlos Ruiz recommends that newspapers conduct periodic assessments of their routes to see where changes in the number of stops, total time and total miles have occurred — so savings can be found. As he said, routes change with time: people move, people cancel and new subscribers are added. “It’s easy to forget about that,” he said, “and keep paying contractors and drivers the same amount of money for maybe fewer stops or fewer miles.” In addition to doing this for their organization, Erik Bohnhoff says their team can do this for other newspapers, as well.

A new tool coming soon to the Star Tribune’s sales team: ArcReader, an inexpensive interactive map tool, will be rolled out to sales reps and managers at the Star Tribune in the next week or two.  Available on their laptops, it will offer a faster and easier way for sales reps to make straightforward sales recommendations on their own, at the office and in the field.  It also will provide sales reps with the ability to consult and sell virtually in real time via Teams or Zoom meetings with advertising customers.

Erik Bohnhoff said it: The new interactive tool will not replace regular GIS support.  The key is “being able to have the data and information at their fingertips across all the different opportunities we have to sell our audiences in general.” He added: “The output is what is going to help our sales teams in the field so they can strategically move sales conversations forward and not have to wait for information to go back to their clients.”

You asked: Trying to launch something like this with sales teams is a huge challenge.  How do you address training, retention, turnover of reps and ensure they are getting the activity needed to make successful calls so you can close business?

Erik Bohnhoff said it: The key is ease of use for the sales rep. He cited the need for overarching training that will share what this tool can do, followed by continued conversations about ways sales reps can utilize it.  “Doing one training is not going to get the retention and usage that we want.  We need to consistently talk about the benefits it provides the sales reps. … It’s the methodical way that you set it up and talk about it. It’s not set it and forget it.” He also emphasized the need for the leadership in the advertising department to work closely with the technical staff who are setting the system up. 

Top commercial GIS systems identified by our presenters:

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GIS, Geographic Information Systems