Twenty-five years ago Gary Beals opened his own advertising agency in San Diego, Beals Marketing Tactics.
Six months later he spun out the agency’s famous Finderbinder, a news media directory that both guides and attracts Beals’ clients.
The service function of Finderbinder is to provide detailed information on San Diego County’s news media. The silver anniversary issue of the 315-page directory is a resource for contacting local radio and television stations and newspapers and magazines. It lists details on circulation figures, programming, location and staff.
The first of its kind for San Diego in 1974, the Finderbinder serves public relations professionals who have questions about where to send news releases, typical broadcast talk show guests, deadlines and content of specialty publications.
Faith Saculles, public affairs manager for the San Diego Blood Bank, has used Finderbinder information to target bowling and golf enthusiasts for tournament fund-raisers that benefit the Bone Marrow Donor Center of San Diego.
Saculles said Finderbinder listings of small and specialized publications are particularly helpful in reaching a narrow target audience.
“I wouldn’t know half those things existed if I didn’t have the Finderbinder,” Saculles said. “It’s really an invaluable resource for us because we don’t have the staff to seek out all the different media there are and the Finderbinder allows us to target the media.”
& #711; Includes Editorial,
The Finderbinder includes editorial and advertising details on some 133 San Diego and Imperial County newspapers and magazines, in addition to wire services, college newspapers, commercial, educational and cable broadcast outlets, programming, public affairs, public service and advertising contacts for stations. Statewide and national trade and professional publications produced in this area are included in the directory.
The book is a useful resource in spite of ready access to computer information, Saculles said.
“It’s a good central place to keep the information,” she said. “Faces change all the time in the media and it’s tough to keep up, but it’s a good place to start.”
A system of updates throughout the year keep Finderbinder subscribers informed of industry transitions that affect media across the board. In 1975, there were 39 radio stations in San Diego and Tijuana , today there are 49. In 1975, the area had six TV stations and today there are 13. Cable television has grown in 25 years, but has also become consolidated with 25 cable stations in 1974 and only 10 today.
Over the years Beals realized that individuals and businesses inquiring about the Finderbinder often needed the advertising and public relations services provided by Beals Marketing Tactics.
& #711; Book A Tool
“Years later I discovered this book is a tool that brings people to us,” Beals said. “They’re calling to get my book, but really what they need is our consulting support.”
He estimates the Finderbinder pulls in about eight to 12 small clients a year to the agency out of 500 annual subscribers. The book itself, he said, makes up only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the agency’s activity.
And more than just a point of contact, Beals said the Finderbinder serves as an example of what other businesses can emulate. He encourages others to offer a service or product that either attracts clients or makes them look like experts in their own field.
“When I meet with new client prospects, I show them the Finderbinder not to brag, but to see if they can find a similar helpful tool in their field,” he said.
He speaks to the topic and offers other helpful business tips at national conventions and other engagements across the country. His presentations to small-business owners cover cost-effective methods of getting things done on a tight budget.
Beals has accumulated agency clients through his speaking engagements, too. Among them is Tony Alessandra, a professional speaker in La Jolla who specializes in marketing.
& #711; Formed Relationship
20 Years Ago
It was 20 years ago that Beals and Alessandra formed a professional relationship, with the Beals agency periodically creating Alessandra’s product flyers and brochures on books, videos and audiotapes. They’ve collaborated on advertisements in specialty magazines and an airport billboard displaying “seven of America’s finest speakers.”
Alessandra credits Beals with keeping up with the times by putting his material on computer disks where the information can be E-mailed or transferred to a Web site.
“Some people do something that you can use only one way. With Gary, it’s multidimensional,” Alessandra said. “He does not just have an advertising mind, but a marketing mind. He looks at the whole marketing scheme of what you want. He doesn’t give you what you want, he gives you what you need and packages it as a total marketing product.”
Beals’ latest innovation is a database service for clients to use on their computers. Although media information is accessible on the Internet, Beals said his Finderbinder isn’t threatened. It’s not that easy to tap into a complete list of evaluative media data on one Web site, he said.
“Your computer cannot make public relations decisions for you,” Beals said. “You need to select media that might be of interest to you.”
The novelty would have been unheard of when Beals formed his agency in 1974 after leaving the Air Force as a captain. Armed with experience as a public information officer and a bachelor’s degree in journalism, public relations emphasis, from SDSU, Beals said he took the logical civilian career path in public relations.
& #711; Hired A Staff
To Handle Ads
He said his clients at the time assumed he could produce advertisements as well, so he hired staff to handle the specialty.
“The more I got into it the more I realized I liked writing messages that moved people to action,” Beals said.
Eventually, he said his business evolved from purely a PR agency to one that was dominated by advertising services. Public relations is still included in the mix of producing ads, brochures, newsletters and press releases for clients.
The agency’s evolution affected the Finderbinder, which once sold for $35 and most recently for $125 with expectations to increase to $160 a copy. The Finderbinder concept also expanded in 1978 through franchises by the Beals agency. Finderbinder news media directories are produced in more than a dozen markets, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, St. Louis and Detroit.
The staff at Beals Marketing Tactics has also grown, but at one point streamlined down to a crew of four, including Beals, to improve productivity.
“I’m at about the size I’m most comfortable with,” Beals said. “At one point there were seven people and we were busy, busy, but we weren’t making a lot of money. A good tight team is what we’re comfortable with.”