Why do advertisers buy your digital programs? Or more importantly, why don’t they buy? As online advertising continues its shift toward performance-based pricing and away from impressions, sales teams are challenged to keep up with the evolving expectations of media buyers and their clients.
The knowledge that salespeople bring to the negotiating table – about the advertiser’s needs and the target market and audience – is a critical factor for media buyers, according Advertiser Perceptions, a media intelligence firm.
In the company’s latest Advertiser Intelligence Report, which tracks the sentiments of more than 1,500 media buyers at agencies and brands, 55 percent of the respondents cited knowledge as the key criteria in dealing with a media sales rep – well ahead of customer service (30 percent) and professionalism (15 percent).
Ken Pearl, Advertiser Perceptions’ CEO, says publishers need to provide agencies and their clients with three key pieces of information:
Of course, demonstrating results is critical as well. Performance-based pricing has steadily risen as a percentage of Internet ad revenues, growing from 41 percent in 2004 to 58 percent through the first half of 2009, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. CPM pricing, by contrast, has declined from 48 percent in 2006 to 38 percent in the first half of last year.
“If you go back even six months, clickstreams were most important among agencies and clients,” says Pearl. “Now, it’s about the results of the clickstreams: What’s the impact on sales? How are we increasing our brand awareness as a result of those clicks? Publishers need to be communicating not only the click, but what the click means.”
Leslie Laredo, president of the Laredo Group, which provides digital media training and consulting services, sees five key areas in which sales teams can improve their approach to online selling. (She notes that these issues can differ across B2B, consumer and newspaper segments.)
1. Understand the online ecosystem. “Setting up a campaign for online is a very different process” than executing a print campaign, says Laredo. “It requires learning a new lexicon and new technology.”
A basic knowledge of concepts like dynamic ad serving, for example, can help a sales rep set expectations about performance with a local advertiser who wants to know why their ad isn’t showing up on a page every time they go to the site.
2. Understand media buying vs. audience buying. Media buying is an environmental demographic, while audience buying is about performance. The emergence of ad networks and exchanges is changing the value proposition for advertisers from media buying to audience buying – which poses a significant challenge when exchanges offer 50-cent CPMs, Laredo notes.
The key is to demonstrate the benefits of the media buy – the value of the editorial, the target user’s activities when they’re in your environment, and how those factors can help drive more business to the advertiser.
3. Understand creative. A common refrain from advertisers is, “My ad didn’t work on your site so I’m canceling.” But what if bad creative is to blame? Smaller B2B advertisers in particular still try to shoehorn text-heavy print ads into online display units.
“Salespeople have to be willing to tell them their baby is ugly,” says Laredo. Good creative is not simply about grabbing attention – it also has a clear outcome in mind. Salespeople can help advertisers develop the right call to action through data-driven insights into the target audience.
4. Understand search. Instead of trying to convince advertisers not to buy search – a losing proposition – salespeople need to make a case for how display advertising can compliment and impact search campaigns, says Laredo.
Her advice: align the media platform with the sales funnel to show how an integrated campaign leads a prospect from awareness to research to purchase.
5. Understand the hype around emerging technology. “There are a lot of bright shiny objects out there – e-readers, augmented reality, mobile apps,” says Laredo. “Sometimes nothing will happen with them. Sometimes they’ll change our world.”
The key for sales teams is developing a point of view about which emerging technologies warrant a closer look. “You can’t be wishy-washy about it,” she says. “Clients expect you to be informed.”