How High-Quality Content & Data Are Powering Media Sales
Starting April 11th, Reboot will have a home online (here) which will be an ongoing, living, breathing place for media salespeople to learn how to transform their sales strategies and reinvigorate their careers. Plus, we have a weekly newsletter to keep you up to speed on the latest in media sales tactics and strategies. And to tie it all together, each year Reboot will culminate in a live workshop, Reboot: Radically Transforming Media Sales. At this event Chief Media Alchemist (aka our head of transformation) Andrew Davis and other sales pros will impart their knowledge on selling in the new media world. This hands-on training will lay the foundation for attendees to completely reboot and elevate their sales careers.
The first Reboot workshop took place last fall in NYC, where 50-plus media salespeople and executives assembled to learn how to reposition themselves in a changing industry. Davis broke down the modern media sales problem we all face: prospects continue to shift dollars away from media advertising to invest in new marketing tech. That has pushed publishers to expand their rate cards, adding more products than most salespeople have the time to sell. And of course, more sales products don’t equal more sales revenue. Instead, Davis urged prospects to break out of this product-driven sales cycle and look at the big picture to discover new and powerful solutions that can connect audiences and clients and drive greater revenue for publishers.
Following is a review of what was covered by Davis at the 2015 workshop.
How to Combat the CMO Pizza
The biggest problem media salespeople face today is what Davis calls the CMO Pizza. Although brand marketers are purchasing more marketing solutions than ever before, investing in social media, SEO, events, and more, they are just slicing their budget into more pieces, not growing it. As the CMO Pizza is split in more ways, the amount of revenue magazine publishers can earn from these brands shrinks. “Advertisers are buying more types of advertising, but magazine publishers are getting paid less. You used to have four products to sell, and now you’re selling 50, so you’re producing more stuff and doing more work for the same or less amount of revenue,” said Davis.
The best way to combat the CMO Pizza is by helping marketers rethink how they connect with their audience. Most brands think that they are at the center of the online world and follow a Ptolemaic Model. Ptolemy believed the universe revolved around the earth, and likewise many brands view their website as the most important part of their marketing efforts. But consumers experience the web through a Galilean Model. At the center of their universe is the “sun,” or Google, a tool that consumers use every day. Other “planets” close to that sun are platforms that consumers use frequently like Facebook, email, Snapchat, and certain news sites. A brand’s website, on the other hand, sits at the edge of a consumer’s online universe. Publishers need to communicate this challenge to their prospects and provide a solution through the content they generate daily, explained Davis.
“The biggest asset a publisher has is the ability to generate moments of inspiration through content,” Davis continued. “You can send people on a journey they never expected to go on because you’re creating content on a regular basis that inspires them to rethink what they’re doing today. Think about how you can drive those moments of inspiration for your prospects to drive new revenue.”
Unbundled Content Can Drive Bigger Ad Dollars
How can publishers create moments of inspiration? Through focused and valuable content. When readers value content, it increases the demand for the products and services that the content sells. Texas Monthly created a new content vertical, dedicated to moments of inspiration, back in 2012 when the magazine pulled out a segment on barbecue that used to live under its culture section, creating TM BBQ. The publisher decided to focus on this vertical because its advertising sales had plateaued. Simply selling ads against the magazine’s audience reach wasn’t growing the overall revenue pie. So Texas Monthly hired BBQ blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose popularity was growing online to head TM BBQ. Texas Monthly dubbed Vaughn the first ever barbecue editor.
“Instead of selling reach, Texas Monthly can sell very specific audiences to advertisers,” explained Davis at Reboot. That targeted selling expanded into sponsored TM BBQ events, which were underwritten by brands like YETI Coolers. The magazine also created a barbecue book The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, which was written by Vaughn and underwritten by Lone Star Beer. “Those two brands, Lone Star Beer and Yeti Coolers represent 80% of the revenue that Texas Monthly drives today,” added Davis.
In order to emulate Texas Monthly’s strategy, publishers need to do three things: target a niche, exploit content holes, and attach talent to the campaign. Texas Monthly found a niche within its coverage -- Texas barbecue. It also identified that this was a content hole in the market. No other magazine had a dedicated barbecue brand, let alone a barbecue editor. And finally, Texas Monthly found the best talent for the project, hiring a growing star in the barbecue space, which attracted new audience to Texas Monthly and helped the brand gain national attention -- both CNN and The New York Times covered the launch of TM BBQ. The end result was that this unbundled content attracted a larger, more dedicated audience that was actually more valuable to advertisers. The barbecue vertical was able to drive more powerful moments of inspiration for brands like Yeti Coolers and Lone Star Beer.
Caroline Nuttall founder of CHARLIE magazine, offered another example of how publishers can develop unbundled content and drive moments of inspiration for their advertisers. When Nuttall launched local Charleston lifestyle magazine CHARLIE, she experience a lot of early success selling ads across the magazine, its website, and an email newsletter. But she noticed a disturbing trend that made her rethink the standard rate card approach.
Nuttall realized brands were beginning to develop their own audiences through social media and blogs. They could create their own platform to reach consumers without the help of a magazine. “This means that advertisers don’t need us,” noted Nuttall. That motivated her to find new ways to help advertisers create branded content for their platforms. “Publishers need to be in the custom content and branded content game if they want to survive this transition,” she added.
As a result, Nuttall made a bold move and decided to stop selling advertising altogether. Instead, she and her team focused on creating unique content brands to help advertisers grow and monetize audiences. “We want you to own the moment of consumer inspiration,” said Nuttall, describing how she pitched her services to prospects. “We want to be your content partners.”
By taking this agency-like approach, Nuttall was able to close a deal with international cookware company Le Crueset. She pitched them the idea of underwriting a television show that brings a chef into people’s homes to cook them a meal from whatever is in their kitchen. She dubbed it “The Desperate Chef.” “They wanted to do it immediately. They were willing to pay way more money for it than a standard ad too.”
Nuttall and her team created a YouTube channel for The Desperate Chef and a Facebook page. They led an extensive public relations campaign, booking The Desperate Chef on morning shows and making him a de facto brand ambassador for Le Crueset. “Brands spend $30 billion a year on agencies,” said Nuttall, “We wanted a piece of that revenue, so CHARLIE started talking to our advertisers like an agency.”
Data Changes the Sales Conversation
While magazine publishers have always used quality content to attract an audience that advertisers want to reach, the results of those efforts have never been more demonstrable than today. Data about audience demographics, engagement, and interests are more accessible than ever before. But this data is not an asset for editorial or marketing alone.
In a session titled, “How Data Is Transforming the Sales Conversation,” Brett Keirstead, SVP of sales and operations at Knowledge Marketing, argued that data is an invaluable tool for media salespeople to change the interactions they have with prospects. Data can convince prospects to look at the value of a magazine’s audience as opposed to focusing on a specific product or price.
Instead of beginning a sales call by sharing a media kit, Keirstead advised attendees to lead with data. Even simple insights that indicate where readers are spending more time on a website and what topics they are most interested in can lead to a conversation with the prospect that’s focused on the value of an audience. “I call it the curse of the media kit,” said Keirstead. “A media kit, if it’s not positioned properly, will immediately set you up to have a conversation with the prospect about product, frequency, rates, and size. That’s not a conversation you want to have.”
Instead salespeople should try to find niche data about their audience. The more specific and unique the data a publisher can provide about its audience, the more value an advertiser can gain from working with that publisher. “There is something in your audience database, the behavior of your audience, that is compelling to tell somebody. The fact that you improved your circulation 10% is not a compelling story. You’re trying to break through the clutter by telling someone something they don’t know.”
Invert Your Pitch
Davis believes that hour-long sales presentations complete with powerpoints and market overviews are a thing of the past. “I want you to craft a pitch. There is a giant difference between the two.” A pitch presents a customized solution for a particular company as opposed to reworking the same presentation for every sales meeting. And it presents an opportunity for salespeople to close a bigger, long-term deal with a client.
“If you read all of your prospect’s content, and I mean all of it, than it will become really clear what they’re doing and what they’re struggling with,” said Davis. Salespeople should devote time to read their prospect’s social media posts and all of the content on the company’s website. Although it may seem labor-intensive, this type of research is crucial to creating a unique solution, tailored to the prospect and will pay off with a larger ROI.
A sales pitch also flips the script of a typical presentation. In a presentation, a salesperson highlights current trends in the marketplace, identifies a prospect’s pain points, and then provides a solution. In the most effective pitches, the solution should always come first. The prospect, especially one at the executive level, knows the market and is well aware of her pain points; what she wants is a solution. Anything that impedes sharing that solution with the prospect should be cut from the pitch.
A pitch should also be flexible and adapt to the prospect’s reactions. While Davis worked in the television industry, he pitched a number of TV show ideas to executives. One of the executives he pitched regularly told him that, “a TV pitch is a job interview, a speaking engagement, an audition, an exercise in creativity, and a test of your spontaneity all rolled up into one.” Davis said this description also applies to sales pitches. “You should be able to be spontaneous but you should have crafted something like you would for a speaking engagement. And you should be able to answer questions as if this is a job interview.”
Media salespeople can leave room for spontaneity in their presentations by pausing and pausing often. “Pause as early as you can in your pitch and wait until they say something,” said Davis. This allows the salesperson to gauge the prospect’s interest and react accordingly. If one part of the pitch seems unappealing to the prospect, the salesperson should move on to the next feature and try to spark interest there. “Pause until you’re uncomfortable,” added Davis, “because they’ll have to respond and what they say will guide you through the next part of your pitch.”
To receive weekly Reboot insight on sales strategies and tactics, sign up for Reboot Inbox. Or register to attend the immersive, live workshop Reboot: Radically Transforming Media Sales on October 6th in New York City. Find more free Reboot programming here.
Related story: Video: The Modern Media Sales Dilemma Known As CMO Pizza