8 Ways to Increase Digital Ad Revenue by 50% or More
I recently received a fantastic email from a single title B2B publication that I work with: “As of today, we are on track for $452,380 in digital revenue alone. This is a 66% increase over last year's digital revenues of $271,798!”
How did they do it?
We took a serious look at how the team was approaching digital ad sales, removed programs that weren’t working, reworked their products, delivered more value to their advertisers, and simplified the program. The publisher, editorial, and sales staff got behind the changes and their advertisers obviously responded positively.
Now they’re getting ready to launch some new digital products for next year.
With the fall sales season coming up quickly, now is also the time for you to take a serious look at your digital ad programs, make needed adjustments, and get your staff ready. Here are eight tactics that you should consider.
1. Simplify Your Digital Advertising Program
When I look at most publishers’ digital ad programs, they’re too complicated and have too many products. Ask your ad reps to give you a quick recap of your digital program. If they can’t quickly and easily do this, then you’ve got a problem.
A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not selling out any specific product 70% of the time, you should consider eliminating it. Use that inventory to bolster the value of other digital products. Or get rid of it altogether to reduce site clutter and the number of emails you send – and to improve the performance and value of your other products.
Simplification of your digital products is the best way to help your ad reps sell more and to deliver more value to advertisers, making them want to buy from you again and again.
2. Fix Your Inventory and Pricing
When your advertising program is simple, you can ensure that each product has enough inventory to provide excellent value to your advertiser. This is absolutely critical. If you don’t provide true value, you may sell an advertiser once, but you won’t sell them again.
And when you put enough value into each digital product, you can then adjust your rates accordingly. If you do it right, your base digital ad product should roughly sell for the same price as a full-page ad in your print magazine and deliver comparable value.
Adjusting inventory and pricing also allows you to control supply and demand. If you have too many products that aren’t selling out, there is no urgency on the part of the advertiser. But if you consolidate and simplify your products, you can charge more, deliver more value, and create urgency among advertisers to get access to your limited opportunities.
3. Get Rid of the Frequency Rate Card
Frequency rate cards are a legacy of the print-only era. They were designed to give advertisers a discount if they spent more money with you. But today, we sell print and digital (and more). All the frequency rate card does is silo print and disincentivize advertisers from buying digital.
Consider ditching the rate card and replace it with an overall spend discount. Have a base, 1x rate for everything print and digital. Then, give tiered discounts based upon total advertiser spend instead of just on the number of print ads they buy.
This incents advertisers to spend more money with you regardless of the medium.
4. Consider the Digital Sponsorship Model
I’ve covered the digital sponsorship model before, but it’s worth reiterating here. In the sponsorship model, you take all (or most) of your web and email inventory, package it together in a single price, and limit the number of sponsorships you sell.
You bring a ton of value to your advertisers, can charge a premium, and completely change the nature of discussions with advertisers and agencies. Instead of you competing for limited ad budgets, your advertisers compete for the limited sponsorship opportunities on your site.
It isn’t for everyone, but I’ve seen many publishers (especially in niche B2B markets) increase digital revenue by 50-200% after implementing this model.
5. Develop an Inbound Marketing / Lead Nurturing Business
Lead generation is something that most publishers already have in their arsenal. But very few publishers take it to the next level and develop a true inbound marketing/lead nurturing business. Yet this is where advertisers are moving their budgets.
In a lead nurturing business, the publisher leverages its content expertise to help the advertiser develop a very compelling lead magnet. They use their own website, email, and social channels to market the lead magnet, but also remarket to their audience on programmatic networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc) to drive even more people to the lead magnet.
And you don’t stop after the initial registration. You then upsell people into requesting direct contact with the advertiser through an email drip sequence and other methods. This help turns “prospects” who access the lead magnet into qualified, sales-ready leads … a huge difference!
As a publisher, you either become the best inbound agency in your market or be prepared to watch other ad agencies or competitive publications take market share away from you.
6. Launch Programmatic Audience Extension
Your advertisers are already running programmatic advertising on Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, and other networks. They’re just not doing it with you. But with programmatic audience extension advertising, you can position yourself to recapture a good portion of this business.
The concept is relatively simple. Use your website visitors, social media followers, and email subscribers to create remarketing audiences on various programmatic networks. You then sell programmatic campaigns to your audience targeting your specific audience on those networks.
For advertisers, this is a much more targeted demographic than they could otherwise get. They also get the added benefit of leveraging your brand equity.
For publishers, this taps into new budgets and opens up new inventory that you don’t have on your own website. I have seen programmatic audience extension add hundreds of thousands of dollars of new revenue for publishers, often at 70% margins or higher.
7. Educate and Communicate with Your Advertisers
As I’ve written about previously, it’s critical that you align the advertiser’s objective, creative, and success metrics before, during, and after their campaign. Doing this on a regular basis helps set proper expectations and improve repeat business.
I often see advertisers who want clicks or leads but give the publisher a branding creative. They’re then upset when they don’t get enough clicks. Or the advertiser will say they want a branding objective but are still upset about not getting enough clicks.
As a publisher, you must align the client’s campaign objective, the tactics used in their creative, and the metrics they’ll use to evaluate the campaign. This happens at three critical points: when making the sale, when they deliver ad creative to you, and after the campaign.
Some publishers even do a webinar for their advertisers to help reinforce the importance of direct response versus branding campaigns and aligning campaign objective, creative, and success criteria.
8. Keep Digital in Front of Your Sellers Regularly
Finally, keep your digital products in front of your sellers on a regular basis. Every month dedicate a portion of one of your sales team meetings to review how well products are selling and inventory that is still open.
Talk openly about financial performance and key metrics. Discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what you’re hearing from your advertisers. This helps answer several questions:
- Do my sellers need more training on certain aspects of our digital business?
- Do I need to better educate my advertisers and their agencies?
- Do I need to eliminate or modify our digital deliverables or pricing?
- Do I need to restructure my sales team to better sell under-performing products?
- How can I help my sellers better overcome advertiser objections?
Talking about digital sales openly and bluntly also keeps digital at the forefront of your sales team’s mind. It’s a level of accountability and keeps your digital products from accidentally “falling off the radar.”
I hope these ideas were useful. If you have any questions about them or how to implement them in your market, please feel free to contact me and let’s chat about your specific situation.
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.