TV gets 10% of local online ad spends. Radio gets less than 2%. Newspaper shares are in decline. Compare these lowly numbers to online-only companies like Patch, Reach Local, and Google that are now getting over 50% of local ad budgets. Anybody in local media think that’s a problem that needs a little fixing? For sure, we bet the investment folks at Angelo Gordon and Oaktree Capital are getting a little un-easy about this issue.
The solution is simple and indisputable: address and remedy the common web sales errors committed by most local media properties. The list below captures and identifies what we refer to as: the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.
1. Top management & owners need specialized web training. How can you manage what you don’t fully understand? Expensive research and consultants are not enough. Delegating sales strategy to a content & tech focused VP of Interactive or Internet manager is risky without knowledgeable oversight.
2. Dangerous thinking: ‘selling web cannibalizes traditional sales’. It’s crazy to think that these words are still being uttered. If those in charge would prefer to focus on their core product, that’s fine. If these managers believe that “web revenue is small, so let’s ignore it”….that’s fine too. But at the end of the day, if you’re not going run your web assets like a profit-first business…then why even have a digital initiative in the first place? Advertisers are moving more ad dollars to online. They can buy web from your reps, or someone else. While web revenue is still relatively small, it is the fastest growing revenue stream. At the very least, local media should focus on growing its overall revenue share, by smartly leveraging its digital assets.
3. Limited web training of sales reps. How can they sell new products without seasoned direction & regular training? Is your staff taught by qualified web-sales trainers, or by a ‘web-geek’? Is your staff forced to endure theory & classroom lecture, or are they getting real world training by being taught in the field? Local media needs to look outside of the industry for fresh and seasoned perspective on web sales. Be wary of training from those who do not have recent local/direct, web sales experience.
4. Management structure conflicts. Conflict #1: Web managers report to traditional managers whose compensation package favors spot or total sales. This may be one of the most critical choke-points of growing online revenue. Where do you think traditional managers will place most of their efforts? Conflict #2: Programming/editorial departments are primary operators of most websites, including where and how advertising is placed. If you would never allow the PD or editor determine your on-air spot load or ad volume, why do you allow them to determine online units and placements on the website? Just like your Radio station or Newspaper, the website must be ultimately run by those with ‘web profit & revenue first’ goals.
5. Poor attention to fast changing, online environment. Traditional media execs typically follow other traditional media execs for determining digital plans. Some harshly suggest it’s the blind leading the blind. with slipping shares of local online revenue, it might be best to also look outside the industry for best practices in web sales. New competitors like Patch, Reach Local and Groupon are ramping up their local staffs, and are going after the budgets in your own backyard. Is your team familiar with these new players and their sales plan? How do you keep up? Do you have a plan to thwart these new competitors? One way to win is to provide Web 101 workshops to local advertisers. By taking an educational approach with clients, they’re more likely to rely on you for all of their marketing needs, and not some outsider.
6. Setting web budgets too low. This little sleight of hand allows your sales staff to quickly hit web goals. Once hit, they can push down web sales to a lower priority. In this situation, money is left on the table and gives corporate management the false impression of successful, local web selling. Making matters worse, this encourages the remaining local web budgets to be redirected to online-only companies. The only thing worse than this is the foolish trick of reps converting portions of the traditional buy to web, thereby teaching clients that web should always be viewed as a value-add.
7. In-effective inventory & yield management. Nothing says poor web-sales management than seeing a lame Google AD Sense or network ad on your home page. Geez, you can’t sell your most valuable, most powerful ad unit to a local sponsor? That’s like always placing per inquiry or PSA’s in your 7:20 stop set on a Monday morning. If more than 20% of your available web inventory is sold to 3rd party ad networks…your local sales strategy needs to undergo a crisis intervention…now.
8. Confusing media kits, sales packages & pricing. Local business owners prefer simple offers, delivered using advertiser-friendly vocabulary. They’re usually not sure of the value of 1 or even 10 million page-views. Excel spreadsheets with ad units, cpm’s and other confusing data only frustrates the advertiser. It also freaks out the sales rep who’s trying to clearly explain the features & benefits of a cross-platform marketing program. Simplicity is always best.
9. Director of Interactive; tech & content background only? Too few Interactive VP’s and web managers are qualified to implement a realistic revenue strategy. While building slick sites and driving eyeballs are quite important, these skills do not equal revenue & profit. Suggestion: hire a corporate VP of Interactive Revenue that reports directly to the CEO. Bonus all applicable staff based on web profit, not web traffic.
10. Over-reliance on vendors & research for sales strategy. Just because I sold you a beautiful kitchen & gave you the best cookbooks, doesn’t mean that you’re now a master chef !