Publishers, are you listening?
Do you often find yourself wondering, "I have money to spend. Why won't anyone get back to me?"
For those of us trying to assemble online media plans and execute campaigns, when we finally get that rare good rep, we feel like breaking into song.
Unfortunately, according to the survey I've been running, most people on the buying end aren't happy campers. Eighty-seven percent of my respondents are dissatisfied with the online media reps they contact to buy advertising -- over 50 percent of the time.
What are today's online media buyers unhappy about?
Sixty-four percent of buyers who contact sites they have no previous relationship with say those sites are typically slower to respond than sites with which they have a previous relationship. The majority of these buyers say requests submitted to new sites go unanswered or are answered too late. Respondents say their number one source of frustration is slow response time or unmet deadlines when they're trying to put together online media plans.
Back in the heyday of the late '90s, the unresponsive media rep was par for the course. Too many companies wanted to buy online advertising, and there were too few media reps. Unless you had a megabudget, a lot of them wouldn't even talk to you. After the dot-com bust, there were far fewer dollars to go around, so you'd think those spending money would get some attention.
But things didn't really change much. With an online advertising resurgence, I really hoped publishers would have addressed the gap between buyers and sellers. It still doesn't seem to be the case.
I'd really like to know why.
Perhaps it's a staffing problem. In the early days, Web publishers couldn't hire and train fast enough. In the bust days, there were massive layoffs. Perhaps it's a training problem. In the early days, we were more forgiving of our reps' ignorance. With nearly a decade of industry experience under our belts, the problem still isn't remedied. O perhaps it's a customer service problem: precisely what customer service standards do publishers establish and enforce? It could be just the Web's patchy nature. Anyone can build a site that turns into a popular destination and attracts advertisers. That doesn't mean whoever's behind that site has professional knowledge or experience selling advertising.
Training, experience, and established standards would go a long way in addressing the second biggest source of buyer frustration: reps' lack of knowledge or providing inadequate information. Complaints range from "Not getting all of the information that I need all at once" to "All I wanted was to know inventory and rate, but the site will come back with a generic PowerPoint deck." Many respondents criticize media reps for not paying attention to request for proposal (RFP) requirements. Instead, they deliver deficient or inappropriate proposals.
Then there's the issue of service after the sale. Seventeen percent of respondents cited this as their number one issue. A media rep may have done a bang-up job on the front end in making the sale, but he completely dropped the ball after the sale was made and didn't come through when there were problems with the campaign.
Other criticisms include ignorance (reps who don't understand the online medium, how to sell it, or their own companies' processes); mistrust ("I don't always know when they're truthful"); attitude ("they have a superior mentality"); and lack of creativity in the proposal process.
Some sites don't provide media kits or contact information. Instead, they offer only a generic contact form , which I consider useless. Curious about how other online media buyers feel about this, I learned 60 percent agree with me. In the case of form-only sites, many media buyers will dig for information using a variety of clever resources. Other buyers aren't so willing to do the work. "This [kind of] site usually goes to the bottom of my prospect list, and I never get to the bottom of my prospect list."
I can think of a lot of reasons why we online media buyers are so dissatisfied. Do publishers care? Are they listening? And, could they sell more if they did?
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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