Ad Selling Strategies: Part Two

In Part One of “Ad Selling Strategies,” I discussed several steps you can take to begin selling ads on your site, such as how to price your ads, what sizes are the most common, and technical issues to consider.

I received a lot of positive feedback on the article, but one person wrote me an email saying, “OK…now what?” He brought to my attention that not everyone can be AOL or Yahoo and may not have the resources to hire a national sales force to sell their inventory. Here are some tips for selling online advertising whether your sales force is 1 or 1,000.

Who To Contact

Who should you contact, the CEO or the Marketing Manager? The best answer to this question may be to contact both. The key is to be tactful about it. Visit the potential buyer’s web site to determine who the right contact is. If that’s a dead end, try asking the receptionist. You’d be surprised what a wealth of information a receptionist has at her disposal. (Remember the movie “Strange Brew” and the jelly donut?)

If an ad agency is involved, you might be unsure whether to contact them or the client directly. Again, the answer is often to contact both. It depends on your first point of contact. If you have an existing relationship with the client and you are introduced to the agency, let them know that the client is already excited about the buy. If you are able to gain support from both sides, then you’ve just made the media buyer’s job easier.

However, if you first strike up a relationship with an agency, it may be inappropriate to contact the client directly. Nothing is more irritating to a media buyer than a seller who tries to circumvent them by going directly to the client. If it makes sense to contact the client and you are unsure whether it is appropriate, ask the media buyer for permission.

Make A Lasting First Impression

When you’ve determined the right one or two contacts, start with a personalized email message. First, give the message context, so as to avoid setting off spam alarms. For example: “Dear Mr. Smith, I spoke with your associate at the @d:Tech Conference in New York, and he suggested that I contact you,” or “I read about your company in Red Herring this week.”

The message should be brief and to the point: “I am the Texas representative for MassiveMedia. We offer a wide range of online advertising including banners, text links, and email newsletter sponsorships. Here is a link to our full site list. Banner rates start as low as $10 CPM for targeted placements.”

The key here is to add as much personalization as possible: “I think that MassiveMedia is a great fit for your site because our audience is 80 percent male and very tech-savvy.” Conclude your message with: “I would like to discuss the possibilities with you and send you our latest media kit. If you are not the person at your company that is responsible for online media buying, please forward this message to them. Sincerely, Joe Media.”

Follow-Up Etiquette

You might follow up your email message with a phone call after a day or two. If you get voicemail, do not continue to call. Leave a message including both your phone number and email address, and wait for them to contact you. I don’t recommend contacting the same person more than twice within a one-month time frame (provided they don’t return your calls).

Important note: Keep track of who you’ve contacted and how often. (There are a number of software tools for this, such as Act!, Maximizer, Goldmine, and Microsoft Outlook.)

Working As A Team

If there are several people on your sales team, make sure to work out a system so that you do not duplicate efforts. It is also important to provide the media buyer with one point of contact. If your sales team is divided by geographic region or affinity group, it is usually best to redirect the RFP internally. It is unrealistic to expect a media buyer to keep track of one person for technology, one person for entertainment, and so on.

More Etiquette

  • Use the BCC function when sending mass emails. This is also known as a “blind carbon copy.” (I’m sure you’ve received an email with hundreds of addresses at the top.) This hides the other email addresses, protecting the privacy of your contact list.

  • It’s a good idea to send out regular email updates about your site and inventory, but make sure to include an “unsubscribe” function in the message for those who no longer want to be on the list.

  • As a general rule, use email instead of the phone. Most media buyers are on a busy schedule, and it is easier for them to respond to you via email. It’s extremely irritating when a sales rep calls every day until they can get you on the phone.

  • While it is important to be brief, it is also important to be polite. One of the worst things a sales rep can do is write short, brash emails like “What is going on?” or “What’s the status?” and title these emails as “URGENT.”

  • One of the most important things a salesperson can do is follow up after the sale. Part of being a good media rep includes monitoring the campaign once it is up and running. Far too often, sales reps are my best friends until they make the sale, and then I never hear from them again (at least, until the next RFP comes around). I appreciate it when they take the time to watch the campaign performance and offer suggestions for improvement. Offer creative suggestions to improve click rates. Let the client know if you overdelivered. Or, if you underdelivered, offer a make-good.

  • If the media buyer purchases something from you, let them know that you appreciate the business regardless of the dollar amount. After all, some business is better than no business. If you let them know you appreciate it, they will likely purchase from you again. If you act disappointed, they probably won’t.

  • Never send a file that is larger than 1MB in file size. Once I received a PowerPoint presentation from a rep that was 17MB in size. Not only is this too much information, it took me 15 minutes to get my email that morning. If you need to send a big file, try zipping it up or using a service like Click2Send.

  • Be quick to respond to a media buyer’s questions and concerns. It’s always a good idea to respond within 24 hours. If you don’t know the answer, let the buyer know that you are looking into it, and you will get back to them soon. If they send you an RFP, let them know that you have received it and will have it to them by the deadline (or that you need an extension). The fastest way to lose a sale is to leave a media buyer in the dark.

No doubt about it, a media salesperson’s job is difficult. There is a fine line between too much and too little contact. There are many gray areas on who to contact and how to contact them. The key is finding the delicate balance that lies somewhere in the middle.

If one rule stands above all others, it is this: Always offer a compelling, creative proposal that fits the target audience at a fair price.

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