Done – But Not Finished

Site execs that have worked through their ad sales channel decision (hopefully factoring in some of the thinking offered here recently) should be breathing a sigh of relief. It’s done, right?! Yes, for now — but certainly not for long.

In markets that are undergoing rapid growth and change, companies need to rethink their go-to-market strategy fairly often. Why? Because dramatic changes are going on all the time and at all levels of the market; changes which could make today’s solution less effective over time. And given Internet speed, the rate at which sales channel requirements evolve are likely to be much faster than any technology led market we have seen before.

What are some of the changes to watch for?

For content or community sites that regularly add or change functionality (as they learn more about how their site is used by different types of customers), the ad offerings and target advertiser markets could change quite substantially. New ad products should be developed as audience sets shift — perhaps moving away from banners to streaming media ads, sponsorships or some other new ad concept. Target coverage might shift from endemic advertisers (i.e., those with a strong affinity with the site’s content) to a broader set of off-line advertisers interested in reaching the site’s demographic audience.

Advertiser buying processes and support requirements are also likely to undergo changes over time. As buyers become more experienced with Internet advertising, their basic information needs change, and so do the roles performed by their sales teams (internal or outsourced). Decision-maker preferences for the size or type of firm they deal with may change. And for many, size matters!

The corresponding evolution of agency roles (as the Internet gets integrated into overall branding and direct marketing strategies) is another key factor to watch. What role do interactive agencies, general agencies or other specialty agencies play in each account? What new dimension to the sales equation will come from media buyer adoption of technology-based tools which track and analyze the results of Internet ad campaigns?

We suspect that your competitors are testing different types of sales channels than the one you have committed to at this point. These companies could be trying to leverage existing, offline sales relationships — with greater or lesser degrees of success. They might be using auctions to sell their most valuable or least expensive inventory. Watch for evidence that their overall sales network may be achieving sales productivity gains that outweigh your site’s performance to date, and be prepared to respond appropriately.

For the sales organization itself, there are many changes ahead that will give the company a different “fit” in the market than it has today. Sizeable growth and rapid consolidation of players dictates periodic restructuring and refocusing of sales groups. Effectiveness issues will drive further exploration of targeting — by geography, by industry, by product line, by application or some combination of these elements. Over time, we expect to see all major sites aligning multiple, different types of sales groups to cover different segments of the market. And that includes getting broader coverage at lower costs. All of these changes, especially in combination, mean that you should revisit your site’s ad sales channel strategy as you see changes occurring in the market.

We’re done for now on our series on ad sales channel strategy. But believe us — you’re not finished!

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