Evaluating Sales Partnerships

Access to buyers is a top concern in any sales organization design, and it’s a critical factor in Internet ad sales where every buyer is hugely busy. Each hears from too many sellers, has too many sites to evaluate, too little comparable data, less time to work with what data does exist and not enough time for any of it.

There are relatively few large advertisers, and even fewer interactive agencies, that control the majority of the estimated $2 billion dollars being invested in Internet advertising. Though the limited number of prospects currently spending money ought to make market coverage easy, the pressures on those same buyers to find more cost efficient ways to manage the media buying process is enormous, which makes access extremely difficult.

These demanding market realities make the ability to purchase decision-makers; the number one reason that many sites opt for sales partnerships with established ad networks. DoubleClick, the first online ad network, has 14 offices worldwide and a sales and marketing staff of over 300 people, each of whom is already in contact with the most influential online media buyers. Few individual sites can hope to duplicate the breadth of sales coverage of a DoubleClick or 24/7 Media.

And the number of sales people is only one measure of coverage. Look at the pool of advertisers now spending heavily online and ask yourself whether those businesses represent the highest potential advertisers for your site. Does your market map closely to the types of advertisers now dominating Internet advertising? (technology, financial services, web-only businesses ) If not, the breadth of sales coverage may be less important to your needs than the access a sales partner has to advertisers in your industry or product category.

The site may attract a niche audience that will be interested in more targeted ad buys (i.e., a fly-fishing site, or a gaming site, a site for invalids or young children); the coverage you want may extend to advertisers not yet committed to interactive advertising. In this case, a more traditional rep firm might better serve your needs, where the sales people have the time to prospect more broadly beyond the core interactive advertisers. Firms like Cybereps can excel here because their business model depends on personalized service, more like your own sales force. They won’t have as many sales people calling on every interactive media professional, but they will have the ability to customize their sales plan to your needs.

The same coverage question extends to the question of national vs. local advertising. Most of the spending to date has been concentrated among national advertisers, but that is beginning to change. Today, lots of the networks are moving into local ad sales, but a site looking to sell in a number of more localized regions might be well advised to look into a network like RealMedia or USWest Dex, which have always specialized in local sales.

And if your prospect pool is heavy on the web sites that buy directly (not through an agency) and has accounts that tend to pre-test before making a larger buy, you’ll want to consider AdAuction.com for part of your inventory to facilitate testing and direct buying online.

As if all of this wasn’t complicated enough, coverage is only one of the four criteria we laid out last week for you to consider. Next week, we’ll look at sales capabilities and how to evaluate which sales partners best fit your needs in this area.

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