Selecting The Best Rep Firm – Final Screen

The process of selecting the right rep firm, and the specific sales channel partner for your site is both straightforward — and not!

The straightforward piece involves using a structured analytical approach or screening process to figure out the best options for your business. The tricky part is applying all of that sometimes conflicting analysis to arrive at an answer that works for your short and long-term goals.

We’ve discussed a range of essential initial considerations over the past several columns: Coverage of target market and decision-makers, sales approach and firm capabilities, and the economics of the business relationship. Assuming that the options have now been whittled down to a manageable number with a structured thought process, there are some other strategic considerations that will help you decide between “like” options. Many of these final factors are intangibles that have to be weighed in light of your long-term game plan, not just short-term revenue goals.

Brand value of the rep firm or network is an important consideration. Is the prospective firm considered by your customers, suppliers or investors to be the right sales partner to enhance your site’s positioning and visibility in a very crowded market?

Another good area to look at is the fit with your company’s operational game plan. With ad servers, ad management solutions, profiling and database solutions, have they built their business? Can they now (or very soon) support the targeting, testing, tracking, and reporting that your customers want? Have these investment decisions given them any significant advantages from a technology standpoint? Are relationships with important interactive agencies strengthened by these operational capabilities?

Global coverage might be another key point to assess. Do you anticipate that relationships with Internet advertisers in Europe, Asia/Pacific or Latin America will be important to your near-term business? What additional marketing support, will you need in these regions assuming roles/responsibilities that your staff handles in the U.S.?

While there are other strategic issues to consider for your specific site, there is one major issue that brick and mortar companies adding online extensions will face that Internet pure plays will not. If the culture and experience of the parent company is primarily direct sales, the move to a third-party sales relationship may carry some corporate baggage that goes beyond the question of what is best for the Internet business.

Even if the parent company already utilizes outsourced sales partnerships, adding an additional Internet specific sales channel can be complicated. Channel conflict, whether real or emotional, is likely to be a big deal. Senior execs may like the idea of a sales solution that involves less initial expense and infrastructure, but must also consider how this decision to outsource sales will impact the entire organization.

Taken altogether, there is a lot to consider, both tactical and strategic, near and longer term, in selecting an advertising sales partnership. There are a lot of good options available to the site publisher today, but there is also the high risk of making a quick decision that results in a poor match and the resultant low satisfaction levels. Taking the time to work through the issues ups the odds of a match made in heaven, rather than an unhappy relationship.

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