Ten Tips for Negotiating With Media Vendors

As media planners, we must represent our client — the buyer. We must earn our keep by getting our clients the best deal possible.

In reality, we are matchmakers, trying to create success for our clients and make a sale on behalf of the media properties we believe are the right choices. In this process, we want to secure the best deal possible on the right sites for our clients while making friends with the media reps and establishing a partnership. This partnership has a common goal of creating a successful campaign and lasting relationship with the client.

Today, some tips for doing just that.

  • Forge a partnership with the media property. From the get-go, establish that while you will negotiate hard for you client, you also want to be the media property’s partner in creating a huge success story that solidifies a lasting three-way relationship between the client, your agency, and the media property. This way you’re all on the same team.

  • Get ideas from the media partner. Once you have established this partnership, tap the rep and his team for ideas and let them know you want them to get super creative. Tell them you want innovative programs to present to your client that make the plan and their property look unique. Inform them that you want ideas that either break through the clutter or have a historical precedence for success. Typically these unique ideas also come with a ton of value-added placements that make the whole thing worthwhile.
  • Combine visibility and performance. Very often, the highly visible, premium, and expensive placements don’t perform as well from a CPC (define) or CPA (define) standpoint, but they build serious awareness. Tell your rep you want a nice mix of premium placements and tons of fixed-placement buttons and text links. This way you will get the awareness you want and the clicks that make the site perform nicely from a top-line perspective.
  • Tap into a rep’s historical knowledge. Ask the reps what has worked on their site to get them to tell you about successful programs that have run on property. See if you can get actual results and even peak at the creative that ran — or at least a description of it. The reps know their big success stories, and as a planner you should want to learn from them.
  • Always return media reps’ calls and e-mail. As often as possible, let them come in and present to you (but limit meetings to 30 to 45 minutes and make the deadline clear in advance). This builds lasting personal relationships and makes reps look good to their superiors, as they are able to get in with the agencies. It can seem overwhelming, but if you make a little time each week you can have a constant flow of relationship-building e-mail, phone calls, and meetings that forge really nice connections with the media rep community. If you talk to media reps only when you need something, you aren’t going to establish a personal relationship, as you would if you give them the courtesy of your time. So many times I hear reps talk about the rudeness of media planners and buyers who don’t return calls or at least acknowledge their presence. Be a mench and let them know you care.
  • Get the best deal. You’ve partnered with the reps, forming personal relationships. But at the end of the day you represent the client, so get the best deal you can. Never accept the first proposal. With a huge dose of humility and kindness, explain to the rep that you are really excited about working with them but, when it comes down to it you’re being paid by the client and the rep has to make you look like the serious hero. You’re in there for them pitching their site to the client and they must be in there with the sales manager pitching a better deal for you. Tell them the last thing you want to see is the program getting canceled from lack of performance, so bring down the price so the predictive media modeling works and keep heaping on the value-added placements.
  • Plan for the future. Negotiate a follow-up insertion order in advance. If you renew, you get rewarded and the deal gets better and better as the relationship progresses. This way the client also looks down the road and thinks long term about working with that particular property and you if the program is successful.
  • Celebrate your plan’s completion. When a site makes it into your plan, thank and congratulate the reps. If they didn’t make it in, politely let them know and thank them for their hard work — especially if they did a custom proposal. They are bummed that they didn’t make the cut, and you want them to still be there in earnest for you next time. (Maybe even send them a nice card.)
  • Give them a second chance. If a site isn’t performing, don’t fly off the handle and cancel it right away. Let the rep know and give the site the chance to react by adding bonus impressions and placements to try lower the top-line CPC or CPA. In many cases, you can optimize your campaign right off the Web if you don’t give the properties the chance to make it work.
  • Go steady. In the end, you will have to cancel some placements. So in addition to the standard cancellation clauses, ensure you have flight-schedule clauses. This prevents sites from front-loading the campaign, so when you cancel they can charge you for a disproportionate volume of impressions. For example, if you buy 3 million impressions for a month and cancel after 15 days, an even-flight schedule clause ensures that you will only have to pay for 1.5 million impressions at most.

Let me know if I missed any tips and give me your feedback! You can also reach me on Twitter: @HarryJGold.

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