Walk a Mile in Your Media Buyer’s Moccasins

OK, based on last week’s column, you now know what keeps media VPs up at night. But most reps, particularly those who are newer to the industry, find that they spend most of their time selling to the media planners and buyers, rather than to the media VPs they report to. So let’s take a look at their world.

As we suggested last week, your average interactive media buyer is likely to be fairly new to the industry. In fact, in an entry-level agency job, many media buyers are fairly new to the work world. Yes, there are some experienced pros around, but many times you’ll be dealing with someone who has been a media buyer or planner for less than two years.

One of the unfortunate trends we’ve seen in the last few years is that there is less and less time spent on training these folks on media buying basics, let alone the finer points of online media buying. So, for many of these people, knowledge of advertising and the strategic use of media is fairly limited.

What they do get is a lot of work, hard-to-meet deadlines, and a lot of pressure to come in at or under budget. They often get their marching orders — “we need 10,000,000 impressions of males ages 18 to 35” — without a lot of the strategic direction and marketing background that would allow them to add an extra level of insight to the media buy.

Here’s where a great sales rep can make a difference.

The truth is that most media buyers don’t want to stay media buyers forever. They either want to move up within the media department or they want out of media altogether so that they can move on to a more visible part of the agency, such as account management.

In either case, they’re going to need more knowledge than they currently have to be successful. So help them think strategically about what they need to know to make a good buy. You can do this by asking great questions that help them focus on the strategic aspects of their jobs. Here’s a few to try when you get your next plain vanilla inventory request:

  • What is the ultimate result that the client is looking for? Would you say that the client is more focused on branding or direct response?
  • Is this a new market for this client? What is making them go after this demographic?
  • What kind of results has the client had with past campaigns? What has worked the best for them? How do they measure success?

Will the media buyers always know? No. Will they always take the time to talk to you even if they do know? No. But over time, you will establish yourself as someone who cares enough to educate yourself on the client’s issues and respects their expertise and intelligence enough to assume they are concerned about the big picture as well. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and by the way, never forget the basics. The two top requests we get from the media buyers we survey are that reps get their proposals in on time and on budget. So master the basics. But excel at the strategic.

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