John Cheney
John Cheney 8 October 2019

How Publishers Can Build Successful Advertising Sales

In the good old ‘Mad Men’ days, advertising sales were pretty straightforward. Publishers sold page space, or radio and TV slots and were able to more or less guarantee OTS (opportunities to see) to their clients.

The proliferation of media outlets and the deluge of on-line content has changed all that – consumers now have so much choice, publishers and media owners are battling for share of voice and sight. They need to be able to create ‘cut through’ in a bid to prove the value of their content to their audience, engender engagement, create brand loyalty and differentiate themselves from the competition. In doing that, they can create a valuable proposition for advertisers. 

As publishing channels have diverged, so publishers have had to innovate and create multi-channel advertising models to appeal to companies, encompassing digital (e-shots, banner ads etc...), ‘live’ (events and awards etc.), as well as published (newspaper and magazine ads). At the same time, advertisers have started to demand a clearer return on investment and proof of engagement, so publishers have had to devise metrics such as click through, ‘dwell times,’ and ways to measure ‘viewable engagement.’ This has all conspired to make advertising sales a much more complex business. 

Developing a fail-safe advertising sales strategy

To ensure the success of advertising sales, publishers need to prove to clients that their proposition is more valuable than  their competitors’ and is the right one to reach their audience. Whether it is a gym company reaching out to health and wellness enthusiasts, or an accountancy software company targeting finance professionals, B2C and B2B publishers need to show they have the right audience, the audience is engaged and they have the right blend of advertising tactics to reach them. 

To develop the value proposition and ensure the sales process is effective, publishers need to have a clear and defined advertising sales strategy. There are a number of key components:

Step one: good audience management 

Put simply, improved audience management and database segmentation leads to better quality audiences for advertisers. If publishers can show they truly understand their audience and can demonstrate how engaged they are, this makes the advertising sales approach much more effective. There are three key elements:

  1. Profiling: layering demographic information with behavioural information – understanding what readers might be doing on a website, tracking the topics they’re interested in, logging the events they attend etc. – gives publishers and their advertising clients a three-dimensional picture of the readership and makes it much easier when it comes to defining who to target for an advertising campaign. 

  2. Segmentation: Advertisers will prefer a targeted approach to a scatter gun strategy. But many publishers have multiple systems pinning their audience management together and as a result, have a very fragmented view of the audience and aren’t able to segment effectively, which diminishes the value of their advertising proposition. Targeted communication reflects well on the brand for the publisher and increases reader loyalty. And importantly, for sales function, it boosts  revenue per advertisement.

  3. Increasing engagement: understanding the audience’s behaviour will help publishers understand how engaged their audience is. Click through, bounce rates, likes, shares, conversions – all this activity can build a picture of engagement. And targeted content is vital for improving engagement – if the publisher can identify the content that interests a reader, they can then bundle relevant content to send them, or flag up deals they might be interested in. 

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform can facilitate effective audience management for publishers by providing clear insight into their audience and how they behave. 

Step two: cross business advertising solution

As advertising has evolved, the business case for a cross business advertising solution has strengthened. Now that advertising can comprise digital, events and live experience elements and the more traditional print advertising, the sales function needs to be linked with the different systems these business areas use. Additionally, the sales end of advertising focuses around marketing, lead generation, qualifying leads and getting sales over the line, but when advertisements are sold, this needs to be linked with delivery, invoice generation and finance systems. 

Take the concept of product bundling. A cross business advertising solution, underpinned by CRM, will enable effective product bundling and take away the complexity and inaccuracy of manual processes.  Here’s how:

1. Pricing and discount control: a single CRM platform gives internal visibility for the teams involved and enables them to have control over granting discounts . It also enables the discount to be proportioned between the different teams and business units, which is important for publishers to effectively manage their revenue streams.

2. Tracking delivery and creative execution: one of the issues is that different items of the bundle are delivered by different internal teams, all at varying times. Added to this is the complexity of external factors, such as creative input. Technology plays a key role in ensuring everyone in the team knows the status of each delivery item at any one time, as well as alerting the team if something isn’t right or a deadline hasn’t been met.

3. Finance: whilst the customer sees a bundled price, finance teams need to assign that income to the relevant revenue stream. CRM can automate that process, making invoicing, commission calculation and revenue recognition a much easier process.

The delivery of any product sold by a publisher should be seamless and efficient. Any failures can make the company look unprofessional and could result in a loss of revenue. If sales and production teams rely on manual processes, problems can often occur around specifications, delivery and invoicing. 

Step three: advertising sales team management

A CRM system can also help publishers and media houses manage their sales teams and help their sales people be more effective. This can be done in a number of ways, including:  

Inventory management: this gives sales teams a clear idea of what needs to be sold each month and a target revenue per issue. When advertising packages are negotiated and sold, targets can be adjusted accordingly. This gives advertising sales people a clear picture of what they need to do and they can adapt their approach to meet the new target i.e. broaden their target base, add to the product bundle or slim it down, reduce prices etc.. 

Strengths and weaknesses: having the ability to track the success of the sales team at key points in the run up to publication will help the team prioritise. The activity list can be looked at in the context of how much it is worth – it can use scoring to say which leads should be followed up, depending on their shape and size. It can also flag up neglected opportunities. All of this can be used to track if the sales team is on top of its activities or not, which is vital in the publishing industry with its “hard stop” publication dates. 

The last word

Advertising is still the single biggest driver of revenue for publishers and media companies, so ensuring the advertising sales process is slick, efficient and – most importantly – integrated with all key systems across the business is vital. This will help publishers to stay ahead of the competition, which is so important in this rapidly changing industry. 

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