There are nominally two approaches to online advertising; sell it with a separate staff, or sell it through an existing sales force. Neither strategy maximizes the opportunity. The most successful companies use a hybrid strategy. Two sales groups, working separately and together, will produce the best results.

For every publisher’s Internet site, there are "Internet only" advertisers whom the print salespeople are not in touch with, maybe not even aware of. Some are companies that have built their business model around creating a successful Internet site and driving traffic to it. Others are direct mail, newspaper or television advertisers who never used magazines.

Fears Into Opportunities

Addressing national accounts with separate print and online media buying requires selling buyers that print salespeople don’t meet. And print staffs may be hesitant to mention the Internet, fearing lost pages. For their part, vertical, b-to-b and niche magazines selling large-but-specialized advertisers may have one point of contact for both print and online, but print sales people fear losing revenue on their quota, or fear being embarrassed when they can’t talk-the-talk.

Turning these fears into opportunities is where the hybrid approach comes in. The most successful publishers elevate their game with a team approach. They become more important to their biggest customers, and bring in new ones.

An Internet specialist, in addition to sales responsibility for Internet only clients, should team up with print salespeople to make cross-selling happen. Either an Internet specialist makes solo calls on the Internet buying service of a print advertiser, or they support the print salesperson with team calls. And the print salesperson needs to feel comfortable having the Internet specialist on high-level client calls.

Cross-selling an existing client gives publishers a reason to sell bigger packages to clients at a higher executive level. Selling an integrated package to a big national account, with separate online and print buying agencies, allows a call on a senior marketing executive, probably at the client.

And hybrid selling allows publishers to protect one revenue stream while adding another. By requiring clients to maintain spending to hold their discounts and other advertiser benefits, you can protect your base, while offering them added benefits for adding revenue to the new medium.

Action Items to Prepare for Success

ユ Create a "story" about how print and online fit together for an advertiser. Are readers the same or different audiences? Are the Internet and the magazine used at the same time, for the same reasons? There is a selling story explaining how print and online complement each other and how an advertiser should increase one without reducing;your part;of their other budget.

ユ Train your people to communicate your story. Back them up with a "case study" if possible. And help each create their personal story or anecdote to explain how successful advertisers use both media to accomplish complementary business objectives. Drill salespeople on how to respond to the most common questions and objections.

ユ Third, develop a pricing strategy that protects your downside, and rewards the upside spending. This includes pricing the online so that the profit margin you receive on that revenue is at least as good as you’d earn on the print. Don’t be afraid of revenue moving from one medium to another, just be sure that you hold or grow the total revenue you receive from each client.

ユ Fourth, compensate your sales staff in a way that is "platform agnostic." Reward what you want: Growth. Be sure that expectations for growing the online business are built into sales plans, quotas and account reviews. Cross-compensate your people for helping each other. The print people many need or want to take the online sales expert on important, big account sales calls. Eliminate the jealously or defensiveness that might result where one salesperson is a loser when an advertiser switches to online from print, or from print to online.

My most successful clients achieve success through people management. The right combination of the tactics will spawn cooperation and support between the online and offline sales staffs, and drive growth. 

Daniel Ambrose has been providing strategic and tactical consulting and sales training for online and offline publishers including iVillage,, Primedia and New York since 1994. He was VP and publisher of Child, advertising sales director of Cahners’ American Baby division, and director of corporate advertising at Hearst Magazines. Contact Dan at, or 541-431-4500.

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