In the more simple days of selling, advertising sales executives dealt in print, closing deals on a monthly cycle. Now, as technology drives opportunities for publishers, sales execs are faced with an ever-growing portfolio of products and services to offer to clients.
To sell the onslaught of digital products, marketing services and events both live and virtual most effectively, sales teams in both the b-to-b and consumer markets are utilizing new technologies and homegrown proprietary solutions to close the integrated sale.
Research, Education and Communication
Over at SourceMedia, Julian Orbon, senior vice president of the marketing services group, is leading a team of about 85 sales representatives. Of this group, Orbon says that many of his team members are part of a demographic who are used to selling only print products. In order to create a “holistic perspective in an integrated marketing program” that expands beyond just print, “We use a CRM program to keep the staff informed of what we do, and what the change is, as this is critical to selling.”
This program is not only used internally to educate salespeople and publishers, but also used to keep paying clients informed of the burgeoning changes in the marketplace. Training seminars led by vendors to educate salespeople are currently in session at Source, and Orbon says as the company implements tools like social media monitoring, additional education processes will be added to the mix.
Research is not only playing a vital role in the education of Source’s sellers, but in the sale itself. Custom, syndicated research has become a “go-to market solutions platform,” says Orbon. “From that, we create strategy and recommendations for the client, then we move to plans and tactics.” Syndicated panel research is pulled from a group of 1,500 to 2,000 community members who are enlisted monthly to complete surveys and questionnaires. This is sometimes as simple as using a 10-question “Zoomerang” questionnaire, or as in-depth as a 45-question survey.
Panelists are rewarded for their participation with data from research results.
At American Express Publishing, technology is used to organize information for events, websites, iPad apps, direct mail services, custom publishing, database marketing services, analytics and more across the Travel + Leisure, Food + Wine, DEPARTURES and Executive Travel properties. Stacey Staaterman, vice president of incorporated marketing and sales, says seamless organization among team members is key. “Five years ago, the sales person worried about all the communication with the customers. Now, because so many things are program-based, we have marketers who are also in frequent conversations with the same client base.”
For a shared drive that acts as a central repository for all materials produced for clients, American Express developed an internal filing system similar to Google Docs called Share Point. Here, Staaterman says, “Multiple people are filing, accessing and revising information.”
Staaterman and executive director of corporate sales for Amex Publishing Jennifer Taylor say that Facebook, e-mails and text messages play a large part in communicating with clients, as well acting as platforms for custom media campaigns. A recent update from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook has helped organize communication with clients as well.
This kind of consistency is integral to media-planning services, a service that clients “often don’t know they want,” says Staaterman. “We’ve recently hired an account manager whose job is consolidating, placing information and building media from client direction.” All of this information is organized in an Excel spread sheet for clients’ convenience.
One tool mentioned by all the sales executives interviewed was the CRM Salesforce.com; the system is already in play at Hearst, Northstar, and SourceMedia, and Amex Publishing is also looking into the service.
Combining Existing Products With Homegrown Solutions for Real Results
B-to-b media company Northstar’s Meeting Group is expecting $2 million in revenue from the 14 events taking place in its meetings publications sector this year. In order to keep up, VP/group publisher Bernie Schraer says Northstar needed a better way to communicate with its audience to inform them of upcoming events and registration.
“Many of these events are one-on-one appointment shows, prescheduled 15-minute long meetings,” Schraer says, “We needed a lot of integration right away.”
While Northstar is currently working on a central master database, other solutions were created in the meantime, such as a database tool used to pool past attendees and place them in a “VIP bucket.” “This allows the ability to see if media planners have attended one of our events, which takes a lot of leg work out of the process we use to qualify a buyer (or in this case, a media planner) to attend one of our events,” Schraer says.
This system was developed at Northstar in six weeks, with marketing managers acting as project managers during the process. This database is also used by the marketing department for targeted campaigns; once registrants click through, Northstar then uses companies like Cvent, an event, survey and e-marketing solutions business, to complete the process.
Conference.com is also used by Northstar, which works seamlessly with its internal system for appointment settings.
In addition to its current database tool, the Northstar team created a forecasting tool that takes data from its internal billing system to work with its IMS tool, “So we can find out at what we’re looking at with current issues we’re closing, but in long-range forecasts as well,” says Schraer. Sales executives and financial managers use these predictions to navigate from project to project.
The sales teams surveyed were quick to not only share what they use now to improve their integrated selling processes, but tools worthy of investment in the future.
At American Express Publishing, Staaterman and Taylor say Direct Heat is a tool the company has its eye on. “With Direct Heat, we’ll be able to customize certain sectors we want to be fully informed on; it also has the creative imbedded in the e-mail, so it’s going to give you three of the latest articles on a given topic,” undoubtedly saving time and research for Amex Publishing staff.
Social media monitoring is next for SourceMedia, and Orbon says that Radian 6 (which was acquired by Salesforce in March) is a tool Source is likely to invest in. “This type of monitoring is really important to use, and really important to any sales category.”
Undoubtedly, as publishers continue to expand their services and the marketplace renews itself with new products and capabilities, sales executives will find new ways to maintain and grow revenue for their respective publishing companies. Like Orbon says, “We have to change the way we think and the way we’re asking questions to clients. Clients are still spending dollars, and we have to figure out how to get them to spend here.”