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Leveraging Clients’ Lack of Knowledge

To succeed, publishers must be teachers, not just sellers.



By JT Hroncich
07/14/2011

Publishers have in-depth knowledge of media, both print and digital, and we clearly have the advantage of education over our clients. Because we know more, we should be able to sell more, right? Wrong. Most of the publishers I meet are extremely well-educated in media and advertising but this knowledge does not seem to translate into sales. Most pros in the publishing industry never intended to be teachers, but that is exactly what we must become in order to help our clients make the right advertising choices. If you are a skillful salesperson, your clients will become better educated about advertising, and through that knowledge, they will feel comfortable enough to make a buy. Most clients don’t know what they don’t know. Here are some ways to leverage that lack of knowledge for more successful advertising sales, and avoid the pitfalls.

Working in Reverse

In order for advertising to be effective, it must reach the desired target market. Most clients have a general idea of who their customer is, but few know how targeted advertising has become in order to reach that customer. In today’s digital age, there are more ways than ever to specifically reach your target and your target only.  The tools of today afford such pinpoint target details such as geographic locations, specific job titles, age, gender and even personal habits. 

Start by asking your clients some in-depth questions about their current and past advertising experience. What campaigns were successful? Which were failures? Help them evaluate those campaigns by today’s standards and help them understand how those campaigns could be more effective with the tools available to them in 2011.

Work with that client to identify the target audience for each campaign, and explain why each component of the campaign you are suggesting is necessary. In this scenario, the client’s lack of education is an opportunity to develop a relationship based on education and results. Avoid a pitfall in this area by working with your client to develop your campaign strategy. If the client has a say in the strategy, they can take ownership in the results.

Managing Expectations

When you visit a potential client or launch a new campaign for a current client, what questions do you ask? Do you know what results your clients are expecting from a campaign? Some clients are not even sure what constitutes a successful campaign. By asking specific questions, you can expose your clients to the realities of advertising.

It is important from the beginning of each campaign that you help identify signs of a “moving needle”—ringing phones, website visits, e-mails, feet in the door and social media mentions. Effective salespeople evaluate client needs and match that with an appropriate campaign to generate results, but it’s necessary that the client bear some responsibility for those results, too. You can launch the world’s greatest ad campaign, but if the product or service does not live up to consumer expectations, sales will not happen.

Campaign timelines and budgets are also important; we’ve all met with a potential client who expects significant results from a short, cheap campaign. Leverage a client’s lack of clear expectations to create a strategy to for setting advertising goals.

Keep it Simple

Advertisers want get the most out of their advertising dollars, but few truly understand advertising as a whole—and frankly, it is just not necessary. Advertising is changing constantly, and only those of us in the trenches of this industry each day are truly qualified to make advertising accessible to our clients.  We have an opportunity to educate, but ad salespeople often give too much information. This makes the client feel overwhelmed and unsure. Metrics are important to those of us who evaluate campaigns, but to the client, they often seem like gibberish.

When you approach a client about online, do not give a dissertation about digital. Most clients are satisfied with the Cliff’s Notes version. The best way to know what level of digital advertising education your client needs is to ask some basic questions. If responses are limited to “clicks” and banner ads, you have an incredible opportunity to leverage your client’s lack of knowledge in the digital space. Explain some of the new options available in terms that are easy to comprehend and straight to the point.  After you launch an online campaign for a client, metric reports must be delivered to the client in a simple, direct format. Report on the important data points your client wants to see. Is their product or service more successful now than when the campaign launched? If so, the campaign was successful. If you can show a trend to ROI, you’ve turned the client’s lack of education into a successful campaign.

Teaching is a sales job. Instead of selling a product, teachers must sell knowledge to a group of mostly unwilling, overstimulated kids. Our audience each day is made up of willing participants, not captives. So, when you walk into a meeting with a new client, do not assume that their lack of advertising education is a detriment. Look for opportunities to leverage that lack of knowledge to secure trust, confidence, and advertising dollars.

J.T. Hroncich is President of AdBoom, a Capitol Media Solutions company. AdBoom is a full service advertising sales firm igniting revenue for associations, professional societies, and business-to-business organizations.

By JT Hroncich
07/14/2011







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