local media insider

10 Best Practices for selling audience extension

Alisa Cromer

Audience extension is defined generally as selling advertising on other properties beyond the core media site.  For these purposes, we are looking primarily at ad networks that reach audiences not owned by media companies.

Targeting, especially geo-targeting zip codes within cities, and behavioral targeting around buying interests is in high demand by local businesses. But it is often impossible to even find a significant audience - much less the best audience - without layering on an ad network buys.

This report icludes interviews with The Dallas Morning News, The Naples Daily News and information from the 2013 Social + Mobile Conference and other conference to find Ten Top Things successful sellers of audience extension programs do right: 

1.Use a customer centric sales model.

Most local media say they use a consultative sale, or are moving in that direction, but sales reps successfully selling  audience extension programs master the art of customer-centric sales.

Shawna Devlin, Advertising Director of the Naples Daily News, says reps selling these hyper-targeted campaigns aim a. to identify the target audience, b. develop a message that is especially relevant, and c. have a strong call to action, typically an offer or contest. When the message is relevant, " the offer becomes part of the content." And of course, an offer is easier to track on the back end.

An example from her team is a $126,000 campaign, "Best Places to Dine" in Naples, a geo-targeted mobile ads campaign. Reps encouraged the restuarant to give offers during a major golf tournament, served when and where tourists were located. Much work went into creating a zonned  program to allow single restaurants to share costs, after individual restaurants initially rejected campaign minimums as too high (see how to put together this 30 restaurant  campaign here).

2. Query need for mobile geo-targeting as a standard part of the needs analysis

Mobile ads get 3x the response of desktop ads, and local businesss have super-receptivity to the idea of gps-targeted audiences near their location. One sales manager who always includes questions about whether the business has an interest in reaching nearby consumers via their cell phones in the needs analysis, says the answer is inevitably yes, and that leads to buys that include additional products with extended reach. 

Key categories for geo-fencing include multiple location chains, grocery stores, tourism-oriented businesses, dining and events. Any marketing oriented local business that wants to "own the territory" around it's physical location provides an opportunity.

3. Select an involved ad network partner or partners.

Selection of ad networks for audience extension is a strategic decision; there may be a variety of ad networks for specialized categories, or a needed for a more robust email database to help key categories, such as auto dealers, reach larger audiences with defined targets. The successful progrmas we looked at layered on ad networks with a significant level of one-on-one customer service such as CentroLift or AdTaxi.  See also  choosing an ad network for a list of criteria to consider when selecting an ad network mix, and this caes study on using AdTaxi's white label service at The Dallas Morning News. 

4. Reduce onboarding time 

Devlin says her reps are prepared to “do whatever it takes” to onboard a campaign, including building landing pages with click to call and map features. This is made easier via a partnership with CentroLift.

Managers who sell The Dallas Morning News' DMNmedia Connect program also say improved onboarding time since partnering with AdTaxi has made them more competitive. Typically businesses that buy this kind of targeting want to move quickly, and there are a multitude of competitors such as ReachLocal who provide fast turn-around.

Conversely, managers we've talked to whose programs stalled  also had slow onboarding processes.  

5. Establish goals for sales participation.

 A standard used at The Dallas Morning news is a 100% participated based on all reps making at least sale a month of non-media owned audiences, via its partnership with AdTaxi Networks. Managers there note that the purpose is not to sell audience extension, but rather to make sure reps are best serving the customer by recommending the most effective buys, since adding highly targeted audiences typically improves results. 

6. Have an integrated dashboard.

Like onboarding speed, centralized, real time reporting is a serious competiive distinction between providers of digital advertising and marketing. Because reporting for multiple products including ad network buys, is more complex, best practice is use of  a single dashboard that can show results across platforms. ClickFuel is one company provides a single dashboard that integrates most common media products, and most agency partners also provide this as an option. We consider an integrated dashboard a critical part of the go-to-market strategy.

7. Optimize weekly or even daily.

The successful programs we talked to optimize significant ($1500 per month and up)  campaigns weekly or even daily, and said conversations with customers about how making the campaigns work better has significantly changed the nature of the customer relationship and lowered churn.

Optimization of dayparts, different messsages, and the media mix happens only after the campaign has started running. Successful programs are good at this.

Devlin says her group at the Naples Daily News focuses on setting up programs that are long term and strategic.

8. Band together single location businesses in key verticals to create large campaigns.

Naples Daily News acquired its $126,000 campaign by creating five zones and selling six restaurants each, who share the cost. CentroLift, the ad network partner, says this concept is now being explored for sales to other verticals. To create these programs, the package limits the number of advertisers and provides category exclusivity to create urgency. 

9. Hold eCPM rates on premium targeted buys and establish campaign minimums 

Typically successful programs did not discount premium buys with audience extension, since the audience extension programs uses a non-negotiatable base cpm. The more campaigns focus on delivering results, the less focused the advertiser is on getting the cheapest CPM (hence the importance of a real time reporting of results). These programs also typically established campaign minimums to make sure both that the advertiser buy was large enough to deliver a great result, and to cover the cost of more robust services provided inhouse or  by the network partner. 

10. Create category specific bundles that include audience extension

The final best practice we saw at one successful program is  recommended bundles for key categories.  While the focus is still a needs analysis, once the message and offer have been created, a recommended product mix for each key audience simplifies the sales process. The Dallas Morning News shows the recommended mix for each of five major categories using pie charts, and research the categories based on market knowledge and interviews with advertisers.  

Bonus tip:  Learn from advertisers results.  Successful programs that track case case studies and incorporated reporting of results  to evolve recommendations and inform training programs. We see media that incorporate real campaign results into sales training and future recommendations will be the leaders in the new world of agency sales. 


it does not take long to see how these Ten Best Practices used at top companies work together. Packaging with other products requires a customer centric approach, integrated reporting and simplified onboarding.  Campaign minimums help establish a saic level where the programs can stay profitable, given more robust third party partnerships they may require.

 Thanks to Shawna Devlin, advertising director, Naples Daily News and Richard Jones, general manager, digital, DMNmedia, as well as the many executives who spoke with us off the record for sharing their expertise incorporated in this report.

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.


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