For executives interested in using third party sales consultants to drive revenue initiatives, this example shows what the experts actually do that makes a difference, and what makes a drive successful.
Market: Victoville (Ca) Daily Press
Company: Freedom Communications
Print circulation: 27,000
UV’s: 190,000 Page views: 1.8 to 2 million
Executive: Steven Wingert, publisher
Challenge: Victoville (Ca) Daily Press was just one of 14 Freedom Communications newspapers struggling to monetize a suite of online products even as the the parent company began the process of filing for Chapter 11. Freedom Interactive already had created a suite of interactive products, from flash and video based banner advertising, to online e-mail marketing campaigns, search optimization and pay per click marketing options. The goal was to quickly build a strategy and monetize this suite of products in the Q4 of 2009. Corporate leaders hired the Blinder group to help sales teams kick-start sales of a new set of online packages.
First Blinder worked with senior management at corporate to develop bundled, pre-packaged, aggressively priced solutions for in each market. Blinder’s packages have a few key ingredients in the “secret sauce”:
1. CPM pricing is removed in favor of three tiers of advertising bundles. Blinder contends small businesses don’t understand CPM and respond better to audience share. “It is much easier to say, 'Mr. Advertiser, your ad will be seen this many times. Over this period of time. For this price,’” Blinder notes.
2. Each of the three tiers in the program blended a) high-frequency online banner campaign on the core site and b) Search Engine Optimization component (SEO) created by a locally hosted, online Business Profile Page for each advertiser. Higher priced programs added email and search marketing to the equation. "We were allowed to 'think on our feet,'" says Mike Blinder. "I made sure that if an advertiser wanted to customize the package we were presenting, we were prepped on all the offerings so we could swap something in or out to get the close during the call."
3. Each package included a heavy discount with “limited availability” suited for aggressive closing strategies – ie the “take away” . "This provides us with the needed urgency necessary during the local closing calls we provide for our clients while in market," said Blinder. "We need to be able to say to the advertiser, 'I know this may cause you to have to make a decision quickly, but, we can only sell a small amount of advertisers this exact program.' Or as I like to say: 'Mr. Advertiser, you can give us a yes. Or a no. And a no is okay. We just need a decision soon, because someone else may take your valuable slot!'"
3. Use of printed Power Point presentations to tell the story to the advertiser. "We sell a lot with paper and notcomputers.” The Power Points usually start with the “value of the online audience followed by the features and benefits of placing an ad in front of that audience. Followed by the value of any SEO product we are blending."
4. The three tiers and three separate fifteen-page presentations were crafted for each of the 22 local markets. Blinder reviews presentations with the local sales managers to obtain approval of the pricing and packaging, and personally trains each team
5. The Blinder Blitz. The most compelling part of the sales drive is a two week “Blinder Blitz”, in which each local market sets a goal, and sets up a schedule of “four-legged calls” with a sales trainer in the field.
Results: Overall, Freedom Communications generated $1.3 million in new contracts from the sales drives over ten weeks. The Victoville Daily Press had the most success, with $170,000 in new online revenue, and more than 70% of the advertisers targeted agreeing to at least a 6-month advertising commitment.
Lessons learned: "The key to our success in the program, was our commitment to setting up the sales calls for the Blinder Associate coming to our market," stated Stephan Wingert, Publisher of the Victoville (CA) Daily Press. He also said that making sure the appointments were with new advertisers, not support calls, meant that the two weeks generated maximum new advertising dollars.
“We knew how lucky we were to be getting this support from the folks at FI, so we made sure that each call we set up was in front of an appropriate advertiser, who could afford the program; and made sure the business 'decision maker' was present during the call."
Asked about the value of using a consultant, versus internal sales drives, Wingert said the combination of additional expertise and urgency made the “Blinder Blitz’s” more effective.
“We are trying to transition our sales force to sell audience and multiple solutions instead of print products. (Using a third party consultant) helps the sales person to learn better questions to ask, understand the products a little better, and see an expert’s ideas and solutions for advertisers. When the consultants come in, they are ready to learn and are better prepared. The whole group focuses on a particular product and hitting a goal for the period of time.”
“It also helps that we are competing with other papers in Freedom.
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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