local media insider

Is local media selling what small business is buying?

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Long term planning is back. A few sizable local media companies have committed to growing digital revenues from 10% to 25% of overall revenues in the next three years. We think more local media companies should look at this number as a target.

What, exactly, constitutes digital revenues is not the same in every company. Typically, classifieds include forced online or print sales and can be counted as either one or both. Auto online display ads can be included as display or in the classified numbers.

Still, no matter where the baseline number is initially placed, adding or replacing 15% of overall revenues with digital products and services is a huge target, even when a variety of revenue streams are added together.

Where will this revenue come from? Display, mobile, deals, directories, niche sites, user-generated initiatives all contribute. But none of these, however, is the proverbial 'silver bullet'. The winners will be companies who not only commit but can execute well.

There are a couple of areas where attention to detail will pay off. First, look for what regional and small businesses are interested in buying, and second, look for opportunities to back up non-traditional marketing ideas with display ads.

The Small and Medium Business (SMB) Survey by ItzBelden (now owned by Borrell & Associates) helps answer whether or not local media are selling what small businesses are buying.

Here are a few ideas from a review of the survey:

• About 45% of advertisers surveyed - and these are newspaper advertisers - use three to five types of traditional media. Most SMB advertisers in the study are planning to increase digital and decrease traditional media. Every change like this is an opportunity for a competing sales team. Call on leads across media types to take advantage of shifts in direction at the individual advertiser level.

As a defensive strategy, make sure to have the conversation about digital strategy with your advertisers first before another media companies in the market beats you to it!

• Yellow page advertisers seem particularily vulnerable. Advertisers are, however, very interested in search. About 30% of advertisers have bought pay-per-click campaigns - more than use email to target customers. Our take is that very good SEO products will gain traction, especially ones that offer SEO rich capabilities. If your company is confident in its SEM and SEO products, crack open the yellow pages - there is money there to be made!

• 28% of customers are using email to target customers. These accounts are ideal for developing new text-marketing programs. Most SMB advertisers surveyed are looking at mobile but haven't decided how to use it. If your company is selling text-marketing platforms of any kind, put a program in place to incent even non-sales employees to forward email marketing campaigns they receive to a single contact point who can disperse these as leads. Friday afternoon off for the most emails forwarded?

• 39% of advertisers are still using non-daily city or lifestyle magazines. Typically these businesses respond to well-priced packages that allow them to "step up" to a larger media without spending more money. Digital products are an ideal way to compete for these smaller advertisers who are already engaged in marketing.

• 50% of advertisers surveyed also use radio. This is another category that looks vulnerable to other media with stronger digital platforms. A good radio monitoring system is hard to put in place but may be worthwhile for 2011. Kantor monitors all radio and cable and is worth investing in if your market has several regional reps planning to go after these mid-tier accounts.

Assigning radio stations (which can be switched) to monitor to admin desks is one way to collect these on the cheap.

We are also hearing more about Facebook from sales representatives in many markets. About 46% of businesses surveyed have a social media presence. Teach sales representatives to teach customers to drive email opt-ins and Facebook fans using digital and mobile campaigns and they will be able to fully participate in these conversations.

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