local media insider

"Stop pitching us products" and we'll buy more of them


We've been advocating that developing better creative solutions for local advertisers ("What's the Big Idea?") is an important part of creating future business models. But the revenue team at Palm Beach Post is actively testing this theory with amazing results: a 90% increase in collective revenues from advertisers handled through Innovative Client Solutions in the first quarter tracked.

The new department includes an inhouse agency of eight people that "just" brainstorms and develops "big ideas" for clients. They focus especially on mid-sized businesses that VP of Revenue Development, Chuck Gerardi, calls a  'sweet spot' that has been underspending on marketing.

To give an idea of the proportion of this internal investment to the organization as a whole, Palm Beach Post has about 45 outside sales reps, so that's about one non-seller in the "Creative Ideas" group per five outside reps.

In the process of preparing this case study, I asked Gerardi how long he thought he could sustain an eight person team of non-sellers just to brainstorm ideas for clients.

“It's early in game for the sale associates to understand the tools. Once they do, we'll have no trouble justifying resources. We hope to make (the department) larger.”

In fact he expects the Creative Ideas team to double its volume from one brainstorm session to two per day. The first quarter tracked at $145,000 gain in new revenues, so doubling that number is $1 million in new revenue growth from just 20% of advertisers. See the full case study here.

If you are running a smaller media company, this is a scalable model: Think in terms of freeing up a creative type per five to eight sales representatives, and equiping the group with formal brainstorming techniques. Look at deploying services such as SEO and SEM and social media even if you need a third party partner (Orange Soda and Ballyhoo Media are two possibilities here).

We also downloaded Gerardi's summary of ten takeaways from their internal advertiser survey; so find out here "What Advertisers Want". It's spot on, and I doubt it varies much from market to market.

Special shout-out also goes to Suzanne Pepper, the Director of Innovative Client Solutions department, for sharing how she developed the new department. If the Palm Beach Post is starting to sound familiar, it's because they have exciting and well-thought-through initiatives such as monetizing Twitter feeds and conducting seminars for advertisers. 

On a side note: A few people have asked us about McClatchey's new partnership with Groupon. McClatchey will certainly make money short term on partnering with the best known brand, with the most experience and the best-of-class technology. Still, this may not be a great long term strategic move. Unlike Google or Facebook which compete on the basis of a centralized information services, the coupon market is localized and will always have competitors. Daily-deal  technology has already been knocked off by a couple hundred suppliers and most large media companies have some form of daily deal in the works. The combined presence of these competitors, half-off deals and Livingsocial promised to erode Groupon's "specialness."  The markets are now flooded with emailed and otherwise touted deals.  Groupon's  unbelievable growth spurt (and even more remarkable open rate)  probably would eventually at least peeter-out from the "thousands cuts" from media organizations. Not so much since the McClatchey deal. 


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  • jeffreyrbunch


    Great post. I think there is a great value in being a full-service marketing consultant to small and medium business; this isn't just selling "ads" or one-off, "turnkey" vendor solutions. What needs to happen is a deepening of relationships with existing customers and qualify for those who want more specialized services (SEO/SEM), offered either by us or by our strategic partners. Your site has proven case studies of publishers having success with this approach.

    Monday, August 16, 2010 Report this

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