GeoMinds: Death of The ‘Frankenstack’ and “one-stop local services shop”
Simpli.fi CRO James Moore argues against local digital publishers’ wishes for a “one-stop local advertising services shop.”
I work with dozens of newspaper, radio, and TV broadcasting organizations every week. While they are unique in many ways, there are some common challenges facing their large and ever-changing local sales and operations teams.
One of the most common obstacles that exist in local media is the local business owners’ desire to consolidate advertising budgets behind one or few trusted partners. While this may sound appealing, the resulting actions taken by local publishers have often been a race to introduce a mass of digital media tactics into a one-stop shop offering that I lovingly refer to as “The Frankenstack.”
The average local publisher and broadcasting organization currently offers 10-25 digital products to their clientele in addition to their core media offering. In most cases, this has been created through the rapid adoption of multiple vendors with a variety of pricing and service models. It’s not uncommon for local sales teams to resell products related to search, display, mobile, video, reputation management, email, website building, and more. In fact, as local competition increases, many have begun to stack multiple companies within display, within mobile, and so on, as no one wants to be left selling a solution missing key features their local market may demand.
In July 2014 Forrester conducted a study in which 100 local media executives in more than 29 DMAs chimed in on the challenges they face with the changing demands in their local markets. Not surprisingly, the majority of their challenges are internal as they struggle with gaining operational efficiency and sustained sales production that truly drives incremental revenue. What was meant to be an integrated solution looks and feels like it is bolted and sewn together.
Some local media executives are taking deliberate action to get rid of The Frankenstack, with the result of better margins, better performance, and unified organizational adoption of their digital strategies. What are they doing? Below are three distinct strategies successful local-focused sales organizations are making in 2015 to deliver a new level of incremental revenue growth.
1. Choose a Winner & Consolidate
In an effort to create internal synergy and momentum behind their digital solutions, many publishers and broadcasters are consolidating multiple vendors into a single winner within broad tactic categories such as display. Today there are platforms with optional service layers that allow companies to execute on client goals at transparent wholesale pricing while delivering campaigns across display, mobile, and video through a single interface. In fact, many are leveraging these technology platforms and their APIs to achieve their extension needs while eliminating all occurrences of double entry and vendor recognition within their work flow.
There is significant momentum and power in eliminating the chaos of multiple vendors while selecting one or few solutions to build your business on. They may not always have every possible feature you want, but if you partner with the right company you can meet the needs of your clients and build innovative solutions together.
2. Separate Sales from Fulfillment
Another significant step being taken by successful local sales organizations is separating their sales teams from vendors who may be used for fulfillment. Unfortunately, in many local sales organizations there is a steady stream of third party vendors being adopted as another tactic or product to introduce into their client base. Innocently enough, it has long since been believed that the vendors have the knowledge that local sales teams need and the bandwidth to participate in on-site trainings, field rides, and direct sales facing support such as proposal creation and collateral support.
It turns out there are some long-lasting consequences that have emerged with repetition. First, when you expose your back-end vendor to your sales team, you create a real dilemma. When a campaign inevitably performs poorly, the local rep announces to his peers, “This product is broken.” It doesn’t matter how the bulk of campaigns perform or who has the best pricing for your long term goals, or even how committed the executive team is to partnership success; life gets hard when internal sales people begin poisoning the initiative. In fact, even when service is 100 percent of expectations, local sales people are logically more likely to chase the newest shiny service presented from whichever vendor visited most recently. Instead of one decision maker guiding the future of your company, you have fifty sales reps influencing the vendor to use on a campaign-by-campaign basis and not all of their filters are in line with management.
In the end, successful organizations are training their teams directly on becoming outstanding digital sales professionals representing clear and connected solutions. They have their sales team focused on selling better and smarter and not on vendor evaluation and selection. In fact, if executed effectively, your sales team may never know that the technology you use to deliver their campaigns is anything other than your very own.
3. Differentiate With Your Own DNA
Another major theme in local media is the need to stop reselling and start innovating. Too many times local sales teams have taken a prepackaged vendor offering to market that provides very little opportunity to differentiate. This leaves their local team frustrated and has a direct impact on client renewal rates. In a world of real-time bidding, the truth is that there is no reliable way to guarantee exclusivity of your solutions, unless you inject what is uniquely yours.
What is uniquely yours? For many publishers and broadcasters this means leveraging your own data — the unique audiences visiting your owned and operated properties to create real extension products that can reach these proprietary audiences on virtually any website or app on any device. If done effectively, even the look-a-like modeling done by most platforms becomes as unique to your offering as your owned and operated audiences. This fundamentally changes the story when compared to local sellers who are simply selling third party audiences. Even when selling extension solutions there is significant performance lift to be gained by introducing local intelligence into the audience being targeted such as local competitor information, local specific services or inventory information, etc.
In the end, many are finding that the death of The Frankenstack of vendors is key to their long-term success. Disconnected interfaces, different pricing and varied service models prevent them from getting full control over internal teams and moving digital revenues consistently forward. Consolidating services behind fewer integrated technologies is a huge leap forward in moving into a new level of growth. Leading local-focused companies evaluate and select key partners while developing operational expertise around these partners. They train their sales organization on becoming best-in-class at digital sales and not vendor selection. This trend is in full swing among many large locally-focused sales organizations, and I predict unprecedented growth among those who execute on the vision successfully.
*James Moore is the Chief Revenue Officer for Simpli.fi, a company recognized as the authority in search retargeting. Since the mid 90’s James has been involved in leading companies who are paving new paths in digital space.
**Editor’s Note: Our “GeoMinds” opinion series features posts written by outside contributors from all parts of the GeoMarketing community who want to share their views of the trends, issues, problems, and solutions changing the online-to-offline advertising and marketing landscape.