I’ve recently done some significant work in introducing and mentoring newspaper and magazine sales reps who traditionally sell print advertising on how to sell online banner advertising campaigns, both to their existing clients and to new prospects afforded by the alternative medium and its accompanying alternative audience. Often these sales reps will discover that they are freed from the usual lead prospect constraints of their primary product inventory, the print edition, because the website product has the potential to reach a different audience that the print product just never would, and thus the prospect field becomes open to different types of businesses.

After giving a casual web presentation to a group of veteran print representatives on how to sell online advertising, one man spoke up and said, “All this information is good and impressive and I get it, but I don’t know how to sell it.” He was used to going in to a client meeting, explaining the print product (in this case it is a large weekly agriculture newspaper), and leaving with a sale. I was giving them information on website traffic, numbers of impressions and unique visitors, and explaining the concept of cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rate pricing; what this group needed in addition to that information was a clear step-by-step how-to on making an online advertising campaign sales pitch, an example of what a proposal would look like, and how they can deliver the close.

Here is the five step process that I outlined.

Introduce the concept of the availability of our online product. Often you will already be visiting with a client about print advertising. Open the conversation with something like, “What about online, are you doing any advertising on the internet?” Usually a business will say they don’t know anything about it, or they’ve tried a few Google or Facebook ads but haven’t had any significant results. This is the point where you then ask about their goals for their business, what customers are they trying to reach, what message do they want to send or what kind of growth do they want to achieve in any given market – oftentimes they will provide either a demographic profile (farmers with livestock, for example) or a geographic market (people in western North Dakota, for example). The more we can find out about our advertisers’ goals, the better value (greater accuracy and better results) we can deliver for them and the more they’ll spend with us… and usually their spend will be recurring, month to month.

As you find out about their business goals and discuss their experience with online advertising, start to introduce the tremendous opportunities we have to offer with our online audience.

Illustrate your portfolio of websites (or your one website, if that’s all you’ve got) in terms of its audience demographic and traffic numbers. Example: “We have more than 7 local entertainment websites that reach over 8.9 million people every month.” View statistical details on your website’s audience demographic and traffic numbers at Quantcast.com.
– If you have a portfolio of websites, start by showing the audience reach of your entire company network of websites, across which we can deliver an ad campaign. Ad sizes might perhaps be the same across all websites, the most common being “leaderboard” (horizontal banner across top – 728×90) or “half page” (vertical banner in right-hand column – 300×600). This provides for a “run of network” sales plane across which various market targeting is afforded.
– Quantcast.com is a good provider of webpages to show prospective clients (or make a printout of it if you are unable to access the internet during your meeting).

Website traffic demographic statistics (shown here for our website AnythingNebraska.com, as an example) from Quantcast.com.

Website traffic demographic statistics (shown here for our website AnythingNebraska.com, as an example) from Quantcast.com.

Our audience visiting our network of websites comes from all over the world, and we can segment and target granular markets based on geography:
– click the ‘Cities’ or ‘US States’ links on the right to drill down to the appropriate scope for your client to give an idea of how much traffic is coming from those respective segments
– another good page to show the client so they get an idea of the volume we’re talking about (this view is Unique Visitors – multiply roughly by 3 to get Total Visits, then by 3 again to get Total Impressions (also known as Page Views), which is the finite count of the inventory available to sell).
– an ad campaign can be set to target a specific state or states, cities, zip codes, DMAs, or any radius around these

Once an ad campaign is set to run across the network of sites, and is targeted to reach a certain set of geographic audience, we can further target a demographic profile by placing the ad contextually amongst a limited set of tag words (for example, only those articles or sections tagged “agriculture” or “cattle” … or “sports” or “technology” or “obituaries” etc. … a campaign can employ as many tag words as desired, there is no limit – but the law of diminishing returns comes into play if you get too specific with your words – for example, our editorial people don’t tag a lot of content “reindeer sightings”, so it doesn’t much pay off to bother tagging your ad campaign with that tag word … anyway, more on the specifics when you get into a real-life situation … just know that you can place an ad campaign contextually amongst editorial content centered around “agriculture” and/or “cattle” for example).

[Note: This particular media company has the advantage of owning multiple entertainment news websites each delivering to a varied geographic niche. Maybe your organization doesn’t have that opportunity … but I encourage you to think about it: what if you were able to add more websites to your publication portfolio? Perhaps it’s possible to further leverage your content with the resources you currently have by repurposing it for a secondary niche audience. A network portfolio of websites may afford more opportunity than a single website.]

As the prospective advertiser starts to get the picture on the opportunity available with delivering their message to our audience, we need to return to the question, “Who are you trying to reach? How many, where are they, what kind of people are they?”

Once you have that information, it’s a good idea to end the introductory online campaign meeting, retreat and confer with your advertising sales management team … somebody who can look up the website traffic numbers and give a realistic estimate on how many impressions may be available and what price to set for the campaign; you as a sales rep may know it vaguely, but if you’ve got somebody who manages the technical side of things for you it’s always a beneficial use of resources to confer your numbers with them and get specific detailed feedback and/or reassurance so that we can craft the best proposal possible that will meet the client’s needs and fit within our capabilities as described in the proposal/contract. “Let me get with my online team and see what we can do to deliver those results for you, maybe help you [reach those goals] … sell more in Minnesota … introduce Bismarck to your new widget … etc etc” … for example.

Example sales proposal for an online banner advertising campaign.

Example sales proposal for an online banner advertising campaign.

With a good idea in our minds on who the advertiser is trying to reach, we can assemble a proposal with enough volume (number of impressions) and the specific targeting needed to realistically deliver results. (see the attached example proposal that our fictional media publisher Our Media Company used for MNOPQ Windows – SOLD! [The names are made up, but the details of this example are written from an actual proposal.])

Return to the client with the proposal in hand, meet with them to fine-tune the details (maybe they want a different keyword, or more or fewer impressions, for example), and close the sale. We’ll book the online ad and it will be running in as little as a few days, or on the specified start date according to the client’s goals.

That’s pretty much it! A basic two-visit formula that works. If I were a sales rep, I would start getting as many of those first visits accomplished as I could possibly fit in my schedule – because every one of them is a newly opened door that simply needs to be walked through and ‘closed’ with the followup visit, proposal in hand. The quality of our audience and our ability to deliver a targeted campaign provide enough value to the advertiser to carry the proposal through to a successful sale, you just need to be there to communicate and facilitate the process… and nearly every time, if not every single time, the advertiser is pleased enough with the results that they will continue with their investment to another term.