8 Tips for Transitioning from a Traditional Media House to a Digital Powerhouse


Insights From Craig Diebel — 8 Tips For Transitioning from a Traditional Media House to a Digital Powerhouse
This article was originally published by the Association of National Advertisers.

2017 was an admittedly scary time for the traditional media world — newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. But 2018 doesn’t have to be. Many traditional media companies are transitioning their clients into the digital world while growing their digital sales revenue.

Like many of you, I recently found myself introduced to a whole new world of targeted digital advertising. After 37 years, I made the leap from a sales leader of a traditional media company to working with an advertising company.

Technology has changed the way we do business. After working in both traditional and digital media, there are eight key things I believe local media group executives and managers should do to grow their digital revenue and secure relevance for their company as digital continues to change the face of this industry.

1. Go Beyond Relationships to Results

Local media groups all say they have the best relationships with advertisers in their market. That’s their strength, and I used to say the same thing. But looking back, I rewarded sales reps for their relationships rather than encouraging them to push clients outside of their comfort zones.

Organizations that will sell past the relationship are more successful. They are focused on results and will challenge their clients. Get comfortable with telling your clients what will work the best and not just what they want to hear.

2. Sell Bigger

I wish I had gotten my reps to sell bigger. Many traditional sellers pick budgets they are comfortable with, but the client might have more budget or be willing to run longer flights. Advertisers will often ask, “Is that spend big enough to make a difference?” Paint a big picture versus thinking small.

3. Focus on “Sticky” Campaigns

It’s really about the sale after the sale. Some campaigns are “sticky” and some are “slick.” I focused too much on getting reps to meet their quota each month, no matter what. As a result, we sold a lot of bad campaigns that were slick and resulted in high churn. Sell something that gets good results and value the renewal contract over the first sale.

Identify the traits of sticky campaigns for your company and focus the efforts of your sales reps there. As a result, your advertisers will keep coming back.

4. Avoid Buzzwords. Become an Expert.

A sales rep should not be in front of a local advertiser using a lot of buzzwords or acronyms. They think they sound smart, but the advertiser may not know what a term means and if they don’t ask and they keep hearing that same word, they’ll check out. At that point, your presentation is all but over. It’s important to understand what you are selling so you can avoid buzzwords.

5. Intent-Based Advertising Rules

Coming from traditional advertising, we’re all used to selling with demographics. I think advertisers have always wanted to buy based on the intent of their audience, but they fall back into what they are comfortable with. They’ll ask, can I reach women? Can I reach men between 25 and 42 years old who are into golf?

In a world of real-time programmatic media buying, targeting based on intent beats demo-based segments for localized advertising any day. It’s like search targeting in Google AdWords. You pick the keywords based on the intent of your audience versus bidding on a specific demo who may or may not be interested.

6. Scale Back on the Products You Sell

During the last 10 years at a traditional media company, my role was to evaluate our digital products and train the salesforce on how to sell them. Over time, I added on the next product. And the next one. We never dropped anything. The sheer volume of options confused people.

The more successful sellers have chosen to focus on the products that fit cohesively into the traditional media they sell. Consider which offerings in your product mix take the most time and money to train reps. Identify the few things you want to focus on and sell those. Don’t try to be everything.

7. Success Starts with the Sales Manager

For media organizations, one of the most common causes of failure is a direct line sales manager who doesn’t understand the digital products the company is selling. When the reps know their manager is not informed, they don’t do well. But when the manager knows more about the product than the reps, they’ll do much better. Focus your training efforts on making sure the sales managers are trained and the sales reps will follow.

8. Be Resilient

You’re going to fail at times. I sure did. I also gave up a lot and often too soon. You have to have the stomach for selling digital. Be resilient. Over time and with experience packaging many products together, I decided targeted display was best because it had highest results. Decide what spot you are going to pick and stick with it.

The pace of change is increasing each year, and it will be even faster this year. Selling advertising today is a tech sale, so expect to be continually learning how new tech works and don’t be afraid to be first in your market. Find the right partners to help guide you through this digital transformation.