The INMA World Congress earlier this month in Los Angeles was filled with insightful presentations and a sharing community. The focus was on cultural change and strategic topics, but I did take away a few important and innovative advertising sales nuggets.

  1. Consultative selling involves selling products provided by others in real advertising networks.

  2. Truly leveraging the sales channels will require significant upgrading of the organisation.

  3. Sponsorships may be under-utilised sales opportunities, particularly for brand-oriented advertisers.

First, consultative selling means selling products that are not ours via ad networks.  If the sales force is truly acting as consultants, then be prepared to sell products and services to meet the needs of customers.  

While several examples were cited, the AdTaxi of Digital First Media demonstrated the current “state of the art” among newspaper companies. Kirk MacDonald described how AdTaxi worked, claiming the AdTaxi digital network gives advertisers access to “premium” newspaper digital inventory, plus access to audiences across Yahoo! Analytics and reporting are at the heart of this effort. Kirk created quite a buzz around the concept, but made it clear that it was not for the faint of heart. 

Secondly, leveraging our sales channel will require significant upping of the capabilities. Thinking of newspapers’ local feet on the street as a barrier to entry and a competitive asset has long been bantered about. However, few local newsmedia companies really invested in their sales organisations to make this a reality.

Leslie Giallombardo shared the multi-year process Gannett has been leading where every aspect of selling has been challenged and improved. This effort is going beyond just teaching salespeople to sell digital. A multi-year effort has focused on hiring, training, compensation, and culture. In addition, true market assessments are done for each local market and salespeople are expected to build real pipelines of potential customers and proposals. Reporting (via customised outputs) and analytics are central to the process.

Leslie described the wrenching change this has been to the organisation. But, early signs suggest the ROI will be significant when Gannet builds a world-class sales organisation ready to compete and win. 

Third, several speakers urged participants to design and sell more sponsorships. There were several speakers sharing their experience with paywalls and digital subscriptions. In some cases, hidden within the success of growing revenues from audience was a gem about advertisers sponsoring free digital subscriptions for an introductory time.

Paul F. Smurl of The New York Times reported an advertiser received exclusivity as the sole sponsor to underwrite the digital subscription for a set period of time. Other examples included sponsorship of relevant pages and events. Jerry Harris of News Limited of Australia described a very successful sponsorship and content offering around the Australian Football League by the Herald Sun in Melbourne.   

These are the three advertising sales gems that got my attention at the World Congress; I am sure there were many more for the careful listener and for those embracing the need to change and innovate to serve marketers.