The pressure is on, true believers. Most of us are sitting in the last month of the always challenging first quarter. March represents the launching point for the rest of the year. The slow times of January and February are behind us. Now is the time to step up and lead your organisation.

Print has continued to show declines, which was expected. But if you haven’t started prioritising digital, you will face a tough road this year and beyond. We get print. We know how it works. We know how to sell it. Print is going to do what print is going to do.

Digital is your equaliser. I am not suggesting there will be an influx of new advertising dollars coming to your market. Quite the contrary. You can and will convert dollars from media competitors with the right mix of digital offerings.

I have talked previously about necessary digital growth rates above 50% — and finding your crossover point to determine when you will once again be a growing business. So today I am going to share some of the tactics I feel can help provide immediate lift to your digital run rates. And now is the time to position your sales organisation for success for the rest of the year.

One thing I know to be certain: Sales people love to sell things that advertisers want. Too many times we develop programmes, sections, and initiatives we cram down advertisers’ throats because we think it is a great idea. This is flawed thinking. In the digital world, the audience will tell us what they want.  

Think about Facebook for a second. That social media behemoth has been built on what the users want. And it is headed for a US$100 billion valuation. Hell, there is a movie all about keeping Facebook “cool” and not littering it with advertising.

So I ask you to think about creating solutions that drive audience. That in itself will build a mix of platforms and products your advertisers want. The buzzwords your local and regional advertisers hear today and want to be part of are search, social, mobile, targeting, re-targeting. You need to have these solutions. 

At Digital First Media, we took a very simple approach of bundling four products together that hit on a number of these buzzwords. These are products everyone can sell. It has been our approach and positioning that has created success. Here is that product mix:

  1. Newspaper.com ATF banners.

  2. Yahoo inventory.

  3. Facebook contextual ads.

  4. Directory package.

Fairly simple, right? These are things we sell on a day-to-day basis. Our sales people are trained under the ABCD sales model to create the right (B) bundle of products. These Digital 2.0 packages were priced on rate cards and sold as a collective solution.

But we do not list just the four products for our advertisers to see. We position a solution:

  1. We will geographically target your audience.

  2. We will target the behaviour you are looking for based on your current customer mix.

  3. We will supplement with an aggressive social media campaign to increase the “likes” of your Facebook page.

  4. We will include a solution to improve your positioning on search engine results.

We hit on the buzzwords: geo-targeting, behavioural targeting, social, and search.  This not only gets you in the door with your advertisers, but it shows them a comprehensive solution to their needs.

Yes, I am simplifying this a bit. And, yes, we have a much more complex mix of platforms and products using our Ad Taxi sales model. But this is an example of something that has worked well at DFM, something everyone reading this can do tomorrow, and it will create lift in your digital run rate.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of timing when looking to re-emphasise digital within your sales organisation.  March is that time. Advertisers are waking up from a long winter slumber, and what better way to greet them than with a complete solution for driving audience and customers to them? 

Reach local does not have the brands or the built-in audience you do. Take advantage of what differentiates you in the marketplace. We know we have more local sales people. We know we have better relationships. Don’t let these new start-ups take revenue from you. Remember, digital is a start-up for every newspaper company, and we must keep that mentality.

My final recommendation to get things moving is to look at creating an additional incentive programme that runs March through June. This is not a traditional quarter or period of time, but it is so critical for the year. Look at current run rates, increase your expectations for the next four months, and greatly reward those that exceed those expectations.

Put the cha in cha-ching!