As we accelerate taking our integrated ABCD (Audience, Bundle, Creative Innovation and Deal) sales strategy to market both locally and nationally, there is no more rewarding and at the same time frustrating comment at the end of a presentation than “I had no idea that you could provide all of these marketing options.”

Print. Online. Video. Mobile. Social. Digital ad network. Yahoo! audience extension.

All integrated in a way that maximizes reach and return on an advertiser's investment yet at the same time customized to reflect the advertiser's needs.

I received this e-mail from a local customer who last week grudgingly agreed to a meeting:

“You (The Denver Post) have done an impressive job reinventing the newspaper business. I appreciated the clinic. You have really opened my eyes. I'm optimistic that we will find ways to work together.”

So why don't a vast majority of advertisers have a good understanding that newspapers are much more than a one-trick print pony that is supposedly slowly dying? Clearly the answer is we haven't effectively communicated and evangelized to a broad enough segment of the market a deep enough understanding of how to use any or all our media assets.

“At Tribune, we do not strive to 'integrate for the sake of integration,'” Don Meek pointed out in his October 4 blog, “but rather to make sure our sales teams know enough about our entire portfolio … to develop a solution appropriate to the opportunity. This is a simple idea, and yet it has proven challenging to put into practice.”

Newspapers should not be viewed as an aging, tired medium but rather as a vibrant media ecosystem that can reach a mass audience or specific household.

Which brings us back to the fundamental importance of the Integrated Sales Model.

Why is it so important?

Competitive advantage. Newspapers are competing for market share of locally available advertising dollars. We believe that the only way to increase market share is to execute the Integrated Sales Model at the highest level with attractive multimedia options that generate revenue and produce proven returns on advertising spending!

As Paul Farrell said in his October 24 blog: “we are competing with Google, TV, radio and everybody else who dreams up a business plan that is solely funded by advertising revenues.” I would add Reach Local, advertising agencies that have launched digital ad networks, hyper-local web sites to the growing list of competitors. Farrell added that “the biggest risk for all of us in not embracing the concept of integrated selling is that we move too far downstream with advertisers and our only conversation is about rate and discount.”

In other words, those sales organizations approaching advertisers with vertical sales models are devaluing their media assets.

Learning to speak a second language. An inability to be as digitally fluent than a Google or Reach Local sales rep tags us once again with being a one-dimensional newspaper salesperson that has limited capacity to help the advertiser solve his or her marketing dilemma. Years of trust in the relationship with a newspaper sales rep can evaporate in a nanosecond if the rep is not equipped to credibly suggest options beyond a full-run ad in the Sunday newspaper.

Quality of sales force. The quality of the salespeople we attract and retain has everything to do with our ability to inspire them with a vision of what the future holds for a media brand that is so closely associated with a newspaper.

We have been able to attract sales leaders from outside the media industry including two that now have revenue responsibility for our mobile business and our digital ad network business. At the same time we have “legacy newspaper salespeople” that are flourishing in becoming effective multi-media sellers. One recently upgraded from a flip-top phone to a smart phone and shared with me that he had opened his mobile browser to check movie times and then clicked on a video trailer of the movie to show it to his father-in-law prior to going to the show. It helped a great deal that he happens to sit in the same cubicle as one of our online sales stars.

Competitive advantage … becoming multi-lingual in media speak … a high-quality, passionate, energized sales force. All of which adds up to a collective sales confidence that generates sustainable revenue growth and a great future!