The advertising world as we knew it is gone. The new ad world is spinning and shaking and shifting, as ad budgets shoulder their way out the door to follow audiences across media platforms and delivery systems.

Pieces of the local advertising pie continue to be sliced up, with many newsmedia companies finding themselves playing catch-up as they adapt their marketing and sales resources to new advertising cost/revenue realities, new competition for local ad budgets, and a new kind of advertiser.

In a new world — where ad services may be more valuable than ad sales, Groupon wants to be the technology company for local merchants, and competitors scream search, social, and geo-targeting from every Holiday Inn — the road to success still starts and ends with customers.

Bob Provost, director of marketing at The Star-Ledger, is smart. Bob’s recent inma.org Bottom-Line Marketing blog, “Ask clients and sales staff how to build a better advertising sales pitch,” shares how their client-centric approach led to improving the effectiveness of advertising sales collateral in communicating value and benefits to advertisers, as well as motivating ad sales staff to sell more. This story is just one example of how a customer-centric culture can lead to business decisions that drive change and improve results.

The Star-Ledger talked with advertisers. They asked advertisers what was important to them. They listened and then applied what they learned. Their customer-centric approach resulted in improved marketing standards, processes, and collateral, as well as a multi-channel campaign featuring advertisers testifying to the value and benefits of their multi-platform advertising services.

Adam Burnham, senior vice president for local digital sales at Digital First Media, is smart. Adam’s inma.org Innovative Advertising Solutions blog, “Bundle the products your clients want to buy: mobile, search, targeting,” shares how their client-centric approach led to not only bundling their product offerings, but positioning each product as a solution for advertisers that addresses their targeting, social media, and search marketing needs.

Digital First Media learned that “cramming” programmes, sections, and initiatives down “advertisers’ throats” does not generate the revenue growth that a customer-centric approach delivers through bundling advertising services and positioning them as solutions to advertisers’ needs.

Gordon Borrell, president of Borrell Associates, is smart. In a recent e-mail promoting the company’s Local Online Advertising Conference, he shared several “interesting things” gleaned from preparing conference speakers. Each is an example of how the world of advertising is changing, and also why newsmedia companies need to adopt a customer-centric culture to capture local advertising budgets.

  • Online media will topple newspapers as the No. 1 shareholder of local advertising in two years.

  • Telemarketing for online advertising sales is growing in importance as media adjust selling costs to advertising value.

  • Direct mail companies are entering the online space driven by coupon distribution.

  • Ad services (Web site development, SEO, creative, etc.) may be more profitable than advertising sales.

Groupon is smart. A recent article by Tricia Duryee at All Things Digital, “Groupon Scheduler rolls out beta as part of larger tech ambitions,” reveals Groupon’s plan to position itself as the technology company for local merchants. One of the company’s first product expansions is Groupon Scheduler, an online calendar that lets small businesses, like spas and salons, book online appointments. The new service is free for now and is being used to retain relationships with current Groupon merchants, as well as reach out to other small business customers.

Yet another example of how a customer-centric culture leads to developing products that address customer’s needs and provides synergy with other product offerings. You’ve got your Groupon, now book your appointment.

Newsmedia companies are smart. They know adopting a customer-centric culture is critical to capturing local ad budgets. They know success has always — and will always — start and end with customers.