Media companies need these 5 actions to provide real solutions to advertisers

By Shelley Seale


Austin, Texas, USA


The advertising landscape in news media is emerging from a year of massive change. Advertisers and agencies are flocking to online channels to capture the surge of content consumption and e-commerce opportunities that came with months of lockdown.

That change is constant and accelerating, says Quang Do, principal at Alexander Group.

The revenue growth management consulting firm conducted research on industry trends in advertising revenue, sharing their findings with INMA members in an Advertising Initiative Meet-Up on Wednesday.

The research was done across all types of media, using more than 50 datasets and 50+ interviews with sales VPs, CSOs and CROs across the industry.

“At the end of the day, we take a step back and look at the industry as a whole. The landscape is changing very rapidly,” Do said.

In 2017, purely digital companies began really changing the game in many respects. By 2019, solution selling required investment in new roles to sell multi-product offerings. Today, new buyer demands necessitate go-to-market transformations.

“Advertisers have a lot of choices,” Do said. “To be effective, you need to be able to sell solutions.”

The Alexander Group is seeing an overarching theme: The demands from today’s advertisers are different than they’ve been in the past. Offering real solutions means those solutions must be impactful and drive the goals of the advertisers.

Do provided some statistics:

  • Digital drives growth: 71% of total media spend is digital.

  • Competition has intensified: 64% of digital ad spend goes to the big three of Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

  • Buyers demand return on investment (ROI): 64% of buyers have shifted emphasis to performance marketing.

  • E-commerce has accelerated: 50% of advertisers and agencies have increased their focus on e-commerce.

  • The cookieless future is looming: 41% of buyers partner with technology vendors to prepare for this.

“It really all goes back to the buyers are demanding more,” Do said.

He covered five things news media companies need to do to meet today’s advertiser demands and grow revenue

  1. Place winning product and customer bets. Most companies rely on historical spend and account plans, while leaders use data-driven, dynamic processes.

  2. Capture the voice of the advertiser and agency (VO2A). Customer needs are constantly evolving, and leaders capture VO2A and integrate those findings into their sales strategy to stay ahead of trends.

  3. Deploy revenue accretive account management and overlay roles. Account managers are evolving into four distinct types.

  4. Rethink sales compensation to balance teaming versus performance.

  5. Professionalise revenue operations. As buyer journeys become increasingly non-linear, revenue operations play a key role to unlock growth.

The second and third of these were the focus of the Meet-Up, and Do concentrated on those.

Capturing voice of the advertiser and agency

The loss of cookies and the scramble for first-party data is a major change driver for VO2A, which captures the perceptions, preferences, and priorities of advertisers and agencies to inform sales strategies.

Capturing voice of the advertiser and agency is a vital part of the sales process today.
Capturing voice of the advertiser and agency is a vital part of the sales process today.

“Leaders are the ones who have a process in place today,” Do said. “They’re also locking more growth than their peers. The result of having a process is there.”

Those leading practises include systematically capturing advertiser and agency feedback to ensure understanding of key issues and goals. It’s also about having a defined, repeatable process that engages key stakeholders and translates findings into day-to-day sales strategies. 

Leaders are winning more share of the advertising wallet by listening to insights. Advertiser and agency feedback from a diverse group of clients is table stakes for customer-centric sales models, Do said. There are several key benefits to VO2A:

  • Monitor client mood and engagement.

  • Stay abreast of advertiser and agency business needs.

  • Understand pressing customer issues and concerns.

  • Collect product and offering feedback.

Leaders are winning more share of the advertising wallet by listening to insights.
Leaders are winning more share of the advertising wallet by listening to insights.

“Ultimately it’s staying ahead of the perception and recognising that your buyer’s demands are changing in a market that’s continually changing,” Do said.

To translate VO2A findings into higher revenue growth and retention, media companies need to do four things:

  • Build a cadence. Follow a formal, repeatable process on a standard schedule.

  • Include cross-functional stakeholders. Sales must collaborate with marketing in the process.

  • Choose the right format. Whether that is interviews, a panel, survey, etc., the right format must be used to capture feedback and insights.

  • Translate into action. Share findings on an ongoing basis and translate insights into action by establishing timelines and providing a feedback loop for clients.

“Information that is not used is useless,” Do said. “Make sure the folks that are on the ground working with advertisers know what to do with that information.”

There’s no single correct cadence to leverage formal engagement options for richer feedback, he added, but a quarterly or bi-annual basis seems to work best. 

There’s no single correct cadence to leverage formal engagement options for richer feedback, but a quarterly or bi-annual basis seems to work best.
There’s no single correct cadence to leverage formal engagement options for richer feedback, but a quarterly or bi-annual basis seems to work best.

Deploying revenue-accretive account management and overlay roles

Tim Meuschke, director of Alexander Group, discussed account management roles. As they conducted their research, he said that most of their clients were asking them how to deploy account management roles that would drive revenue.

Leaders select the best types of account manager (AM) roles to fit their strategy, Meuschke said. Change drivers are AMs struggling to build expertise across an ever-growing product and solution portfolio, advertisers demanding dedicated roles to manage and optimise the ROI of their campaigns, and publishers placing increased emphasis on retention and expansion in growth planning.

“There are two things that are happening as to why this role is so important. First, advertisers are demanding it, and publishers are realising that this role is important to retain advertisers and grow.”

There are a few leading practises that media companies can implement:

  • Understand account manager role options, benefits and drawbacks, and sales process involvement.

  • Select the right roles from the four AM archetypes based on account potential, sales motion, channel, and product complexity.

  • Determine correct headcount levels and pay to achieve ROI.

Leaders pay their AMs 20% more compared to their peers, and they deploy 50% more AMs per account executive, Meuschke said: “They’re doing this because they believe they’ll get more ROI from it in the long run.”

The four AM archetypes are:

  • Post-sale admin support, who are there to provide support and monitor campaigns.

  • Full sales cycle admin support, who also provide pre-sales support.

  • Post-sale client management, who manage the client relationship, assist with optimisation, and identify opportunities.

  • Pure account management, a role that identifies and closes opportunities and owns the re-sell.

There are four main types of account manager archetypes.
There are four main types of account manager archetypes.

Meuschke said they are seeing these AM roles starting to move more to pure account managers. The people in these roles cultivate the client and make sure they’re happy, while the sales/AE people hunt for new clients.

“You own the client post-sale. You own the re-sell. We see about 20% of our clients either deploying this role, or looking to in the next year,” he said.

Most companies today are only deploying one time of AM, but Alexander Group is seeing that leading companies are creating two, or even three, different types of AM roles. This is done successfully by designing clear roles, highlighting key success criteria and common pitfalls of AM role deployment.

Success criteria include:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities.

  • Defined competencies that match role profiles.

  • Activities clearly split between account manager and account executive.

  • Variable incentive and pay levels to match each role type.

Common pitfalls include:

  • Blended roles, for example, blended pre-sales and post-sales admin support.

  • Mismatch of incumbent skills and job requirements.

  • Unclear rules of engagement leading to inefficiency.

  • Incorrect account assignments.

  • Responsibilities that exceed the job bandwidth.

Splitting the role into two different roles, for example post-sale admin support and post-sale client management role, takes the administrative responsibility away from the client management role so they can focus more on cultivating and upselling the client. Companies who are doing this expect an ROI of 20-30% more revenue, Meuschke said.

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About Shelley Seale

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