In the mid-1980s those of us in local television and radio sales used to marvel at the power of our local newspaper competitors. In Los Angeles, my compatriots and I would shake our heads in disbelief and envy when we talked about the Los Angeles Times out-billing all of us combined.
Back then the “coin of the realm” was a combination of relationships, buyers' habits, and near-monopolistic positions in our markets. Sure, we had an array of products to offer our customers, but they didn't go much beyond print, and even then they were largely limited to special sections and zones.
At Tribune Company today we see our business very differently. We no longer describe ourselves as a “newspaper company,” and instead view ourselves as a marketing solutions company that “makes markets” between buyers and sellers of goods and services.
The explosion of media choices that both our audiences and our advertisers now face precipitated this shift in focus. And while we may have been slow to embrace the true value and utility of this technology shift, we are now “all in” in our quest to redefine how we do business.
“Integrated media sales” is a catch phrase that is bandied about in almost every media organization today. But I fear it is often misunderstood and deployed in ways that may not be in the collective best interest of buyers or sellers.
In my mind, the new “coin of the realm” is an organization's ability (and by definition the collective ability of the individuals who make up that company) to serve the needs of their customers by delivering true solutions that actually help achieve an advertiser's objectives.
We have begun referring to our salespeople as “solutionists,” which in a word describes what we are asking them to do. And while a viable solution may include components from our entire portfolio of products — print, digital, mobile, events, direct — sometimes the best solution may be to simply answer an RFP (request for proposal) on time and with the specs that the client requested.
At Tribune we do not strive to “integrate for the sake of integration,” but rather to make sure that our sales teams know enough about our entire portfolio to conduct an effective Client Needs Analysis (CNA), and then bring that information back in-house and let our sales marketing specialists develop a solution appropriate to the opportunity.
This is a simple idea, and yet has proven challenging to put into practice.
From product design to technology innovation, from how we market to how we manage a program once it has been sold, in many instances we are blazing new trails every single day.
If you are managing a sales team, I encourage you to make that shift in your own mind from selling products to delivering solutions. The key here will be ensuring that you are defining your business correctly, putting effective training and management tools in place and recruiting people who “get it.”
For those of you on the front line, I encourage you to immerse yourself in your product portfolio and in your clients' businesses. Make sure you understand what you can deliver, but more importantly what the client needs to succeed. Be that expert consultant who gets the first call when your client is trying to solve a problem or come up with a new approach.
Those of us in the local media business have a front row seat for some of the most profound and exciting change our industry has ever experienced. We have tremendously valuable platforms and infrastructure, and the advantage of operating with trusted brands. The local game is ours to win if we are ready, willing and able to meet the market where it is today and where it's going in the future.