New Singapore Press Holdings sales initiative: Yes to beer, no to salespeople

By Geoff Tan

Singapore Press Holdings Limited



Unlike the often-quoted antimetabole (defined as a literary and rhetorical device in which a phrase or sentence is repeated but in reverse order), “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” we at Singapore Press Holdings are doing things a little differently.

The bleak economic sentiment, unsettling situations around the world, evolving media eco-system, immense rise of digital natives, threat of e-commerce — these scenarios and more have driven us to birth new and innovative strategies that empower greater affinity with our valued clientele.

High-touch strategies help Singapore Press Holdings provide potential customers with information about all of its offerings.
High-touch strategies help Singapore Press Holdings provide potential customers with information about all of its offerings.

From the advertising sales side of the fence, we have always valued and respected the tripartite relationship involving the brand owner (or advertiser), the agency (primarily media), and the media owner (which is us).

This was institutionalised way back when advertising agencies were structured as all-in-one integrated entities providing a full scope of services — creative, media, public relations, events, direct response, etc.

Many years on, when disintegration hit the industry and things went in favour of specialist agencies, our service orientation was then solely directed at media independents, especially as these were the folks who physically placed ads with us.

Creative agencies, PR companies, and event consultancies were often neglected and relegated to become distant cousins of the mainstay, often only approached when directed to by the advertiser.

To achieve a balance across our trade engagement strategies, early on we embarked on a host of ideas including the launch of an industry newsletter called eAdvine. We also incorporated the SPH Iink Awards (newspaper advertising accolades) to strengthen our link with the creative and advertising fraternity. The latter was enlarged three years ago to include digital, out-of-home, radio, and integrated media categories.

Earlier this year, we took our industry touch-point strategies up a notch amidst an overcast business climate and embarked on a concept called the “Ideas Huddle.”

The fundamental premise for birthing this was based on anecdotal evidence that the advertising professionals out there in the market do not know everything we have to offer.

Much like a “raid,” the Ideas Huddle entails descending upon agencies at four in the afternoon, cracking open a carton of beer, laying delectable bites on their conference room table, and then taking the attendees through a casual ideas exchange that invariably showcases our ability to creatively amplify their clients’ propositions.

We are conscious not to hard sell them advertising. Hence, there are no salespeople in the Ideas Huddle team.

We welcome questions. We are often challenged to look into other unexplored creative options after they have heard our spiel. On many an occasions, we are invited back to the agency to drill down into one or more of the ideas shared at the huddle.

The most common remark we hear across the sessions is: “I didn’t know you can do that.”

Well, now they do!

Creating a “stickiness” with the folks who decide on media or platform selection is hugely important. There is every reason for us to sow the “creative” seed and solidify our position as Singapore’s preferred media partner of choice that not only has an extensive range of best-in-class titles, but also a wealth of cutting-edge ideas that will drive the advertiser’s message so much further.

In these days — when everyone seems to be jumping on the digital bandwagon to build rapport with their customers through electronic direct mailers, interactive Web sites, and a host of sophisticated CRM tools — much attention has been directed to high-tech methodologies, often at the expense of high-touch forms of engagement.

The Ideas Huddle is our form of a high-touch strategy, which accords us the opportunity to come face-to-face with creative and media practitioners and hear from them their challenges and concerns. At the same time, it lets us share with them our latest bells and whistles.

We are mindful and always conscious that any strategy we implement is as good as how it is structured and executed. One that is worth its salt must fundamentally be based on delivering benefits rather than features.

Our natural tendency is to boast about our product attributes. However, customers are more interested in how our products can help them sell better. Instead of getting all excited about what we have, we need to put ourselves into our customers’ shoes and see through our customers’ eyes.

I started with an antimetabole. It is only appropriate to conclude this piece with a few more that relate to this blog post:

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant.”

“If you fail to plan, plan to fail.”

“Ask not what your company can do for you; ask what you can do for your company.”

Happy huddling!

About Geoff Tan

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