Home' Local Media Today : February 2016 Contents 18 | LOCAL MEDIA TODAY | February 2016
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There are so many aspects of the local sales model that need to be re-thought. Data-
driven marketing, true consultative selling, smarter packaging, better training...a better
mousetrap all-around. That’s the problem we’re laser-focused on solving today through
big ideas like data-driven marketing automation and sales pipeline management tools
that are built specifically for local media – not one-size-fits-all systems. Now it’s about
bringing all of this together.
Q “Build it or partner?” – a common question media companies ask, especially
when looking at digital solutions. How should media companies evaluate
partnership opportunities? When is it good to partner? When is it not? Tips to help the
A I think this question ultimately comes down to honestly evaluating core
competencies. Or, to borrow from Jim Collins, what can you be the best in the
world at? And what is the economic engine tied to that? Everything else augments this
vision, and if it lies outside of core competencies but pushes forward this mission, then a
partnership path makes sense.
I work at a product company. We’re proud geeks! We LOVE to build stuff. It’s in our
DNA. But as we’ve grown bigger, and grown up, we’ve had some hard learnings – name-
ly, we can’t build everything. But we want to solve huge problems – our appetite has
never been bigger. How do we reconcile this? We make honest assessments about what
we can build that’s world class, and if it directly aligns with our mission. When consider-
ing an opportunity, if the answer is no to the first and yes to the second, then we’ll look
for great partners to extend our mission.
To me, the single most important quality in a partner is customer obsession. I don’t
use that term flippantly. They should obsess over how to help you grow. They should
be proactive. You should feel confident enough in them that you pick up the phone to
bounce ideas off them that may have nothing to do with their product because you trust
Q Media companies often have to choose where they want to funnel revenue
development energies and resources, especially as the pace of digital evolution
whirs faster and faster. How can media companies get more prudent about choosing the
right bets to make? And ensure that these bets have a higher outcome of success?
A First, listen to customers – obsessively! Both readers and advertisers. Let’s stop
pushing them what we think they want or what we want them to want, and start
observing their behaviors and assessing their attitudes. From there, we can identify key
themes that fuel ideation, story mapping, and prototypes to test. It’s the truest way to
achieve product-market fit; i.e. build products and services that directly solve problems
that users have identified.
I think I already mentioned this, but also understand how digital bets can build
on core competencies. Local media orgs are market leaders in several areas: content
creation, brand awareness, community engagement, and more. To make disparate
resource commitments to wildly different areas that don’t tie back to your foundational
advantages is inefficient. We’re not VCs; we’re not incubators. Let’s find smart ways to
take advantage of the things we do best.
Q Turning to sales productivity. Tips for recruiting/training and incenting sales forces?
Thoughts on how local media companies can boost sales efficiencies?
A Well, aside from leveraging data and technology to make a more efficient
machine, there’s the people dilemma. I believe digital sales success requires an
entirely different mode of thinking.
For instance, hire reps that may have never sold traditional media. Give them tools
like advertiser audit reports and top-notch reporting systems to allow them to focus on
selling, not process. Train them like crazy, and then train some more! At the end of the
day, you have to invest to get return, so paying and incentivizing competitively against
the digital pure plays that have been land grabbing both market share and top sales reps
I realize that wholesale overhauls are difficult, and in many cases unrealistic. But I
also know that building telesales centers, verticializing sales forces, and marketing full-
spectrum digital offerings requires a different breed of seller.
Q What can local media companies do to build and strengthen relations with their
A I think as an industry we have to stop just relying on our brands. Yes, those
brands are important. Let’s not minimize that. But advertisers have more
challenges that ever – they need partners who consistently deliver results, regardless of
any history with them. I think this comes back to listening...really, genuinely listening.
We kick around the term “consultative selling” a lot, but are we really doing that in
earnest? Or do we bring preconceived notions and rhetorical questions to sales conver-
sations? Are we authentically trying to solve their specific problems, or trying to protect
our margins and hang on to existing budgets?
I’m not naïve. I know the harsh industry realities we face. But until we truly deliver
the solutions that our advertisers are pining for, we’ll lose market share. This doesn’t
mean selling more things – the sales bag is already plenty full! It means selling smarter,
and more thoughtfully.
Q Where do you see the biggest opportunities for local media companies in 2016?
A It’s a tough environment out there – there isn’t money to burn, so smart bets are
essential. I think we also know that there isn’t a single silver bullet. You’re going
to need to make several bets then find a few that really pay off.
n Live events are one that local media companies can take advantage of right away,
with their established brands and access to content and newsmakers.
n I think you’ll see sales forces become more data-driven this year, which should
make them more efficient and consultative.
n Speaking of data, publishers will protect, collect, organize and utilize more data
than ever to produce more relevant content and deliver more meaningful advertising.
n And leading technologies that have really only been accessible at enterprise level
will start to become much more relevant to local advertisers. Programmatic display
and video top that list.
Q What industry thought leaders do you follow on a regular basis?
A I wrote my Master’s thesis on the principle of creative destruction, which is
rooted in elements of “the innovator’s dilemma,” so I follow and admire practi-
tioners of these ideas. Clayton Christensen, Tim Wu, Chris Anderson, Penny Abernathy
(my mentor in graduate school). Also, my background isn’t in product, but I’ve grown to
admire smart product builders with perspectives on how to systematize iterative,
successful product development. Paul Graham and Ben Horowitz come to mind.
Q Finally, what are some of your best business maxims?
A “Don’t be competitor obsessed; be customer obsessed.”
“Always have a bias toward action. There’s value in calculated risk-taking.”
“Find the right balance between working IN the business and working ON the business.”
“Hire good people, and get out of their way (but don’t leave them alone!)”
Finally, one from my CEO (I’m biased, I admit):
“10x, not 10%.” Think about exponential opportunities instead of incremental improve-
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