Is Selling Digital Really Hard

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Jul 8, 2022 by Sean Luce

During one of my recent seminars for business owners, called "The Shift -- How Online Advertising Can Strengthen Your Media Mix," I pointed out that since 2007-2008, how ad dollars are allocated has been changing, with the Internet grabbing hold of money that had typically gone to radio, television, and, of course, newspapers. Add the "Great Recession" in the fall of 2008, and it was the perfect storm for reallocating media dollars. Could we be in for another shift this Fall or within a year?

And, of course, media usage is changing dramatically as well. Is this going to leave radio and TV looking at revenue in the rear-view mirror? Nope. Radio and TV continue to be used as strong drivers to local advertisers' Websites and continue to build huge top-of-mind awareness.

Kroger finally got it -- from the Wall Street Journal: 
"Kroger Co. and Supervalu Inc. also have stepped up their media spending. Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain by sales, says part of the increase comes as it has redirected spending from weekly circulars (FSIs), which are becoming less effective, to radio, TV and the Internet" (October 14, 2010)., TV, and the Internet. The number one U.S. grocery chain by sales increases its advertising and cuts back on FSIs. What do they know that others don't know? It's simple, really. Radio and TV build top-of-mind awareness, and the Internet measures, sources, and tracks. Perfect combination of media usage by an advertiser. Nothing fancy here. 

From USA Today:
"Our demand for deals is forcing high-end retailers such as Whole Foods and Starbucks -- whose growth symbolized recent boom times -- to change how they do business. Three years ago, 48% of consumers bought most products on sale. Today, it's 55%, says NPD Group, a retail market researcher. Last year, nearly 7 in 10 consumers shopped in a discount, big volume or off-priced store, compared with 5 in 10 three years ago, NPD says." (April 21, 2010).

Hmmm -- who can track deals better than any other media? Internet, of course.

So why is it so hard to sell Internet at your radio or TV stations? Why does it seem like learning how to sell the Internet at radio and TV properties is like learning a whole new language? In my opinion, the Internet is easier to sell than broadcast media -- and it's not that hard to sell radio and TV with a focused effort and sound selling principles.

Conversion Experience
Converting radio and TV reps to sell Internet is what's hard sometimes. If it were just a question of training your sales reps to sell your digital platform like they sell radio or TV, that would be pretty simple. But in larger markets, it's hard to persuade a broadcast rep to focus on selling the Internet inventory because their sales on your station or stations are averaging somewhere around $5,000 to $8,000 a month.

Measured by unique visitors, your Website might have around 10 percent of the overall cume of your radio station or stations-for example. If you're selling based on CPM, that could mean an average sale of $800, compared to $8,000 for selling the station on an average monthly sale. Reps can do the math, and they won't sell Web inventory until you run out of radio or TV inventory. Even increased commission for Web sales still leaves your reps chasing after lower dollars. In smaller markets, the conversion may be a little easier since average radio/TV and Web sales are often closer.

What to do?

Your Websites should be sold as a separate media property. Build a sales team on the Web. If you don't have the money to invest in a separate sales staff, teach your sales reps how to sell your Internet sites effectively. You can start with one person and build from there.

In larger markets, many agencies have separate digital divisions that deal only with Internet reps -- reps who understand the metrics and can present ideas on how to maximize the effectiveness and engagement of their Websites for an advertiser. Training someone to do that takes time, and it won't happen overnight.

Combined Forces
What's the real difference between selling broadcast and Internet? Not much, really. It's the same as selling any product or service. You still have to find out your advertiser's needs, objectives, and expectations.

You're not selling  15;s, 30s and 60s, you're selling 728 by 90s, 300 by 250s, pre-rolls, search, auto malls, and so forth. You just have different weapons in your arsenal, and they complement your broadcast properties. You have the perfect combined forces to help an advertiser grow their business.

In Libya a few years ago, there's a no-fly zone enforced by NATO. You control the sky in your market with your broadcast facilities. In this case, with a strong "air force," the rebels (whoever they consisted of) can now effectively wage an Internet "ground campaign" against the dictator's forces -- in your case, the competition. When you control the skies over the battlefield, you can control the ground.  Advertisers are looking for this unique combination from your properties.

At LPG, we consult a property that does over $300,000 a month in Internet billing in a market of 180,000 people, and 95 percent of that is display advertising. How do they sell it? Same way you sell any professional product or a good media property. They present proposals that match the objectives of the advertiser. They present spec campaigns with ads that "rise above the clutter" and engage the traffic on the Website to induce a clickthrough, and they present a captivating schedule that will accomplish the advertiser's goals.

Put together that riveting presentation, just the way you would for your broadcast properties. It doesn't have to be fancy. Just take out the traditional spec creative production of your creative campaigns and insert spec creative for display advertising instead.

Of course, your rep has to know how to do good Internet creative, but that can be learned. Good production forms, slide shows with three to four creative slides, and it's not much harder than cavemen drawing on the walls of a cave -- just a little more sophisticated. You can create sketches on paper or your computer and turn them in to your Web creative department, or there are online services that will create ads for you.

Results Count
Do advertisers ever cancel ads on Websites? Yes, they do. At the end of the day, you still have to provide results! Depending on the goals of the campaign, you have to get traffic to the advertiser's site, or bring people in the door at the local brick-and-mortar businesses.

A note: Be careful about your goals for advertisers. Many of them say they want to increase their traffic to their Website when, in fact, they want to get people in the door -- two very different goals! If you're not absolutely clear, an auto dealership, for example, may ask people who come in they heard about the dealership and complain when people respond with something other than your station's Website -- when the dealership had simply asked you to drive traffic to its own site, not bring in customers.

Document Success
We measure page views for each ad and the clicks it generated over the course of the schedule. Each month we take in a metric that shows how many impressions and how many clickthroughs. It's a pretty simple measurement tool. It's only hard if you don't do it or teach your people how to do it.

And sell with testimonials -- same as you would do for a radio prospect, right? What results have you provided for your Web advertisers? Present it. Document your successes and present your stories. Using a good ROII -- Return on Interactive Investment -- also helps to define expectations based on current impressions and traffic to your site (you can find that on

With the rising use of social media, your broadcast facility is poised to take great advantage of this new media world. Last year, traditional display advertising grew around the 10 percent clip, and that shouldn't change much over the next few years. You can have the perfect  "air force" and "ground force" working in combination for your local advertisers. It's not that hard!

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