As Mobile Rises, Sales Must Become More Collaborative and Varied

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"An audience wants to know, 'Where am I going to make money?' Making money from external sponsors and advertisers is a huge relationship game. It's important to establish a revenue model beyond subscriptions and be specific in your planning. Being random costs you time, energy and money. Prospecting is a dying skillset, and it is so valuable to sales success."

That quote comes from Ryan Dohrn (pictured), founder/CEO, Brain Swell Media. He will be helping members establish those revenue models and prospecting skills over the next few weeks in two places—first in a SIPA webinar on Habits of Superstar Media Sales Executives, May 17 (sign up here); and then in person at a Pre-Conference Workshop at SIPA Annual June 5 titled Selling Integrated Advertising and Sponsorship Packages. (Terrie Goldstein, publisher, Hudson Valley Parent, will be his co-presenter, and Ed Coburn, president, PTO Today, will moderate.)

The sales landscape has undergone major changes over the last few years. Just today, the Interactive Advertising Bureau reported that mobile ad spending accounted for 51% of the total U.S. digital ad spending in 2016 (of a record $72.5 billion). It's the first time that number has been over 50%. Also, in a separate report, more than 90% of publishers reported a rise in native ad revenue last year.

"[Native] is a revenue stream publishers need to look at," Dohrn said. "There are good ways to ethically present content from our advertisers that is beneficial. Everything we do should have a reader benefit to it. If no reader benefit, no go."

B2B selling incorporates so much now. In the past, as Dohrn pointed out, it may have just been subscriptions. But today, a publisher can have many different avenues to sell.

"To be more attractive, media brands need to better position themselves as solution providers," said Steve Palm, CEO and president, Connectiv member NewBay Media, in a recent article in Folio:. "At NewBay, we have developed a portfolio of 30 distinct offerings beyond advertising, including native, content marketing, events, and awards programs. Packaged together, this integrated platform delivers three critical benefits: brand/product awareness; thought leadership; and demand generation capabilities. By delivering more benefit, NewBay has established deeper relationships with key advertisers and helped us grow our business."

Dohrn is aware that most SIPA members are smaller than NewBay but will make sure that his webinar and workshop are tailored correctly. He has said that SIPA members have the advantage of a lockdown core audience and access to a significant subscriber base. "They should be well-positioned to sell that access. [A] fallacy is that subscribers don't want to receive anything from a publisher besides content. They like special offers and information on new products and innovations."

In the workshop, Goldstein will provide tips for anyone looking to go after the B2C market. In addition, there are many B2C sales principles that can work well in B2B. Contests and quizzes are a staple for an entity like Hudson Valley Parent—Know a Great Doc and a Daddy & Me Photo Contest are the sites' current contests—and social media can be very important.

Hudson Valley Parent's Facebook page has more than 8,000 followers. "It's vibrant, noisy, engaged and very different from the magazine," Goldstein says. "People come to us for different reasons at different stages in their lives."

Dohrn will preach collaboration, which has become a big word in today's breaking-down-silos climate. "Every company has to have their way of selling media," he said. "With most media companies, every salesperson does it differently. I try to streamline the process so it's a lot more collaborative. You should have a playbook to follow and always accentuate the positives. If everyone is going their own way, it's not productive."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…