The unpredictable, complicated nature of ad sales

Aaron Ross, CEO

4 January 2019

The very foundation of the Predictable Revenue methodology is designing, and building, efficient outbound sales teams that generate consistent new pipeline.

By Nailing A Niche, refining messaging, and assigning the necessary resources (dedicated full-time prospectors and account executives, for instance), any b2b organization selling to any vertical can count on predictable growth, month over month.

That is… almost any vertical.

The truth is, some industries are just harder to succeed in with outbound sales. Not impossible, mind you, just harder. For example, outbound selling services like web design, creative, VARs or hosting can be more difficult because the markets are so noisy with thousands of look-a-like companies.

(I discussed the challenge of selling services, amongst other topics, recently on The StartupCircle podcast. You can read about our wide-ranging chat here, or listen here.)

Advertising presents a similar problem. It’s massive industry – North American advertising spend in 2018 is projected to top $225 billion and, with the exception of a dip in 2009, has been steadily growing for years.

But companies trying to capture a bit of that spend for themselves run into significant hurdles:

  • Advertising spend is dominated by media buying agencies with entrenched relationships with vendors;
  • Spending is allocated during planning cycles (either annually, bi-annually, or quarterly);
  • Marketing executives are inundated with companies that want to spend their money, all promising the same things.

These three hurdles can make a prospector’s life rather difficult. For instance, because agencies control so much advertising spend, they have built, and fostered deep relationships with vendors over time. Trying to supplant any those vendors is a tall order; not only do you have to prospect into a large and (always) busy agency, you may have to replace the competition as well.

Should an SDR break through and get a meeting with an agency, closing a deal with an agency often hinges on whether their teams are currently in a planning cycle – the predetermined times of year in which agency teams spend the budgets their clients give them. These planning cycles can happen either annually, bi-annually, or quarterly, depending on how and when the client (the brand) wants their budget spent. Planning cycles can also determine major advertising seasons or events such as Christmas of the Super Bowl.

If a rep doesn’t land a meeting during one of these times, they will have to circle back the next time the budgets are being spent. And as any SDR or sales development leader will attest, staying top-of-mind in between such meetings is a challenge, especially if the gap in time is months or even a year long.

It isn’t all bad news, however. The world of advertising is nuanced and can be split into different streams: out of home advertising (billboards), television (still the largest area of media spend), programmatic display, print, and digital branded content. These distinct mediums, each of which represents significant spending on behalf of agencies, mean companies have the opportunity to focus on a niche and nail it.

Let’s say, for instance, your company sells a digital branded content buying platform (sometimes known as custom content or native advertising). As such, you only have to concern yourself with those teams and prospects inside agencies that buy digital branded content, and prospect to them. That focus will allow you to hone your messaging to your specific targets, learn their buying cycles, and build the relationships advertising agencies are accustomed to from vendors.

If buying digital branded content is part of the general media buy (that includes the other mediums mentioned above) from an entire team that represents, say, Pepsi or Nike, then you can work to meet each of the senior buyers on that team. To identify the right teams and prospects, data sources such as Winmo and MediaRadar provide detailed contact information including phone and email contact information, location, and the brands they work on.

So, as you can see, room for outbound does exist in advertisingit just takes a heightened focus on a respective niche, the patience to learn agency structure and teams, and the time to learn and adapt to advertising’s particular buying cycles. These are significant hurdles, to be sure.

But if you have the resources, a well-oiled outbound machine can find some success prospecting in the advertising world and provide a company with the most critical pillar of growth: predictable revenue, month over month.

Get started today with outbound.

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