Tip #1: Make your direct sales efforts more effective
In last week's article, we looked at 3 Tips for Selling More Ads on Your DOOH Network. Chief among the tips: form partnerships with those who have already found some formula for selling ads on their own medium. I don't mean to downplay the potential value of such partnerships, but no matter how many of them you successfully build, you'll probably still need a direct sales force of some sort. While the strength of your sales team is largely going to be based on the skills of its individual members, we've noted a few strategies that seem to help out a bit. These best practices include:
Image credit: Andrew Magill
- Never say "free": Just as Goonies "never say die," a DOOH ad sales rep should never say "free." The moment you've accepted a purchase order for $0, you've told your new client that your service is worthless. It's far, far better to offer deep discounts on additional services and spots (most common are discounts for repeat buyers) than to offer spots for free.
- Be prepared with out-of-the-box suggestions: I once had a client that was able to close otherwise difficult deals by offering to turn their advertiser's newly-created DOOH ads into miniature videos for their homepage. While I don't think said homepage videos really added a whole lot of value to the advertiser's website, these freebies may have allowed the client to mentally classify the expense of the ad as part marketing, and part website development. The trick is trying to discover what the client might be interested in, and then offering that add-on before he ever asks for it directly, and unfortunately I don't have any suggestions that might help you figure out how to do that.
- Offer a payment plan: It's bad to give things away for free, but it's good to work with your clients on payment schedules. You have your own bills to pay, of course, but at the same time the marginal cost of delivering a new ad to your screen is quite low. So if a client needs an extra nudge and you don't want to lower prices, one potential option is to "finance" the sale by allowing the client to spread his payments over some period of time. I've actually seen at least one sales team use this strategy to turn one-time buyers into repeat buyers, essentially by conditioning the advertisers to keep paying over time.
- Know when to use math: Some business owners and marketing pros are numbers people who love poring over charts and spreadsheets before choosing from a list of options. Others prefer to use intuition and the wisdom that comes with experience to make decisions. The sales tactics that tend to work for one group might not work for the other. Case in point: while large marketers need to know CPM numbers, simply trying to explain the concept -- along with traffic numbers, store traffic flow patterns, and all of the other trappings -- to a more right-brained sales prospect is going to be very difficult. Even if you use CPM as your base metric, in these cases it might be better to avoid the math and instead sell the top-line number for a week, month or year of exposure on your screens.
No discussion of DOOH advertising would be complete without mentioning the myriad of network aggregators out there right now. These people play a number of roles, from technical hand-holders to bona fide media brokers. They can also provide you with some initial access to national brand advertisers, while exposing your network to a much larger network of potential clients. The key to using these services successfully is to make sure that your own expectations match up with reality: no aggregator can provide you with enough business to keep you afloat, so if that's your desire or expectation going in, you'll be disappointed. With that said, there are plenty of networks in operation today that count on some incremental revenue from aggregator-sourced ad deals. Another key to best utilizing these services is to understand their relative strengths and weaknesses. Some specialize in a specific vertical market or geographic region. Others differentiate themselves by focusing on smaller businesses. So do your homework before picking your partners.
Tip #3: Keep your friends close, and your "frenemies" closer
We've noticed a trend here that started even before the recession hit and the most recent wave of digital signage consolidation began. More networks are cooperating with each other on ad sales. Medical networks in hospitals and private practice doctors' offices are noticing that they don't really compete for the same ad dollars, since without the right sales pitch and demographics, nobody is going to buy any of their screen time. However, they might make a more compelling argument to a big pharmaceutical company by presenting a unified front. Likewise, the Hispanic grocery networks in the southwest don't compete with those in southern Texas and Florida, so we've seen the beginnings of some self-aggregation and moderation take hold. Of course, making such an approach truly successful requires that all parties remain diligent and honest towards each other. But I think the biggest obstacle to the growth of self-aggregation strategies is simply the reluctance of DOOH network owners to sit down and talk with others in their niche.
If you follow the news in the DOOH industry, you've probably noticed the endless stream of market size projections and analyst reports that show enormous growth rates in the face of an otherwise weak economy. But even as the number of screens increases, our own anecdotal research suggests that the majority of ad-funded digital signage networks (in the US, at least) are struggling. Many are still reliant on outside capital to fund operations. And the waters become even more muddied as some tech vendors -- who themselves are often taking venture capital to stay afloat -- talk in hushed whispers about buying up their clients' networks or starting some of their own. In short, I'm not so sure that the DOOH advertising market is (yet) all it's cracked up to be. There's plenty of potential, but advertisers remain reluctant, and since they're the ones holding the purse strings they get to call all of the shots. About the only thing a typical DOOH network operator can do is work to remove as many barriers and obstacles as possible. Hopefully the tips above will prove useful in working towards that goal.
Are there any obvious tips or strategies that I missed? Leave a comment and let me know.