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The best advertsing sales representative competition


brainWe’re seeking early nominations/suggestions for an upcoming competition to select the best advertising sales representative.  Qualities will include success in attracting and retaining business, winning client satisfaction and respect, overcoming problems, and achieving “popular vote” from clients, colleagues and the general public.

The idea is still in the rough — but if you would like to help co-ordinate or participate in this initiative (no financial cost) please email me at buckshon@cnrgp.com.

Can we learn from businesses which don’t need to advertise?

inside a ostco (image from Wikipedia)
Inside a Costco (Wikipedia image)

I’ll dare to speak some sacrilege here.  Some truly successful and large businesses don’t need nor want to advertise, ever, at least in the conventional manner.  I think readers here will agree, for example, that you won’t get far trying to plug your publication or television station ad spots to Costco — which takes things a step further, and actually requires its customers to pay a fee to shop at the store.

Of course, Costco is one of those businesses which has fun playing with marketing conventions.  It is a no-frills warehouse store which sells most of its stuff to successful people — business owners and others who don’t mind the no-frills shopping environment to save some money and still enjoy the experience.  Rather than pour money into advertising, the company gets its vendors to contribute samples and to purchase advertising in its own in-house magazine.

Alright.  We aren’t going to sell many ads to Costco.

Lets look at the other end of the spectrum and a guy named Gord.  He’s the person who co-ordinated the trades for our recent kitchen renovation project.  He doesn’t advertise, belong to relevant associations, or promote his business in any way, but he never lacks for work.  He also probably prices his services well below what he could if he took a different approach, but he also appreciates the pragmatic built-in-efficiency and productivity of really small businesses.

(One consultant showed how the optimal size, at least in terms of employee productivity, for a construction/renovation business is three.  The reason:  The owner obviously is doing hands-on work, but with incredible skill and talent, and the team of supporters he assembles is large enough to help where extra hands are requried and, even better, to do the key jobs the owner-manager is really not cannot do best.  Once you get above three employees, productivity tends to decline; it is harder to find really good people and you have to build in the human resources cost/management/overhead of the larger work force.  The productity stabilizes once you get to 10 to 12 employees, when you then are able to build business systems and management approaches suited to larger organizations.)

Gord is clearly not going to get the to Costco’s level — and you’ll waste your time trying to sell him advertising as well.

So who is left?  Well, of course the market depends on your media.  If you are a local or regional or specialized audience media, your market will generally be businesses with enough money and growth ambitions to promote themselves effectively yet ones which haven’t figured out how to grow without marketing and advertising (fortunately the latter number is a small group.)

You’ll want to be very careful in selling advertising to very small and start-up businesses; they may be dumb enough to believe every word you say (and many words you don’t say but they want to believe), only to be disappointed with the results.

Advertising sales success: Delivering value (in more ways than one)

Ottawa reno program
Promotional material for Ottawa Renovates magazine

One important aspect of success in advertising sales success is appreciating the real value you are delivering.  Certainly, this value could be framed in the simplest sales/marketing goals — your ability to provide advertising creative and deliver a medium that results in profitable clients for your clients; both short and long-term.

However, we know that advertising serves other purposes with more indirect value, but only if seen in the right context.  For example, of course, we can say that the right kind of advertising can enhance our client’s brand — and that elevated brand value allows for higher prices and much lower sales resistance when it comes time for other approaches (such as direct sales efforts) to turn the prospect into a purchaser.

However, measuring this brand-building value is difficult enough, especially since it only “works” if the branding is consistent with many elements outside of our (advertising sales) control.  We cannot for example ensure that the client service standards match the message in the advertising — and I can think of few business turn-offs than advertising that promises but the advertiser fails to deliver.

This leads me to the final, and perhaps most important, aspect of advertising and branding relationships — our own business practices.  If, as advertising representatives, we can create an environment where our own media brand is elevated in the eyes of our advertisers, we can escape the pressures of commodity pricing and demands for instant and unattainable results.

Here, I’ve learned some important lessons in the past few years as we transitioned our business from an organization perceived as a cynical money grabber who used tricks and techniques to force sales, to one that is well-connected within our communities and is expanding and enhancing profitable repeat and extended relationships.

The key to the change has been my advocacy that every client must have the opportunity to receive real value from us, even if the advertising doesn’t work.  We achieved this standard by developing two tracks:  One, building and enhancing our relationships with client-focused associations and, two, by making ourselves into impartial marketing experts and providing free consulting support to our clients.  The two objectives often correlate — relationships and branding success built, for example, within the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association, led the association to encourage us to publish Ottawa Renovates magazine.

In the process, I also wrote the Construction Marketing Ideas book, initially intended as a gift to our advertisers, and started the Construction Marketing Ideas blog.  Both projects have had surprising results.  In addition to enhancing client trust (and branding sucess), they ‘ve begun generating useful revenue and sales leads in their own right.

We don’t compete, frankly, on circulation, cost-per-thousand or measurable evidence that advertising in our publications will achieve immediate results for our clients. Rather, our strength is built on the relationships, trust, and branding success within our community.  In my opinion, this is a much better way to sell advertising.

Video: About social media


This video focuses on construction marketing, but the same thoughts could be applied to advertising sales.

Back at the beginning . . .

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where I lived in 1979-80

I grew up with a fascination for journalism and newspapers.  Despite extreme social skills limitations, at age 20 I discovered The Ubyssey student newspaper at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where I grew up.  The student publication had a rather powerful apprenticeship program.  Junior students learned under the supervision of seniors, who often obtained part-time jobs at one of the city’s two daily newspapers.

While my peers didn’t think I could possibly succeed at the business, I discovered through an open posting at the student employment office a job as a “city desk clerk” at The Vancouver Province newspaper.  The newspaper, seeing that I had worked on the student newspaper, quickly put me on track to be a part-time police reporter, surprising my peers who thought I would never succeed.  For three summers, I chased police and fire trucks around Vancouver on Friday and Sunday nights — for rather good money, at that.

Graduation time:  The newspaper told me they wouldn’t hire me full time, and the city editor suggested i travel and maybe learn a bit about the world. I had saved up some money but didn’t want to take the standard European trip.  So I went to Africa, initially in an organized overland trip from London England, through the Sahara and central Africa to Kenya.  Then I carried on my own down south, ending up for a month in Rhodesia, in 1976, as the civil war began heating up to its final stages.

I returned to Canada, got a job at the Medicine Hat News, and watched events in Africa closely, ultimately deciding to return on what proved to be the most important journey of my life.  I obtained employment as a sub-editor on the Bulawayo Chronicle, and lived through the final transition from Rhodesia to Zimbawe, returning home after a wild and wonderful evening on Good Friday, 1980, when I managed to get wildly drunk and set of a chain of events ending when four guys were thrown into jail.  The newspaper fired me the next day.

Returning home to a major recession, I could not find any employment in journalism.  So I took a job washing dishes at McDonald’s, and visited the government employment office (a federal service in Canada.)  A counsellor asked if I could type, and when I said “yes,” he arranged to test me — and placed me in a job in the word processing centre at the employment department’s regional headquarters in Vancouver.  He said this would open the door to other civil service competitions, and it did.  Eight months later, I moved to Ottawa, to become a writer/editor for the communications branch of the employment ministry.

This led to five years of angst.  Good money, yes, but what is an entrepreneurial journalist doing in a government bureacuracy.  Finally, I summonsed up enough courage to quit — and sell real estate for two years.  I quickly tired of the new occupation, but saw an opportunity:  Could I publish a special newspaper just for real estate agents?  I tried to make it work with a formal business plan, but in the end decided to take the leap on faith — provided I not spend a cent of real capital on the new business.

This meant, since the printer and graphics designer expected to be paid immediately — by certified cheque — that I would need to sell the advertising to the sight-unseen publication and obtain payment in advance — undoubtedly a true test of market potential and my advertising sales ability.

I did.

We published the first issue.  To say the least, the new publication stirred up something of a storm, because it contained real news and controversial content.  I thought it would be my last.  Then I visited the first issue advertisers.  One advertiser said: “I’ve never received such good results form an ad in my life.  When can I sign a contract?”  Another said:  “I’ll contract if you cool it a bit — and maybe write some profiles of our company’s agents.”  I was in business.

Things didn’t go perfectly well.  I really didn’t know the eocnomics of the business and the real estate market — and page rates — were far too low for sustainability.  But, through a bit of luck and observation, I sensed another publication focusing on the construction industry might be viable, and it worked.  In fact, we still publish Ottawa Contruction News today — more than two decades later.

As the business evolved, grew, contracted, had near-death experiences and evolved, I began to learn a bit about how to hire and manage advertising sales representatives.  (I’ve never seen myself primarily as an ad rep; I’m still a journalist at heart who just happens to own the newspapers.)  We’ve set up systems for recuriting, training, and evaluating salespeople but we can always improve.

This special website is dedicated to the process of understanding and improving the state of the art regarding advertising sales.  Now that media is much more integrated, the skills for television, radio, web and other media are far more integrated than before. Can we learn from history, new trends, and each other?

I think it will take at least six months to a year before this site begins to reach its potential.  It will begin thriving when I can take the time and apply the resources to interview and connect with great advertising reps in a diversity of media outlets.  Stay tuned.

Discovering the world’s greatest (advertising) salesperson — one red brick at a time


In  2010, advertising agency Ogilvy set up a competition to find the “world’s greatest salesperson”  The challenge:  Create a YouTube video to sell a . . . red brick.

The agency received 234 submissions, and after narrowing down the finalists, selected this gem from Todd Herman, who received an offer for a paid fellowship at Ogilvy.

Here is the successful entry:

In case you are wondering, the buytheredbrick.com website is real, where you can actually “buy” the red brick to support Haiti relief.  The EBay listing has been taken down, but in an Edmonton Journal article, Herman is quoted as saying he “sold” the brick three times — but the clients didn’t actually expect him to deliver it to them.

EDMONTON — The salesman in Todd Herman was born when he was a little boy walking along the railway tracks with his cousin near the family ranch outside Medicine Hat.

Scattered throughout the tracks’ rock bed were gold-coloured rocks of varying sizes.

Herman and his cousin hauled a bunch of the pyrite to the side of the road and set up a cardboard sign that read: “Big gold $25. Little gold $15.”

An older couple came by and plunked down $15 for a piece of the mineral, often called fool’s gold. Herman and his cousin spent their hard-earned profits at the local joke store.

Now, the 34-year-old Edmontonian is in the running to be the world’s greatest salesman, after a friend tweeted him about a contest by advertising giant OgilvyOne to sell one red brick. The friend knows Herman is a huge fan of the company’s founder, David Ogilvy.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew immediately how I would sell a red brick,” said Herman, who owns two online businesses. One is a sports psychology and mental toughness coaching company called thepeakathlete.com.The other is trafficbakery.com, which helps local businesses use the Internet to market their companies.

“My idea was if you can be first in a category, you usually win. So I wanted to be first in the video category because I thought I can dictate the bar that other people have to try to reach and the terms,” he said.

Within eight hours of learning of the contest, Herman had the two-minute video shot, uploaded to OgilvyOne and a website created. He sold the brick, bought at Home Depot for 61 cents, on EBay using PayPal and donated the proceeds to aid the rebuilding of Haiti. He has actually sold the brick three times for a grand total of $53.91. Those who have bought the brick have told him not to bothering shipping it because they just want to donate to a worthy cause.

“I think the hallmark of a good salesperson is taking advantage of opportunity,” said Herman, who believes the world rewards momentum.

In his video, he pitches a single, red brick as a symbol of something that can used as the first step in building something great, which is why all the proceeds are donated to the rebuilding of Haiti.

Herman said much of his philosophy when it comes to the art of selling comes from being a voracious reader of motivational mentors such as Ogilvy, Tony Robbins, Jim Rohn and Steven Pressfield, whose book The War of Art, he carries with him all the time.

“People always think of sales as the in-your-face-used-car salesman. But selling happens all the time. Really great selling is never noticed,” Herman said.

“You should feel like you just bought something, not like you just got sold.”

Being a great salesperson is also about communication and people skills. “And sometimes it is about just shutting up and really listening to the person speaking,” he said, laughing.

As one of the three finalists selected out of more than 230 entries from 12 countries, Herman will travel to France for the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival on June 21. The three finalists will do a two-minute pitch live on stage of a software product from one of OgilvyOne’s current clients and be judged by an audience.

The winner of the coveted “World’s Greatest Salesperson” will receive a three-month fellowship with Ogilvy-One to help craft the sales guide to the 21st century.

“We’ve been blown away by the creativity, enthusiasm and digital savvy that we’ve encountered on our quest to find the World’s Greatest Salesperson,” Mat Zucker, OgilvyOne’s executive creative director in New York said in a release.

“Choosing only three finalists from such an impressive field has been the most challenging part for us so far — but what impressed us the most about the finalists was their approach to the changing nature of sales,” Zucker said.

Herman is looking forward to getting a chance to experience the Cannes advertising festival.

“I’m just more thrilled because it is Ogilvy’s namesake advertising agency and I just think the world of it,” he said.

The winning video submissions by each of the finalists can be viewed at youtube.com/ogilvy.

Are there really secrets of successful advertising?


Webyodel willimamsThe posting:  Secrets of Successful Advertising, certainly attracts attention, in part because of the alliteration in the title.  Well, Brian Williams isn’t really sharing secrets as the news about effective advertising strategies has been out for as long as advertising has been known.  But these points are still worth remembering:

What’s the secret to successful advertising? Is it about paying an ad agency lots of money for something clever and “creative?” Is it about cute, monosyllabic frogs obsessed with a particular brand of beer? Is it about sexy models and witty catch-phrases and fancy photography? No. No. And no. Advertising whether it’s in print, over the airwaves, or via computer is about presenting a special benefit-laden offer to your specific target prospects. It’s about making a successful sales pitch to the right people, and convincing them to make a purchase. That’s the whole concept of advertising in a nutshell. How do I know? Well, although 1 won’t profess to be the world’s foremost expert on advertising, I have spent the past 5 years studying the lessons of some of the best advertising minds ever.

If your business is selling advertising, of course, you need to know what works to create the value the client is truly seeking.  “What works” of course varies depending on the target audience and media.  A limited distribution pubication serving a niche business-to-business market might establish value through a variety of non-advertising networking relationships; the paid ad, essentially, is just an entry point or consulting fee for the relationships the publisher can offer.  But you wouldn’t want this to be the primary indicator of success if you are seeking to sell to mass retail markets.

Nevertheless, whether the audience is large or small, specialized or diverse, the ideas in Williams’ posting are worthy of consideration and embedding in your mind.

Stories and proof: A cornerstone of successful advertising sales methodologies


josh gordon BPA presentationJosh Gordon, in this old video prepared for the BPA, advocates a combination of a story that captures the emotions and reasoning of the intended clients, with proof. Although this 10 minute YouTube video is only part of the story, it provides a tantalizing clue about how to succeed in selling.

The first thing, he says, is to find a definitive advantage that means something to your clients.  In one case, he said he faced a competing publisher’s rep who told clients that the magazine he represented “didn’t care about the Canadian market.”  This statement arouses nationalistic feelings, but the key to the success in the message is the proof — BPA audit figures, in this case, showing that indeed the magazine Gordon represented had significantly lower circulation in Canada than the competing product.

Now, of course, it is a bit of a stretch to say that just because the circulation of one publication is lower than another in Canada, that the publisher doesn’t “care” about Canada.  But that is the stuff of emotion and it carries a whole lot more weight than saying, simply, “we have more circulation in Canada than the competition.”

Here, you can see a clue to successful selling practice.  You look at your potential client’s needs and emotional soft points and capture a story or message that touches these nerves.  Then, you validate the assertion with a rationale, or proof.  The proof is often at the other end of the “because” word — and, no it doesn’t need to be scientific or hard data like a full BPA audit (of course if you have one, that is great, but if you don’t you can still find other ways to express your thoughts.

Remember, facts and figures don’t matter that much unless you can pull together a story that creates a convincing message — then the facts and figures might well provide the crucial validation for the story, and reduce the skepticism and concerns that you are just trying to pull wool over the eyes of your potential clients.

Looking at “customer service” from a new perspective


Gary Vaynerchuk has achieved much fame and fortune as a wine merchant and blogger — and social media guru.  In this speech at the 2001 Inc. 500 seminar, he touches on the concept of the “Thank You Economy;” of using social media to get close and personal to clients by providing an incredibly deep and human relationship and connection.

This is far different from the “push marketing” economy, he says.  It is more like the old general stores and merchants in the small communities in the earlier part of the last century, where merchants and business owners really knew their clients.  Today, we can achieve the same thing by monitoring and watching Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other media, and learning about our customers.

At the end of the speech, a newspaper publisher asked him about how he could monetize his content in the new environment.  Vaynerchuk had a blunt answer.  “Content is a commodity,” he said.  The issue is context.  He said the newspaper publisher should pull all the equity he can out of his brand and then prepare to move into another business — otherwise, he would be like the guy with the collection of horses just before trucks came into use.

This is an hour-long video, but well worth watching.

Finding Google (and Google finding you)


adsakessyccess sabox

Well, after about a week posting here in what essentially had been a totally private communication, I referenced this site in my Construction Marketing Ideas blog once.  I wondered if Google would, as a result, find http://www.adsalessuccess.com

.The search engine did.  Today, according to statscounter.com reports, the Googlebot visited here twice, once very briefly, and the second time for 13 minutes.

Checking things, I sense this site is now in Google’s “sandbox” You can find it on Google search by typing in the exact URL (adsalessuccess.com) but you won’t find it, say, if you type in ad sales success, or some other variant.  In other words, you really have to know about and be looking for this site, to discover it.

I understand the sandbox can remain in place for several months. It is designed to prevent publishers from setting up web pages quickly and interlinking them to generate “fast” search engine results.  The ways out of the sandbox, I think, are patience, high quality content (which generates in co-ordination with careful marketing, positive reviews and hyperlinks) and, of course, if you want to build traffic quickly, paid AdWords advertising.  I’ll pass on that — as I will hold off on putting any AdSense ads here for some time.  (Since there will be very few visitors for a while, yet, it is best to be conservative about any efforts to generate revenue.

(I mean, if you are selling advertising, it requires some special skill to sell the advertising in media and publications that no one reads.)

Which raises another question . . . if you have a specialized product/publication with limited circulation, can you still effectively sell advertising — and make good money doing it?

Absolutely yes.

As I’ve noted earlier, and will say again, the important qualities are the nature and depth of relationships between your medias’ audiences and the organizations and individuals trying to reach them.  If you have a high-value audience and a specific way to reach these clients without much wasted effort, your page rate or per minute time charge can be well on the high side of the norms.

Of course, it is also good if the search engines can find you.  Google has.  Now we’ll see how long it takes to escape the sandbox here.