Stations need to look beyond short-term sales and focus instead on long-term relationships with local year-round advertisers.
It was Mark Twain, not Will Rogers, who said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” For a TV station’s bottom line, there’s no misconception more deadly than when your sales department thinks it knows all there is to know about your market. In fact New Revenue Solutions has built its business on disproving that delusion—and a lot of grateful account executives are happy to have been proven wrong.
Australia native Kerry Marshall is the company’s vice president for sales and he brings more than 20 years of expertise in crafting marketing strategies for broadcasters, mostly in the United States. Based upon years of fine-tuning on three continents, New Revenue Solutions’ Image Plus program teaches stations to look beyond short-term or seasonal “transactional dollars,” says Marshall, “and to focus instead on long-term relationships with local year-round advertisers. The more a station can base revenue on home-grown direct customers,” says Marshall, “the better off they’ll be.”
When New Revenue Solutions says “long term,” it means it—for both its “media partners” (the stations) and its “members” (i.e., advertisers or customers) “Image Plus is a five-year business plan that grows over time,” explains Marshall. “It’s designed to raise the station’s unit rates, increase their share of market revenue, and to make them less vulnerable to the fluctuations of any given industry or sector, such as automotive.”
What’s more, they accomplish this using the same marketing data, such as Media Solutions, that’s readily available to any station—they just use it smarter. “We provide significant training in mining that data,” says Marshall, “and help the station to focus on which businesses are the most available to become clients. Stations often overlook emerging categories such as new retailers or consumer service providers.”
“We’ve learned to go deep in the numbers,” reports Sherrill Gall, developmental marketing manager at Cox’s WFTV, the Orlando, Fla., ABC affiliate. The Image Plus method has taught her team to look beyond the usual “top 10” advertiser categories. “Typically you might sell to the No. 1 to No. 3 businesses in a category. Now we go down as far as the No. 10 company and develop the account.”
Those new accounts are required to make a 12-month commitment, not merely to provide a year of new revenue but, more importantly, to ensure that the advertising runs long and often enough to prove its effectiveness. Educating prospective advertisers about the power and value of TV advertising is half of the Image Plus program. The other part is training the sales staff.
In last week’s Market Share column, WPBF West Palm Beach, Fla., General Manager Victoria Regan referred to that training as “a great boot camp for account executives,” but Kerry Marshall begs to differ. “I fear that ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“boot camp’ connotes a drill sergeant. We look at our role as more like a personal trainer. We help the sales staff to look at all they’re doing and to take an extra step outside their comfort zone to get the best overall results. We also help the stations to put that discipline in place.”
It’s not that AEs are lazy, observes Sherrill Gall, “but we’re always busy working on such a variety of projects that it’s really helpful when someone makes you take the time to really stop and prospect for new business in a disciplined way.”
Cox’s WHIO Dayton, Ohio, has been a New Revenue Solutions partner for over five years. Local Sales Manager John Condit believes the Image Plus education for prospective advertisers is inseparable from the staff training. “The New Revenue people have a saying: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“Business goes where business is invited.’ They emphasize the difference between generic ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“branding’ and generating sales. Their client presentation is excellent and it focuses on power of television and power of consistency.”
Condit has similar high praise for the how the Image Plus system imposes discipline on the process of building a client database then turning that data into real revenue. “You’ve got to have smarts and phone skills to build database, and people skills to make the sale.”
Even seasoned AEs work up a sweat prepping for “Game Day”—Condit’s nickname for three days of wall-to-wall one-hour client presentations. “Each of my 10 AEs must deliver 30 Image Plus presentations over the three days. That’s 300 businesses looking hard at our services. From manager’s standpoint it’s a real skill-builder and it’s got a built-in scorecard.”
Condit’s win column includes Dayton plastic surgeon Bill Regano, who was initially skeptical about television ads. Now in his fourth year with Image Plus, Regano volunteers his enthusiastic testimonial for other businesses.
Perhaps the best proof of New Revenue Solutions’ confidence in its methods is that it charges no fees—its profits come solely from commissions earned on new station revenue. The company accepts only one partner station per market with almost 60% of U.S. markets signed up. Over half of those stations have been partners for five years or more.
But exceeding station expectations is business-as-usual for New Revenue Solutions, explains Kerry Marshall, “Typically, stations calculate their likely share of the ad revenue available in the market. That’s a bottoms-up forecast using a top-down number. They then go about trying to prove themselves right and become victims of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When they learn how to really dig, they discover that the supply of actual advertisers is almost always more abundant than they thought.”
Market Share by Arthur Greenwald is a series on successful station promotions that appears every Monday. We’re on the lookout for other good ideas for increasing local audience and revenue. If you have one (or more) to share, please contact Arthur Greenwald at [email protected].