Custom media on the radar

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With more offerings than ever to sell, how can salespeople focus on new opportunities? Even before b-to-b media salespeople added a host of e-media, conference and trade show offerings to their sales responsibilities, it was challenging for most publishers and sales managers to focus salespeople on custom media. Today, it's more difficult than ever. “From an organizational standpoint, someone has to take ownership of custom media,” said Joe Pulizzi, custom media consultant and chief content officer of Junta42, a division of Z Squared Media. “If you don't have a plan and a serious effort, you shouldn't even do it. Get a partner who can provide that focus instead.” If b-to-b publishers think of custom media as a print product, they're missing the No. 1 custom media opportunity of the moment, Pulizzi added. “Companies right now are desperate to get really good content for their own Web sites.” Dan Dignam, senior VP-group publisher at United Business Media's Everything Channel, is finding, however, that “a lot of clients feel they can create their own content, and agencies are going into custom content as well.” But the competitive edge for a b-to-b media company is its ability to wrap multiple media together in customized programs. Dignam said custom programs can be easier to sell than individual advertising options. “Because they have so much to sell, salespeople need to really listen to their clients and design programs specifically for them. Custom can be a large part of that,” he said. For one client, Everything Channel's custom group conducted proprietary research that became the foundation of a webinar. The material was also repurposed in custom e-newsletters, print magazine inserts and an online microsite. With programs of this size and scope, salespeople must have the resources behind them to make sure they are executed as promised. “Our custom team has project managers and creative people supporting custom media,” Dignam said. A new addition to the team is dedicated to handling the back and forth communication with the client. As a result of this new focus on custom media, Everything Channel hit 150% of its custom media goal in the first quarter of 2008, Dignam said. Michael Hurley, VP-corporate sales for Hanley Wood Business Media, said having in-house expertise to create custom content is as critical as having people who can handle the logistics. In January, Hanley Wood Business Media formed a new custom solutions group to help its salespeople translate the respective brands' expertise into custom programs marketers can understand. “Salespeople might not be experts in coming up with ideas for custom projects, so they need help,” he noted. “We bring industry knowledge, so that the client knows they will have the insider's view.” Another way Hanley Wood helps salespeople present its custom capabilities “is with extra sales talent, such as myself, to make the presentations along with the salespeople,” Hurley said. “We use the experience and relationships of the regional sales managers to identify potential custom media clients. Then, we bring in someone with more expertise in custom to help craft the program.” Similarly, Lisa Balter Saacks, VP-publisher, custom media for The Deal, joins sales representatives on client calls to provide consultative and operational advice. Saacks crafts a prototype if it's a new concept, but once she launches a new product successfully, the sales team will use that tangible custom media example to demonstrate The Deal's capabilities. The Deal has also recently enhanced its custom newsletters with its authoritative editorial content. “That authoritative deal coverage has respect in the marketplace, and it gives us a unique edge over our competition,” Saacks said. Providing tangible ROI for marketers is a key goal of the custom media division. “Working closely with our marketing team, we continue to develop new ways to measure the success of custom products,” Saacks added.
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