Simplify the integrated sale

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B-to-b media sellers have more offerings with more components and more complexity than ever before. So what can publishers do to help salespeople sell print, online, custom media, events and the integration of some or all of these components without overwhelming salespeople or their clients?

Even though they have developed some solutions, b-to-b media publishers say that this is an ongoing challenge with no magic answers.

Dan Bagan, senior VP at Penton Media's Food/Retail Group, said, "I think continuing to focus on problem-solving for the customer versus forcing offerings makes the most sense. This practice will also automatically edit what you offer."

Don Pearson, exec VP at e.Republic and group publisher for its Government Technology publications division, said, "If you give a customer too many options, you won't sell anything, so you have to figure out how to package it."

For Government Technology's Digital Communities Web site, Pearson and his colleagues have created three high-value integrated packages for 2008. The programs not only integrate print, online and live-event elements but include access to e.Republic's Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute on the use of IT in state and local government. And because e.Republic can tap into three years of metrics from the site, the programs are designed to maximize results in terms of traffic, exposure and leads.

Each of the core programs includes a year of advertising on the Digital Communities portal, full-page ads in the print magazine, an Internet seminar, newsletter sponsorships and additional elements depending on participation level.

A platinum-level partnership is priced at $100,000, but its value would be more than $260,000 if the elements were purchased individually, Pearson said. The $65,000 gold program is valued at $183,000, and the silver program, priced at $35,000, has $110,000 worth of value. "So it's really just one buy," he explained.

At Thomas Publishing, Managing Automation Publisher Heather Mikisch said her solution to the challenge of selling an integrated portfolio has evolved over three years of trial and error. One solution is to have separate account managers selling integrated programs and online-only programs.

Mikisch has taken the opposite course from Pearson by focusing the media kit "on components rather than [integrated] packages." Within the media kit, print advertising has two rates, one for print-only advertisers and another for print combined with online.

Lead-generation programs are outlined under one tab, CPM-based advertising under another. "We've clearly outlined the differentiation between our packages in terms of ROI—impressions, clicks, leads and positioning," she said. Another simplification was limiting lead-generation programs to six months and 12 months, eliminating three- and nine-month options.

For event sponsorships, Mikisch added, "we offer two rate levels: buy as a stand-alone or buy as part of a 12-month print package. Both have worked well for us."

Dan Hirsh, VP-online development and custom media at IDG's Network World, designs integrated programs "to move the prospect through the sales cycle so that you can help the marketers qualify and prioritize sales-ready leads." After first listening to customers, "we map out programs that lead to their specific goals. When customers see a blueprint and understand how you chose it, they are no longer looking at a big heap of offerings."

Although there is a lot of general research on how prospects buy products and services, that cycle is not static, Hirsch said. So for the past two years, Network World has been arming salespeople with research on the end-users marketers are trying to reach. "About 12,000 readers have stepped forward to be part of a panel where they share with us their buying habits," Hirsch said.

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