Thoughts from a 'convert' to integrated solution selling

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Last March, Jeff Leibowitz of Laredo Group presented a program called "Digital Media Sales Training" at the ABM Digital Day in New York. His first PowerPoint slide, titled "What's It All About?" contained two major bullets:

Integrated Media Selling.

Consultive & Strategic Selling.

That first slide neatly summarized the most daunting challenge facing smaller b-to-b media marketing service providers (formerly known as trade magazine publishers). The challenge is that, in order to sell advertising services to traditional clients, publishers must now form sophisticated partnerships with them that offer customized multimedia and multichannel solutions that accomplish the following: (1) Communicate with their targeted customer audiences; (2) provide documented sales leads from the targeted audiences; and (3) at least attempt to measure ROI on the entire program.

That's the media's version of "solution selling," which for b-to-b media owners involves the following steps:

Don't try to sell stand-alone ad pages or single banner ad programs to your customers.

Sit down and listen to them describe their marketing/sales goals, their problems, their perceived needs and what marketing/advertising services they want.

Work with each of them to formulate a unique customer acquisition and communication program that integrates with their marketing strategies and goals, using some or all of your stable of print, electronic, direct mail, telemarketing, event, research and custom products.

I'm already a devoted convert to the Church of Integrated Solution Selling, having experienced an epiphany last year when I accompanied the publisher of one of our media groups on several "sales calls," during which we did nothing but ask questions and listen.

Our customers couldn't believe that we came without sales presentations and didn't try to sell them anything. They were dumbfounded-and initially somewhat wary-when we kept asking probing questions about their distribution programs, market share goals, product differentiation positioning, sales training, online tracking capabilities and a litany of other marketing and sales topics.

But a lot of their suspicions disappeared when we asked what method and channel of communicating with their customers they thought worked best. And then they joined in enthusiastically when we started brainstorming ideas about how to use their preferred marketing and advertising tactics as the foundation for an interrelated program involving all or parts of print, Internet and event programs specifically designed to solve their marketing problems and reflect their view of their products or services in the marketplace.

Here's the reason I'm a true believer: It works. First quarter magazine and Internet advertising sales for the publishing group that practiced integrated solution selling jumped a combined 30%.

But there's a problem, especially for smaller media owners. Solution selling means providing multifaceted marketing/advertising/communication programs, which for smaller publishers can be almost impossible to do.

Smaller media companies do not have corporate platforms with the financial, technological and human resources to offer the wide variety of communications and marketing delivery channels required for true integrated solution selling.

Of course, there is a dizzying array of providers of such services-from traditional printers and direct mail houses, to e-mail and Internet service providers, to digital magazine production services, to Webinar and teleconferencing platform providers, to event producers that partner on traditional trade shows and specialized conferences, to services that produce podcasts and others that do videocasts, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

My question to those who seek to sell all these products and services to the magazine media industry is this: Why isn't there even one vendor to our industry that offers integrated solutions to media owners?

I get calls all the time from those that want to sell specific services, but I've never been approached by anyone offering to come to my office and (1) discuss in depth the problems of maintaining and growing our media business, (2) listen carefully to the answers and (3) develop customized solutions to help us address these challenges.

Humphrey S. Tyler is president of NTP Media. He can be reached at [email protected]

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