Sales, operations, and finance must scale up their processes, and find new mechanisms for creating inventory ‘on the fly’ and recording and attributing revenues across their portfolio in response to a constantly changing advertising landscape. At the same time, they must manage some of the most customized workflows in the publishing industry.
The Reuters Institute and the University of Oxford reported that European local and regional newspapers are adapting to an increasingly digital, mobile, and platform-dominated media environment. They are rapidly diversifying their business models as discussed below:
- Several media organizations – which previously have considered themselves as competitors – in Europe and North America are now collaborating in joint ventures. That way, they can create centralized digital advertising sales hubs. Selling inventory across a well-known brands network, as a single transaction brings audience scale and insight to counter the metrics of the Duopoly.
- They continue developing a more focused and customized portfolio of revenue streams such as advertising operations and services tailored to local audiences. Many of these media owners have moved to sell a combination of advertising inventory and full-ad agency services to their local business communities. They are striving to harness the power of digital ads and marketing while lacking the internal expertise to do it successfully.
New Initiatives can put tremendous pressure on ad operations.
Publishers are not only incubating and hot-housing new commercial offerings. They all have their own workflows and processes for selling, checking inventory availability, booking, approving creative material, fulfilment, billing and revenue recognition and distribution.
With a plethora of audience analytical tools, ad exchanges and programmatic platforms, media’s print and digital advertising channels will have a variety of sales enablement, quotation, and order management tools in play.
Can an ad sales software keep up with these booking needs?
We’ve identified key management features to look for in a modern ad sales software solution for such demands.
1. Integrated CRM System
Advertising sales reps need to manage many issues with their contacts, accounts and agencies.
They need to be familiar with the nature client and agency relationships, the buying behaviours and preferences of both while knowing discount structures and various parties contract agreements in detail.
Failing to visualize a media campaign at every step of the way can lead to churn and loss of revenue. Regardless of the benefits of automation, direct sales reps remain the advertiser’s best ally at any publication.
Ad sales representatives must evolve their processes with new technology. According to Salesforce, companies should revisit and refine their sales model periodically. They must also accept that the process is never truly finished.
Having a CRM system at the base of your ad sales software can help in many ways as it:
- Let sales reps focus on selling by building efficiencies into their process, and providing them with a holistic view of customer activities.
- Provide tools to help to have different departments on the same page. This removes silos and provides shared resources for research and outreach.
- Get sales analytics and intelligent forecasting to make every step of the sales process more efficient and effective.
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2. Ad Sales Business Intelligence
Salesforce adds that it’s important that sales understand trends in buyer markets. They should be provided with tools to help them take a look at account data and insights to nurture interaction with qualified customers.
In fact, according to Forbes contributor Falon Fatemi, creative sellers “resist the temptation to adopt a one-size-fits-all selling approaches.” That way, they can tackle the challenge of selling “with a consultative lens.”
How can a good ad management system help them? With actionable data.
Fatemi adds that many creative sales reps “will keep abreast of current affairs and monitor events or developments that are relevant to, or may impact, their customers. If a customer wins a coveted award or lands a new marquee customer, a creative sales reps may send a note of acknowledgement.”
It is important to make sure that your sales team can stay ahead of the curve and have insights and timely information to nurture their customer relationships.
3. Customized Inventory Manager
Sit down and reflect on your past year, and check out your media kit.
- Is it clear and concise enough for your customers?
- Are rates and specifications easy to understand?
- Are customers and advertisers aware of the value of your magazine spread, featured content, premium digital inventory and sponsorship opportunties?
- How diverse is your product catalogue?
- Have you had booking or billing errors with these specs?
Carefully crafted publications requires a customized inventory management process that ends in a media inventory which is ready for ad sales and operations to reference, with easy to use media search to prevent mistakes and ad specifications that are easy to understand across all channels.
4. Flexible Revenue Management
To what extent are your ad sales operations spread across publications, issues, and regions? Campaign managers today are challenged with creating a diversified revenue stream, but also better reporting to a central hub of information.
For example, ad sales billed in Australian dollars by a local publication in Sydney may need to prepare revenue forecasts for their parent company in London. At the same time, managers must carefully read the revenue split in Euros and British Pounds.
- Have your publications underdelivered?
- How are you on top of different payment conditions?
- What’s the status of your invoices, orders and credit notes?
Make sure that your order management system doesn’t take financials for granted, and includes a good revenue manager. It must not only also handle a complex set of accounting variables but also be clear enough to help sales representatives, accountants and managers to check them out, and be on top of their revenue goals.
5. Customizable Booking And Scheduling Calendars
Driven by many factors, print and magazine issues have multiple deadlines to sell ad space, receive creative material, close an edition before it goes to print, check order fulfilment and proceed to billing.
Make sure that your ad sales software keeps up with your times, and not the other way around. That way, your entire team can receive alerts on deadlines and stay on schedule.
Can your booking calendars cater to last-minute changes? We all know that there is the potential for a deadline to move, due to any number of unexpected events. Are your calendars and deadline management rules flexible enough to support this?
Imagine you are preparing a specific issue, with tight deadlines, and a high revenue target to be achieved:
- Are you able to get instantaneous visibility of all your available advertising spaces and formats?
- Can ad sales provide the best possible advice to advertisers on availability and options?
- Is your inventory due to be filled up on time, are there unfilled premium positions?
- Are you forecasting overbooking or under booking?
Make sure that your booking calendar is flexible enough to break down your tasks. This should allow your ad operations to keep revising which placement options are available for a particular customer or account. At the same time, it provides the most convenient options for their campaign.
6. Workflows to Keep Up with Every Edition
If you’re in the print publishing business, a generic booking system or ad sales software can constrain your ability to optimize campaigns. Magazines and newspapers usually require carefully configured workflows.
- It needs to follow up with your different teams. While ad sales require a good lead management workflow, those in charge of your advertising inventory need to track, receive, validate, produce, proof and distribute material in a manner that can be integrated with other ERPs and booking systems. That is the only way to keep up with sections, zones, and placement rules.
- It must report to customers and intermediaries along the way. An ad space is not your conventional inventory. Therefore, you need to be thorough and precise with any proof of delivery.
Any mistake in the process can be costly and result in the publisher having to ‘make good’. The sales rep meanwhile is attempting to ‘repair’ a damaged relationship with the advertiser.
Choose an ad management system or an ad booking software that can help address multiple flexible workflows which offer good integrations to page planning, production solutions and finance back-ends.
7. Ad Sales Tools to Promote Ad-Agency Teamwork
Sales reps are frequently in dialogue via an advertising agency rather than directly with the advertising brand. The presence of the agency intermediary means:
- They are working with the same agency who is serving different customers
- They communicate with several agencies serving the same customer.
Depending on your relationship, agencies can be both your best allies or the fiercest critics of your publication’s convenience as a place for their customers.
One thing is to communicate and another one is to collaborate. Make sure that your ad management software or order management system can set up designated user groups so that order managers, advertisers, and agencies can review their projects and approve sales, bookings, creative materials, and bills.
With ad booking software that provides a complete overview of these accounts and relationships, it is easier to provide transparency and improve communication regarding their pipeline. This can help to provide possible agency discounts and nurturing upselling opportunities.
8. Forecast Your Issues’ Ad Availability
Checking your current inventory available is not enough. In the publishing industry, providing an insight into future issues is key to revise whether your customers’ preferences will be available before an issue occurs. Getting agreement to plan to lay down business for future issues typically attracts higher rates and less margin for negotiation.
Visibility of future issue dates and inventory availability not only improves internal processes. It also helps sales teams prepare specific figures and packages tailored to customer needs, interests, and the topic of a future issue.
9. An Ad Sales Software Ready to Go with Other ERPs
If your ad sales software is not compatible with your current finance system/enterprise management systems and isn’t capable of bi-directional integration, you’re dooming your team into doing extra manual labor which is prone to errors. That can result in invoice queries which are time-consuming and costly to resolve.
Regardless of the ERP you use for your company, it is key that whatever order, booking or ad sales software you choose can reliably transfer data and reports on customers, accounts, media inventory and financial records.