What is Digital Media Sales?

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A Definition of Digital Media Sales

Digital media sales can be defined as the selling of advertising space on digital platforms, such as websites, blogs, digital magazines, and other digital properties. Digital media sales professionals are responsible for maximizing revenues through the sale of digital advertising space by working with clients to create effective campaigns that produce results while resulting in optimal revenue for the digital publisher or platform where advertising is placed.

Digital media sales is a complex process consisting of several components and factors, including ad formats, bidding, and measurement metrics such as click-through rate and conversion rate, among others. In contrast to traditional advertising sales, the digital space moves quickly, yet offers the benefit of solid measurement methods allowing advertisers to easily prove ROI.

In fact, it’s even becoming possible to measure the impact of digital advertising on offline sales – that is, determining how exposure to digital ads has impacted buying behavior in the real world.

Challenges of Digital Media Sales

Digital media sales is an industry facing disruption by programmatic buying, or the automated process of purchasing advertising based on data-driven processes. Programmatic buying threatens to edge out the digital media sales professional from the process. According to a November 2013 article by ClickZ by Alan Cutter, “Technology has changed the way ads are traded. Programmatic is delivering eyeballs and audience with better speed, more accurate targeting and more efficiency. The automated technologies can reach many more buyers of inventory than a legacy direct sales team could. It’s a numbers game.”

The rise of programmatic buying hasn’t quite edged out the role of the digital media sales professional; instead, it is shifting the requirements for the role. Digital media sales professionals must be data-driven and technology-savvy in the modern digital media sales climate, capable of overseeing the programmatic component while still having essential relationship-building skills for interfacing with clients. Some enterprises try to maintain both components: transactional buying and legacy sales teams, but Cutter notes that the two don’t often mix well and tends to result in siloed processes.

“One way some publishers handle this oil and water mix is by paying sales people for programmatic buys. No matter how the deal gets done, the sales team is compensated. This keeps the sales team motivated, saves the publisher from having to redo their compensation structure, and keeps all the sales components on the same team,” explains Cutter.

Benefits of Digital Media Sales

Digital media plays a critical role in shaping consumer buying behavior. From researching products and services through online reviews before making purchase decisions to price-shopping, taking advantage of digital coupons and online discounts, finding local deals in the real world and calling local businesses directly from a digital ad using click-to-call capabilities, digital media has changed dramatically in the past several years.

Beginning as static advertisements akin to their print counterparts, digital media has become interactive, adaptable, consumer-centric advertising that meets consumers across touch points and caters to in-the-moment needs and desires. Google refers to this as micro-moments and has based many recent improvements to the AdWords platform on enabling advertisers to meet consumers in these micro-moments.

On the publisher side, digital media sales enables brands to monetize their digital properties. In the modern digital world, every brand is a publisher, but digital media properties are no longer merely a cost center. Instead, digital media sales provides an avenue for turning blogs, websites, digital magazines, and virtually any digital content into a profit center rather than an expense, a welcome opportunity for brands that embrace the role of digital publishing in informing and engaging consumers, enhancing brand awareness and loyalty, and increasing sales.

Best Practices in Selling Digital Media

Digital media sales is a complex field, requiring professionals proficient in relationship sales coupled with the ability to learn and adapt to new technologies readily, as technology is ever-changing in digital media. Digital publishers, particularly startups, sometimes expect editorial staff to handle sales functions, but these organizations are best served by enlisting a professional digital sales executive to coordinate and manage the sales process. Editorial staff are critical for ensuring the quality of content, but digital media sales executives are equally as important for ensuring profitability.

Building a professional sales force with clearly defined roles and responsibilities is key for any publisher, as well as an ongoing process for identifying and targeting potential advertisers. Standardizing rates and sales routines is important for creating a consistent client experience with advertisers and maintaining key relationships, even through transitions such as staff changes or shifts in editorial focus that may impact relevance.

For digital media sales professionals, Julie Clark outlines five essential best practices for closing digital ad sales at iMedia Connection:

  1. Listen: Ask the right questions, do the right research, and listen to responses to uncover the client’s overall strategy, goals, and key metrics.
  2. Say no when it’s warranted: Often, clients are loyal to traditional advertising strategies simply because they aren’t aware of the capabilities of digital media. When it’s in the best interest of the client, proposing effective digital alternative approaches can result in lasting relationships and exceptional results.
  3. Educate: Education is a big part of the role of any sales professional, and this is perhaps even more critical in digital media sales as advertisers aren’t always up-to-date on the latest advancements in digital media that can improve measurement, reduce advertising costs, and offer other benefits to both the publisher and advertiser.
  4. Become a part of the solution: Advertisers are often working with a large ecosystem of media buyers and planners, in addition to technology partners. Again, asking the right questions to uncover gaps and needs that your solution can fill is an effective way to build trust and develop valuable relationships.
  5. Know when to throw in the towel: Don’t get caught up in chasing “unicorns,” as Clark describes, but focus on building lasting partnerships with clients who appreciate your offerings and are getting results. Digital sales reps are often inspired with the winning approach for sought-after prospects while their attention is focused elsewhere. Learning how to optimize your time is key for any sales professional.

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