OK, here goes: Media buying is a relationship business.
There, I said it! The simple fact is there are lots of wonderful tools and services that provide media planners and buyers with detailed data reports on site traffic and volume, audience composition and past performance -- and each of these gets quite a lot of use -- but it comes down predominantly to a relationship business.
Relationships get your foot in the door and they get you an RFP. Relationships get you a meeting and they can even get you a test buy. Actual performance and service gets you the renewal, but that's the easiest part of the process. It's getting past all the clutter and the drama associated with the initial recommendation that's the greatest challenge -- and relationships are what get you to that point. It's not easy to make a recommendation regarding a site or an opportunity that the client hasn't heard of, but a strong relationship will get the planner to invest the time and push you through. After that, it's your job to deliver.
Media buyers have a hard job. They have to field hundreds of cold calls a month from companies, many of which tell the exact same story with different words. As a result, most media planners become a bit jaded. There are two ways to break down the defenses of a jaded planner: be truly innovative, or build a relationship.
I can tell you a story of a rep who took the time many years ago to meet me in person and connect on a mutually enjoyed hobby - namely, the band Pearl Jam. We have since built a great relationship and become good friends. I will always do business with that person no matter where we work or what he is doing -- and he knows it. That's how you build a relationship; it was never done in an obviously "business" way, but in a casual, yet genuine manner, with mutual respect that grew over time and through interaction.
The mind of a media buyer is not difficult to figure out. Media buyers buy two things. They buy reach or they buy impact. Both of these can be found through any multiple of methods, so in most cases the relationship is the primary point of differentiation. Building a working relationship is no different than any other relationship, which is why the best work relationships typically become friend relationships as well.
Many sales organizations understand this and educate their people, promoting them and supporting their work in the field. The ones that promote a culture of the old "dial for dollars" motto are the same ones that churn and burn their talent --and these are the ones destined to fail.
In many cases, a company takes on the reputation of the people it hires for the field. If you hire the right people, this can be a great thing! A strong salesperson with deep relationships in the marketplace and an up-to-date Rolodex is the most valuable hire you will ever make. If a salesperson can transition from one company to another and bring the relationships they have with them, this is a testament to the strength of those relationships and the inherent value of that salesperson.
In our industry, it can be difficult to stay on top of people moving around. Too many companies churn their talent by overworking and underpaying them; hence, the relationships are even more important because they're based on the people and not just the company.
My parents taught me that you treat others the way you want to be treated -- and if you forget that from time to time, then you apologize and you try again. No one is perfect, but that's part of building a strong relationship: letting others know that you aren't perfect and that you don't expect them to be perfect, either.
With new companies starting up all the time, those relationships are what get the ball rolling, so don't overlook or abuse them, because they are the greatest asset you have.
So the next time you make that call to an agency or a brand marketer and you're asking for their business, take the time to inquire about them as a person before you start selling them as a prospect. The call might be longer and the sales process might get dragged out a little, but it will be worth it in the long run. Your value will increase and the relationship will last.
Don't you agree?