Deal Size Matters

When I was at (which morphed into IGN), I would meet up with friends at a bar called Shanghai Kelly's in San Francisco. Our crew included a few other media sales reps and a couple of buyers, so there was no shortage of beer-driven industry discussions.

In the fall of 1999, I was drunk on "dot-com Kool-Aid" while my print rep brethren sipped wheat beers and judged the merits of this new medium from the safe confines of their established magazines. There was a rising level of disdain at that time for online--and rightfully so, given the arrogance with which this brazen new medium was being sold.

By January 2001, however, we were breathing in dust from the dot-com bust, working in a brand-new building we could hardly afford. I remember a particularly lean week in which we reported bookings of only $18,000 dollars. The look my company's president gave me after seeing this report made me feel the water rising around us. We were sinking. Back at Shanghai Kelly's, the dot-com demise was going down as smoothly as those fancy wheat beers for my print media sales brethren.



However, as time progressed, our revenue numbers climbed slowly, while our employee total plummeted in order for us to stay afloat. At some point that year, we managed to close two deals that would amount to over a million dollars each, both with brick and mortar companies (as opposed to the dot-com funny money we used to count as revenue). A few things happen inside a publishing company when deals sized much larger than the norm close. The sales rep who sold the deal is publicly celebrated, while his or her colleagues enviously look for resources to support a deal like that of their own. More importantly, a deal size like that sends a message to an entire company--even one on life support--that it is producing significant value.

December has arrived and your management is looking feverishly for a few more dollars to finish the year strongly. So much so, you may be reluctant to report a win that will not show its face until first quarter of next year. This short-term focus on year-end revenue, however, costs publishers an opportunity to use this time to help their sales force create a million-dollar product they can shop in the new year.

So how do you make a million-dollar product? It is not easy, but when done well, such products reflect the creative talents of the salespeople on the account. They need to be the conductors orchestrating the proposed sale. There are, however, three common ingredients found in million-dollar deals. First, you must plan ahead. Secondly, you must look inside your own building and identify organic content ripe for an enhanced and integrated promotion. The final ingredient is exclusivity. This helps target the proposal to a specific advertising category while giving you the necessary leverage to close the deal (nothing gets Lexus more interested than knowing Mercedes is looking at the same opportunity).

One of the challenges of selling a million-dollar deal is pricing it. Publishers often try to put a cost on all of the added elements that come with a proposed program of this size. This creates a problem for buyers, who then need to evaluate the merits of each component with equal scrutiny. It is much easier to purchase a million-dollar deal when there is an allotment of traditional inventory of equal value, whether it is airtime, online impressions, pages or a combination of these. The creative integration that entices the advertiser to buy a million dollars of inventory from you should be priced out as added value.

This past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Q104.3, a classic rock station in New York City, played a listener-generated list of the top 1,043 songs of all time. This is the kind of organic content that can support a blockbuster deal. There did not appear to be an enhanced sale tied to this content event, however, beyond a fixed position sold to Toyota, who competed with five other ad units including impressions from Dodge, all within a subsection of the Web site dedicated to listing the songs played on air, an hour or two after they played.

Had a salesperson at Q104.3 included a four-day exclusive roadblock on-air during the busiest shopping days of the year as part of an annual airtime allotment worth a million dollars, a full year's presence on the Web site featuring the voting and on-air countdown, opt-in e-mail captures of those voting, along with the chance for listeners to win a download of the entire list of songs with proof of purchase of the new (fill in client's product)--well, now we're really talking turkey.

Have you ever bought soft ice cream at a baseball game? You can buy a cup of ice cream for $2.75--or you can buy the same amount of ice cream in a miniature batting helmet for $3.25. This is the same concept used in selling million-dollar deals in media. The trick is coming up with a miniature batting helmet that fits your client's objectives like a glove.

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