How Do You Sell Advertising?

I get this inquiry quite a bit, especially from those readers who have jumped into publishing with a whole bunch of passion, but no experience on how to sell the attention they aim to collect.

Since the influx of publishing options rode in on the Internet wave, ripples from multiple digital distribution platforms have made selling advertising more complex. New models, new metrics, and a host of third-party technology options have made a concept that's simple to understand, even more challenging to digest.

For those who have been in our business a while, what we do to sell what we rep has become second nature. So how would you answer this question for those just starting out in our business? Here is my publishing 101 three-step program for running a business predicated on selling advertising.

1. Produce great content. What makes content great is a better question to ask. For starters, your editors must have a passion index for the content they produce significantly greater than the audience it is designed to attract. Secondly, great content must exceed the engagement needs of the audience you covet, so you must have a great understanding of those needs. Your salespeople must then channel this passion, understanding and commitment effectively.



Content has been knocked around the last couple of years, taking a back seat to ad-serving technology advancements. However, as traditional brand marketers spend more money online, they'll be paying more attention to where that money lands. Clients, like consumers themselves, spend money with brands they are comfortable with. Content is like a pillow for advertisers. The better it becomes, the more comfortable they feel.

2. Insert your content brand everywhere you can. Your content directs you to the advertisers you are meant to help. If you publish a Web site, magazine and e-mail newsletter on skin care, then the dermatology market is yours to embrace. Insert your content brand into as many points of entry as you can. Our skin-care publisher should try to place a welcome mat at such points of entry as doctors' offices, trade events, drugstore or drug aisle promotions and skin-care blogs. Potential advertisers will always take notice when your brand is everywhere they want to be.

3. Don't sell advertising. Instead, sell your content brand's commitment to your clients' markets and your commitment to help solving their marketing problems. Not advertising with you is always an option--but ignoring a problem is not. If you can identify why communicating with your audience solves their problem, ads will be bought, not sold.

The selling comes in the packaging. Sell big ideas and watch how your ads are bought, all because you found a way to solve a problem.

I asked one of the salespeople I work with currently, "Hey, Matt, if I asked you 'how do you sell advertising,' what would you say?" Matt, an early-30-something dude with a good heart, looked up and said "relationships, man."

Nothing is bought without a trusting relationship in place. Even transom business disappears unless further nurtured with trust and compassion. The hardest part is identifying where to build those relationships. That is why those good at what we do make a nice living--and why this simple question has no easy answers.

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