Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

Just another weblog

Tackling the B2B Ad Sales Problem

I have spent the last couple of weeks reviewing some investment opportunities some early stage businesses.  In thinking about whether to proceed I began to wonder about the next developments that will be needed to leverage the business media model into a workable and scaleable  advertising based solution.

Most publishers complain that they have more inventory than they can sell.  This, it is argued demonstrates how hard it is sell digital advertising to b2b companies.  The volume of unsold inventory leads to price weakness and an overdependence on ad networks and backfill.  When clients are persuaded to buy advertising too often the ROI is poor and click through rates are alarmingly tiny.

I think the analysis is flawed.  It seems perverse to complain that there is too much inventory in the same way as it would be perverse to complain that we had too much circulation.  The truth of the matter is that we do not have too much inventory, but rather we have too much of the wrong kind. We have discussed before that a key challenge for web sites is to build user engagement.  A visitor to a site who arrives from natural search is unlikely to hang around for more than a page or three, and this is too little engagement to develop a high propensity to engage with advertising.  (First challenge – increase user enagement)

The second problem is that the nature of our ad inventory is of little use for brand advertising.  Brand advertsing requires a build of opportunities to see, reach and frequency.  Standard skys, leaderboards and banners are not good at delivering that.  To compound the problem we struggle to serve the right ad at the right time to the right user in the right context.  So the next two challenges are to create inventory sets that enable our customers to develop brand as well as clicks and then to find tools which enable us to put the right ad in front of the right user at the optimal time.

The fourth challenge is arguably the easiest.  We have to teach our sales people how to sell the digital opportunity.  Most sales people in b2b come from a pedigree of selling “space”.  Digital sales is much closer to the agency model, with every proposal bespoked against a clients objectives.  Sales people are often frightened to admit they don’t know what they are talking about but this is easily fixed. (I am working with BEC Development in offering a primer course for anybody who wants to develop their digital sales skills-To get on a programme just go the Bec Development website and the fine folk there will help you).

There is one final piece of development you should get your teams to think about.  The mobile device of choice for business people is the Blackberry.  Mobile browsers are not great, but b2b websites are none the less missing out on an opporutnity.  View your website through a mobile browser and you will discover that it is slow to load, the ad experience is awful and the rendering of the content is almost unreadable.  There is much to do to build user engagement, but you should add to your list of tasks mobile apps and optimisation of what you do for mobile browsers.


Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Advertising Sales, business media strategy | , | 1 Comment