I’ve spent 14 years in media, with less than 5% of that time so far attributable to an agency. Since coming over to the dark side (depending on your perspective) I have learned some lessons which would have served me well several years ago when I was selling media, and arguably even more so when I was running the operational side of Method (now Bridge Studios) at News UK. Some are more obvious than others, but I will focus on the most crucial and potentially profitable eureka moment here.
…and you have to work at them (this is serious business advice and not last night’s heart-to-heart with my wife ringing in my ears). Ok, so I wasn’t so stupid to disregard the importance of a good relationship, but until I spent 90 minutes being grilled by Liz Duff in my first Total Media interview I didn’t fully grasp the value that the buyer (agency) puts on a relationship with the seller (media owner).
The good news for us agency folk, is that 90% of the relationships come to us, because they want our money. But we need to embrace this ice-breaking ease and embrace relationships, especially when we don’t immediately want something from them. We can nurture these relationships, and while pastries are nice at 9am on a Friday morning, we need to consider what we offer the media owner in return.
There are three key ways which I have found useful to help build these relationships, which will save us time, help us shine in front of clients and guarantee the odd lunch now and again.
I used to hate calling agencies. Perhaps my sales patter wasn’t as sophisticated as it might be, but I represented a great product and frequently even when we were being briefed I struggled to make solid contact with the decision-makers who would make the decision on how budget was spent. Sometimes I had questions about a brief, an insight that I wanted to share or test or even access to a key member of editorial that could bring a campaign to life. Their failure to engage with me wasted my time, meant that some proposals were compromised and affected relationships. Five minutes on the phone or an answered email would have solved all of the above.
If we can’t sum up a brief in a couple of sentences then it’s probably not good enough to be sent to a media owner. A little extra time spent here investigating our best insights, considering and clearly defining the outcomes we want to achieve, and putting the brief into a template makes the job at the media owner so much easier. If it’s a content project, why? What is most important, metrics or effectiveness? etc etc. Considering the huge volume of briefs media owners receive we need to help them out by understanding their pressures, and the better our brief is, the more likely it is to rise to the top of the pile and receive the most attention, and therefore the best response. And that helps us do our job.
The golden egg! On my honeymoon in 2011, I opened a copy of a newspaper and there was my idea staring back at me. One catch? It wasn’t the newspaper I represented! This was for a campaign I had been chasing feedback on for 6 weeks without response. On this occasion, I guess my idea was good (albeit not profitable for me), but feedback for non-booked business not only helps the sales person explain internally why they have lost the business, but it also helps them to create better responses in future. In the Partnerships world, typically 10% of proposals turn into business so the better our level of engagement and feedback is before, during and after a briefing the more likely we are to get a gold star service.
What we are doing at Total Media
Engagement, briefing and feedback form the backbone of the Open for Business strategy that we are promoting at Total Media. We invite proactive ideas from our media owner partners, and embrace the creativity they demonstrate. We make a commitment that when proposals are appropriate we will actively discuss with clients. Some will go forward, while others won’t, but we will always give feedback and won’t hide from tough conversations if necessary. As a result we have the material to challenge clients, engage them in new concepts, make them consider their plans, to innovate and open up opportunities that may have been unknown or deemed too risky in the past. It’s serving us well so far, and we look forward to receiving many more proposals that challenge our thinking, and make those media owner pastries a great investment.