$400k in New Dollars Garnered from Small Market SoLoMo Sales Deployment
American Consolidated Media (ACM) is among the top five specialist owners of community newspapers in the U.S., publishing approximately 100 local newspapers which serve 18 geographic regions across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Delaware and Michigan. With most circulations below 25,000, these smaller market newspapers wanted to find a solution for their local small- to medium-sized businesses (SMB's) who were looking for an integrated approach to their marketing needs that would move beyond traditional print and online banner ads. But, would meet their needs to index higher on search engines, like Google and Yahoo. Help them leverage their social media networks. And, offer them a digital mobile presence as well.
Mike Blinder, President of the Blinder Group, a multimedia consulting, training and revenue generation provider, based in Tampa, Florida, USA, stated during a Webinar broadcast about this deployment: "In 2009 I had a major increase in requests from media companies to host educational workshops for local business owners. Most of the SMBs that would attend back then thought the Internet was a 'Google' thing. In other words, they wanted to know how to improve the chances that their business would be found by local customers who were searching on the Internet. Then, their attention turned to Facebook. So, the content of our Advertiser Workshops not only included information about search, but also started to include information about how to leverage social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. And, now, SMBs want it all - they want solutions for search, social media AND mobile - in the industry, we call it SoLoMo."
ACM not only needed a SoLoMo solution, but they needed a way to educate their sales reps and their local businesses on the evolving world of online advertising.
The Blinder Group worked with ACM to create an integrated SoLoMo solution that would help local SMB's with their social, local and mobile challenges. For ACM's Chesapeake Group, which includes the Easton (MD) Star Democrat and the Elkton (MD) Cecil Whig, that package included online advertising on the local newspaper Website, Facebook advertising and a DYI online storefront that could easily be populated with current advertiser information, optimized for search and accessible by most mobile devices.
"The storefront itself really solves all three SoLoMo challenges," said Kurt Gentry, VP Digital Sales for Radiate Media, the company behind the storefront platform being used by ACM. In addition to being a directory product structured and optimized for search engines, the backend of each storefront allows businesses to update all of their social networks through one portal and offers businesses the opportunity to monitor their social media reputation by aggregating comments, status updates, etc. that may include the business name and/or current promotion. "The social stream has become much more relevant to the SMB," said Todd Frederick, Digital Director, Chesapeake. "Although people aren't utilizing this feature as much as they could, it will continue to become an important part of the entire solution." And, storefronts are automatically mobile allowing local SMBs to be ahead of the competition. "Fifty percent of people are searching on mobile devices, yet only 2%-5% of sites are mobile-ready," adds Gentry.
The next step for the Chesapeake team was to educate their local SMBs on the benefits of online advertising, showing the current and predicted spending levels of specific business categories, and offering them an integrated SoLoMo solution. ACM contracted with the Blinder Group to have Mike Blinder conduct two Advertiser Workshops for business owners in Maryland. "We never called this a 'SoLoMo' workshop," added Blinder. "That is an acronym primarily used in our industry. Instead, the focus of this educational workshop was to share with business owners how they could grow their business online."
The workshops were held in two different settings - one in a large auditorium and the other in a smaller venue with roundtables. "The roundtable setting is ideal for this type of program," said Frederick. "With one sales rep per table, we were able to engage with the business owners before and after the program, increasing our chances of setting up a follow up appointment with a decision maker."
Gaining an appointment with a qualified decision maker was the main goal of the workshops. With the Blinder Group team headed back into town to conduct 'four-legged' sales calls the following week, the more appointments set during these workshops the stronger revenue results for the Chesapeake team. Salespeople were prepped on the mission and deployment logistics. "I urged them to QUALIFY each and every attendee to make sure they are good candidates for our SoLoMo offering," said Blinder. "Plus, I made sure they tried to make contact with each business owner in advance and get the 'decision maker' and any 'influencers' to attend as well."
Next, utilizing local market research as well as industry standards and information, the Blinder Group assisted in the production of the associated sales support collaterals. Simple, easy-to-follow, multiple page fliers were developed so the local business owners (and the sales team) could easily grasp the features and benefits of the sales program. The Blinder Group has vast experience in creating such sales presentations. "Too often media companies do not graphically explain the online portions of sales programs in an easy-to-follow manner," said Blinder. "This creates confusion during the sales process."
In addition to the sales materials, the Blinder Group encouraged reps to pull together individual folders for each of their prospects. The folders included a copy of the business' website home page, advertising found in competing media, and a "snap shot" of their current Google rankings when key business categories/terms are searched. "The folders really show the advertiser you are committed to helping them grow their business," said Blinder.
As of the broadcast of the June 20, 2012 Webinar, American Consolidated Media had generated more than $400k in revenue split almost evenly among new, dormant and existing advertisers. And, plans to continue growing this type of program are already in the works. "We will definitely add some bells and whistles to this current offering and add to the overall spend," said Frederick, whose Chesapeake Group generated $225k of the $400k total ACM revenue. "We have plans to add mobile advertising, video opportunities and even niche websites. The program will continue to evolve just as the online space evolves."
For the Blinder Group:
Mike Blinder, President
For ACM-American Consolidated Media:
Todd Frederick, Digital Director-MD
For Radiate Media:
Kurt Gentry, VP Digital Sales
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