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INMA: Sharing Ideas, Inspiring Change
INMA: Sharing ideas. Inspiring change.

INMA Industry Trends

Growing advertising business by offering solutions

In today's difficult climate, advertising sales departments must not only develop new tactics, but they also have to go out into the market and seek advertisers new to newspapers.

11 March 2009 | Mike Blinder | Ideas Magazine | advertising

The prognosis is grim. At least that's what many commentators suggest. As the economy falters, so does the media. Many long-established brands seem ready to say, "Stop the presses!" for the very last time. It doesn’t have to be this way!

In my book Survival Selling Even in the Toughest Times I write, "Sure there's less money to go around, but that doesn't mean that there are fewer needs." We've got to go back to the basics and adopt a more aggressive strategy based on tried and true sales techniques. We’ve all been living on Easy Street for too long, surviving on too much transactional, commodity-based advertising revenue. Now it's time to roll up our sleeves and get back out on Main Street. That's where the best opportunities lie in challenging economic times.

We do that by identifying new business prospects, particularly those essential prospects that we've ignored for so long.

A 2008 Borrell Associates report predicts that spending on print yellow pages will plummet by as much as 39 percent over the next five years. That doesn't mean that the businesses advertising there will disappear. Rather, businesses are looking for alternative venues to spend their advertising budgets effectively. But if those businesses no longer spend money to advertise in the yellow pages, then their money is freed up for new advertising opportunities.

My company's trainers, working with local sales representatives, have found exciting new opportunities with businesses that tend to do better in a down economy. One of these is the automobile after-market category. If people can't afford a new car, they need mechanics and body shops to change their tires and service their current vehicles. The same is true of the home improvement industry. People may not be buying new homes but that means that now, more than ever, they will need to fix their roof or plumbing and repaint. And if we're talking about "paint and bodywork," we should mention plastic surgeons, weight loss clinics, and cosmetic dentists. Even in a down economy, "baby boomers" are looking for ways to look and feel younger and do all they can to slow the inevitable aging process.

In order to establish themselves in new business categories, I always suggest that media companies do the following:
  • Develop multi-media solutions to replace advertisers' traditional directory spending.
  • Price packages realistically so that they can be taken effectively to smaller-sized businesses.
  • Adopt aggressive "prospecting tactics" to identify business categories in your specific market. Set specific prospecting goals for sales representatives and monitor these metrics during the coaching process. Provide real incentives to your sales teams to motivate them to "attack" smaller-sized advertisers for new business development.
It is possible that the solutions you develop to garner new business categories may be web-based only. They are an ideal entry platform for new advertisers predisposed to reject traditional media advertising. The "upside" is that once they are sold and being "serviced" by your traditional sales team, they become new fodder for traditional media products.

"Survival selling" means more than just selling to survive. It is all about aggressively "prospecting" new businesses constantly with a solution-based approach. These methods worked for me when we faced tough times in the past. And as we are proving, they still work today.

Author/Contact: Mike Blinder is president of The Blinder Group, a sales training firm with over 350 media clients worldwide. He can be contacted via e-mail at, on the web at, or via telephone at +1 917-865-4827.

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