Direct sales play an integral role in the hyperlocal sales model for good reason — they work. Local salespeople who can meet in person and form direct relationships with prospects form the foundation for any successful hyperlocal and magazine sales strategy.
The direct relationship between local salespeople and advertisers is so vital that we included it as a foundational advantage in Ten Advantages: How Magazine and Hyperlocal News Publishers Will Win In the Era of Facebook and Google, an eBook that outlines how smaller publishers can leverage their greatest advantages to maximize revenue and more effectively compete against technology giants.
Direct sales are also a natural extension of the local support and affinity that hyperlocal publishers cultivate by putting down stakes and investing in their own communities. That authenticity, and affinity for small publishers, lends itself to the local sales team concept.
In-house sales reps play a central role in the small publisher’s ability to maximize revenue, as well. These salespeople are often the most important interface that a client has with a publication. The relationships they cultivate within their communities shape advertisers’ views and impact their willingness to invest in campaigns.
Surveys have shown that the more local merchants spend on marketing, the more likely they are to increase that amount over time. This pattern holds true regardless of budget. Local salespeople soften the biggest pain points in small business advertising, often taking the time to make advertisers feel like they’re being taken care of on a personal level.
The majority of small and mid-size businesses owners, who make up the bulk of advertisers across hyperlocal news websites, don’t employ advertising coordinators or marketing managers to handle the minutia of their digital campaigns. When they use self-serve advertising platforms like Facebook and Google, they have minimal variety in terms of creative offerings and almost no guidance on what makes for a successful campaign.
According to a survey on SMB advertiser churn by the Local Search Association, the greatest sources of dissatisfaction among small business advertisers include:
• Poor programming results (65%)
• Poor service levels from providers (55%)
• Pricing considered too high for the product or service (45%)
• Too many errors made (30%)
A 2017 survey by Street Fight Insights found that just 13% of local merchants use digital consultants or agencies for advertising. Most small business owners are looking for guidance on how to optimize their digital campaigns. A successful hyperlocal and magazine sales strategy should involve having ad sales reps who take care of their clients and make great suggestions for maximizing the impact of campaigns. For example, a salesperson with a personal relationship could:
• Recommend that an advertiser increase spending during key periods based on site traffic data
• Suggest a new ad format that the business hasn’t tried
• Educate clients on the latest digital advertising terminology and technology
• Refer the business owner to other local professionals who offer services that the business needs, such as website design, social media management, or even accounting
A publisher’s ad sales team should work similarly to a home remodeler who shares wisdom and makes great suggestions that maximize the impact of existing projects.
Of course, in order for this to happen, sales reps need to be experts themselves on all aspects of digital advertising, beyond just what local publishers are offering in-house. A hyperlocal and magazine sales strategy works best when a publisher’s sales reps act as educators, liaisons, and even partners to local business owners, providing an education on all aspects of digital advertising, including click-through-rates, cost-per-impression, and search engine optimization.
The recent influx of self-service digital marketing solutions is actually helping to fuel growth among publishers with full-service sales strategies. A survey by Borrell found that two-thirds of local advertisers who are doing their own buying online are inexperienced at marketing, and 70% of those novices are making decisions without any professional guidance. It’s a recipe for disaster. As results come in and these merchants see the dismal return on investment from their self-managed campaigns, they can become disenfranchised.
It’s not uncommon for small business owners to quit working with the “big guys,” like Facebook and Google, because of the lack of customer service and support. The hyperlocal and magazine sales strategy is setup as a counterpoint to this, providing small business owners with local representatives they can trust and who will listen to their concerns as they develop game-winning digital strategies.