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Why Publishers Need a Direct Sales Strategy

Programmatic advertising has been generating plenty of headlines as of late, but direct sales are still responsible for many of the successes seen in the hyperlocal publishing community.

Relying on their in-house sales teams, smaller publishers are finding that they’re better able to leverage local connections and keep their rates high when they pitch advertisers directly.

Programmatic vs. Direct

We’ve covered programmatic advertising pretty extensively here at Web Publisher PRO, but it’s worth mentioning briefly again as it relates to direct sales. Programmatic is a type of ad buying that uses software instead of a traditional processes. Programmatic advertising is incredibly efficient, but fraud rates can be high and there is concern over programmatic driving down CPMs for local publishers.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is direct ad selling. With direct sales, in-house sales reps working for a publisher go out into the community and pitch ad space to local advertisers. Direct sales can be time consuming, and it can require significant resources for reps, but direct ad sales can also lead to more revenue by cutting out ad networks and exchanges that act as middlemen in the sales process.

By some estimates, local publishers generate as much as 5x the revenue from inventory when it’s sold via direct sales compared to programmatic.

Pricing Inventory

The first question advertisers will ask a local publisher’s sales reps is how much ad placements cost. Publishers should price their inventory based on site traffic quantity and quality, as well as the quality of editorial content. Readership demographics also come into play. An audience of high-net-worth individuals is usually worth more to advertisers than readers who skew lower on the economic scale.

One way that publishers can maximize the value of their inventory is by letting advertisers target specific reader groups who’ve demonstrated an affinity for certain products or services. For example, a sporting goods retailer will usually be willing to pay a higher ad rate to ensure its ads are being seen by people reading the Sports section, while a restaurant would be willing to pay a higher rate to ensure its ads are seen by readers in the Dining section.

One of the best ways to sell hyper-targeted advertising is through section sponsorships and sponsored content. With direct sales, publishers have more flexibility and control over their own inventory, making them better positioned to sell these types of premium packages.

What Publishers Need for Direct Sales

  1. Salespeople: First and foremost, publishers who want to sell directly to advertisers need exceptional salespeople. Sales reps will become the face of the brand to many in the community. They need to be knowledgeable, friendly, and skilled in their work.
  2. Media Kits: In order to do their jobs effectively, sales reps need media kits. Media kits show prospective advertisers what they can purchase from the publisher. In addition to basic information like an editorial calendar, package options, and advertising deadlines, media kits also include information about the publication’s readership, both in terms of reader demographics and traffic figures. Here is an example of a media kit put together by Bethesda Magazine.
  3. Rate Cards: Rate cards are like pricing menus for publishers. Advertisers will always ask to see a rate card before agreeing to advertise on a publisher’s site. Rate cards should list basic prices for display advertising and any premium packages the publisher is offering, along with details about ad types, dimensions, and supported platforms.

Although it won’t fit in a briefcase, the most important thing sales reps need to sell ad inventory directly is a solid publication. Well-respected community publications can sell themselves. Advertisers are much more willing to attach their names and brands to a publication with a positive brand identity than one with a less-than-stellar track record.

While publishers need to equip their sales teams with media kits and rate cards, the real key to making direct sales work is to run a top-notch website with a solid following in the community.

For more information on all the latest direct sales strategy, reach out to our team at Web Publisher PRO.