Meeting the media sales team – make it awesome, not awful

Business meeting round with a man presenting in front of a screen to 5 colleagues

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Snapshot : When your media agency recommend you spend your media budget with a single supplier, they’ll often ask media sales teams from different suppliers to pitch for the business. Sometimes this goes well, but often it doesn’t. Learn what you can do to prepare for that pitch meeting. And learn what you to look out for to make the best decision on where you spend your media money. 

We’ve previously covered the overall weirdness of media buying, but this week we cover a more specifically weird part of media buying. That’s when your agency recommends you spend your media budget with a single supplier, and they set up pitch meetings with different media sales teams. 

Media in the advertising development process

Normally, you specify your media budget within your brief to your advertising and media agencies that’s part of the advertising development process

It’s the job of the media agency to recommend how to make that budget deliver on the brief objectives and how to get the best value out of that spend. 

(See our guide to media planning for full details on the overall process).

The media objectives normally centre on reach (how many people in the target audience will see the adverts) and frequency (how often those people will see the advertising).

The advertising development process - a guide on how to advertise successfully

In simple terms it’s about getting your advertising in front of customers in the right way, in the right place and at the right time.

If no single supplier can meet your reach and frequency objectives, the agency will spread the spend over multiple suppliers until they hit the objectives.

That’s the most common media plan you’ll see. But there is another option.

The best value for your media spend

Sometimes, the agency will find that a single media supplier can deliver your media objectives, and that you’ll get better value by spending the whole budget with them, rather than spreading it around. 

Media spend is usually the biggest line item in your marketing budget so getting good value is important to make sure your advertising has a positive impact on your sales and profit.

Media agencies work directly with media suppliers, and know their reach, costs and what types of deals they can negotiate. 

Person holding 6 hundred dollar bills in front of them which have been set alight

In general, there are economies of scale in media buying. The more you spend with a media supplier, the better the value you get on each advertising slot you buy. That’s what would drive a media agency to recommend going with one media supplier, assuming they can deliver your reach and frequency objectives.

Where it gets more interesting is when there are multiple media suppliers who can deliver your media objectives. That’s when the media agency will set up a competitive pitch for your budget. They’ll ask several media suppliers to come in and pitch for your budget.

The competitive pitch means you get even more value as the media sales teams will try to out-do each other. They want to win your business, and that’s good news for you. 

From media spend to media relationship

The pitch meetings and subsequent decision to go with a single supplier means you start to build a relationship with the media supplier. 

This moves you from a purely transactional relationship (you spend money on their media) to more of a partnership (you work together on shared projects and objectives). 

The media agency will already have a relationship and connection with the media suppliers. The media sales teams will often tell them about upcoming opportunities for clients, and share details of new media data, systems and processes. 

Close up of two hands in a handshake

By extending that relationship to you, they create a three-way connection between you, them and the media sales teams. This three-way connection helps you explore more creative media options, and carry out media activity that goes beyond standard media packages. 

Stand out from the crowd with your media

You want your media to stand out from the crowd. Stand out from the crowd and potential customers notice you more. 

The more customers notice you and like what you have to say, the more you’ll drive sales. 

Meeting directly with the media sales team helps you explore more creative ways to achieve these business and media objectives. 

For example, the media sales team may know of a hot new TV show in the pipeline that’d be a great fit with your advertising message.

Outdoor billboard with writing that says this will drive $1m in sales - probably

It’s in media sales teams interests to work with you to find creative media solutions. Selling advertising space is their job. It’s how the media suppliers make money.

When you have a decent sized media budget, you become very attractive to media sales teams. Your budget can help them hit their sales targets. They’ll be keen to woo you with their pitches. 

But in our experience, the quality of media pitches can vary wildly. We’ve seen some awesome ones, and some frankly awful ones. Let’s look at what separates the awesome media sales teams from all the rest. 

Awesome media sales teams

As we said earlier, your media spend needs to get your message in front of customers to help you hit your business objectives.

If the media spend doesn’t do that, you’re wasting your time and money.

This understanding of your business objectives and the role of media to deliver them is where the best media sales team stand out.

You want them to  propose a media plan that shows exactly how they’ll help you hit your objectives.

Close up of a hand with thumb up

Awesome media means your advertising message gets out to your target audience in the right way, in the right place and at the right time. It gets you noticed by customers.

Done well, your media amplifies all the other activities in your marketing plan. 

It’s how customers know you’re there and how to find you. It’s how they find out about anything new that you’re doing. 

Use it to spread the word about new innovations and new packaging. Use it to talk about Improvements in your customer experience, and to highlight sales promotions and price discounts. Your media helps you link customers directly to your website and to where they can buy you online.

An awesome media sales team will understand what your business objectives are for all these activities and how their media will help you deliver them.

Awful media sales teams

However, in our experience, this awesome experience doesn’t happen all that often. 

In fact in many cases, the media sales team don’t understand your business objectives. Which means they either pitch you the wrong thing, or do it in a style that doesn’t fit your needs. This can be frustrating and lead to some awful meetings. 

Media sales teams normal job is to sell media space to media agencies, not clients like you. Usually, they don’t need to understand your business objectives, they’re focussed only on the media delivery. 

Man with hands behind head and a frustrated look on his face

This can mean when you do come face to face, you’re not talking the same language. They want to talk in complex media technical jargon. You want to talk about your customers and your business.

You need to find a common ground. Awesome media sales teams do that by understanding your business objectives. Awful media sales teams focus more on telling you about what they have to offer. It feels like they’ve got their interests rather than your interests at heart. 

The most awful media sales teams we’ve met talk about themselves too much and lack commercial and customer understanding. It’s not unusual to feel talked at in these meetings, rather than listened to. The most awful media sales teams are barely one step above the used car salesman on the selling career ladder. 

And if it’s your media budget, and your business objectives, that’s not what you want.

Getting more awesome from media sales teams

So how do you get more awesome and less awful from media sales teams?

Well, firstly, when you meet them, remember what your role is for them. You’re their customer, and that matters. That matters a lot.

But beyond that, you’re also there to represent your customers to them. This dual role where you represent your customers AND you act as the media sales teams customer can be a little tricky, so let’s look at them one at a time.

Represent your customers to them

One of the first things to make the meeting with the media sales team more awesome is to spend time helping them understand your target customers.

If you’ve followed the advertising development process, you’ll already have a communication brief which outlines your brand and business objectives. 

You should create and share customer profiles with the media agency to accompany the brief. 

Tell the media sales team who you want to see your advertising and challenge them to find those audiences for you. 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

Media sales teams have access to a lot of data about media audiences. They’ll take your target audience information, and find the best match for that target within their media channels and programmes. 

Usually, they’ll start with demographic information, so gender, age and education level for example (see our guide to segmentation for more on this). They can track which channels and programmes get the most reach for each demographic segment, and propose media plans that get you in front of that audience.

Customer data in media planning can also often offer occasion based insights, especially around time. For example, they can tell you what time of day or day of the week your audience is most likely to be consuming media. You can tie this into when they are most likely to buy. 

They can also plan media against attitudinal variables. Companies like Kantar, who run the Target Group Index (TGI) panel and Roy Morgan work with media owners to match data on media consumption with insights from household panels. This can help you find the best media for specific attitudes or lifestyles.

Your role as the customer for the media sales team

The communication brief has another important job beyond bringing your customer to life. It also defines what you, as the media sales team customer, needs from the media activity. This will be your business, marketing and communication objectives.

It’s the role of the media sales team to look at these objectives, as well as your budget and timings and show what they can do to help you deliver against those objectives.

Most media activity focusses on awareness. It’s about maximising the number of relevant customers seeing your advertising in the right context.

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

This is a numbers game with the media sales teams proposal delivering reach and frequency. Put simply, the more customers who see your advertising and the more often they see it, the more impact it’ll have. 

This is where the expertise of the agency comes in. They’ll evaluate the media sales team proposals and help you understand if (a) it’ll meet your objectives and (b) you’re getting a good deal. 

They should also help you optimise the spend. At a certain level of spend, your media budget will start to have diminishing returns. They should help you identify the most effective and efficient level of spend. 

You want the best return on your media investment. That’s ideally what you look for in media sales teams pitches. That’s what should wow you the most. 

Unfortunately, it’s not the only way media sales teams try to wow you. You need to watch out for the the ones that try to wow you with something other than hitting your business objectives.

The ones that try to wow you with style

Media selling is big business. There’s more money spent on media than there is making the adverts themselves. Media sales pays for the TV shows we watch, the magazines we read and the websites we visit. 

It’s that content that pulls in the audiences, that means they can sell the media space around it to customers like you.

That means media companies have access to great content experts. They know how to put on a show and how to tell a great story. And they use that expertise when they sell to you.

They’ll typically roll out a show reel for all the big TV shows coming out soon. These show reels are professionally produced and make the content look amazing. Of course they do. 

It’s exciting to have this inside view of what’s coming up before anyone else does. 

But here’s the thing.

It’s actually not that relevant to your content, to your advertising.

The audience won’t connect your advertising with the media owner’s content. It’s only really relevant in building your confidence the media will reach the audience it needs to. Look at the media numbers harder than you look at the media content, because those matter more in finding your target audience. 

Plus, let’s be honest, all media owners will have some content that hits your target audience. Yes, some shows are bigger than others, but overall, viewing figures tend to even out over time. Don’t let the style wow factor distract you away from the focus on using media to deliver your business objectives.

The ones that try to wow you with social connections

Media sales teams often tend to be an extrovert bunch. They like to be sociable. And they’ll try to use this sociability to their advantage when they’re trying to win your business in a pitch. 

As the client, you suddenly find yourself being treated like some sort of celebrity VIP. You get invites to exclusive events and activities as part of the media deal.

This invites might be professional – e.g. an invite to an exclusive presentation or conference – or more fun and personal – e.g. tickets to major sporting or music events.

This sort of social glad-handing goes on a lot, though not as much as it used to. More people these days see it as ethically questionable. Not quite bribery, but not far off either. 

It’s the business’s money after all. So, media spend should be on what’s best for the business, not for the individuals who control the budget.

What’s best for the business isn’t the style or social aspects of the meeting with media sales teams. It’s what they can do for your business that counts.

Wow you with business results

So, fun as the style and social aspects of meeting media sales teams are, never forget that they’re not what matters in the long-run. Business results are what matters when you’re spending your media budget.

The best media sales teams give you confidence that their channels pull in the right audience, and you’ll hit your business objectives if you spend with them.

Awesome media sales teams provide clear data  showing how many customers you’ll reach and how often they’ll see your advertising. They’ll share benchmarks of what similar media activity has done for other businesses, and set goals and measures to help you track performance. 

The best media sales teams commit to minimum levels of audience delivery. If they fail to reach those levels, they make up the difference. 

They’ll try to understand your business and pitch a plan that you can feel confident will deliver on your objectives. It shouldn’t over-promise. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Probe them on the details. Ask questions. Remember, there’s always other places to buy media space. This give you power over the pitch decision. 

You have the power, not them 

Because at the end of the day, here’s the key thing to remember with media sales teams. 

They need you more than you need them. 

No media owner has a monopoly on media. There’s always other ways to achieve your media objectives if you don’t connect with specific media sales teams. 

Remember, what they sell has a limited shelf life. Like hotel rooms and airline seats, if they don’t sell the space, it goes to waste. 

That puts you in a strong negotiating position. Be clear on your target audience and business objectives, and push hard to get the media sales team to explain what they can do for you.

Conclusion - media sales teams

Your media budget is your biggest area of marketing spend. If your media agency find multiple suppliers who can deliver your  media objectives, you may be able to get a better value deal by working with a single supplier. 

If you therefore have pitches with media sales teams, prepare well. Make it clear what your business objectives are and who your target audience is.

Look for the media sales teams that give you the clearest business proposal and be cautious of the ones who try to wow you with style or social incentives. 

Business meeting round with a man presenting in front of a screen to 5 colleagues

Media is a numbers game, so make sure you get the numbers to work in your favour. That’s what’ll get you an awesome media plan. 

Check out our guide to media planning for more on this. And of course, contact us if we can help with coaching or consulting on how to get the best out of working with media sales teams. 

Photo credits

Business meeting : Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

Money on fire : Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Handshake : Cytonn Photography on Pexels 

Billboard (adapted) : Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

Thumbs up (adapted) : Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Frustrated Man : Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Confetti : Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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