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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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Why read this? : Your media agency handles most interactions with media suppliers. But sometimes they recommend you ask the media sales team to pitch for your business. Learn what drives this and how you can best prepare for that pitch meeting. Read this guide for ways to make better decisions when media sales teams pitch to you.

Media buying can be pretty weird at the best of times. But there’s one specifically weird part that’s on our minds this week. That’s when your agency recommends you focus all your media budget on a single supplier. And they set up meetings with different media sales teams to pitch for your budget. 

Media in the advertising development process

Normally, you specify your media budget in the brief to your advertising and media agencies. It’s part of the advertising development process

It’s the job of the media agency to recommend how to make that budget deliver against your objectives. And how to get the best value out of it.

(See our media planning guide 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.

Normally, 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 is a single supplier can deliver your reach and frequency objectives, that gives you another option.

The best value for your media spend

Sometimes, the agency will recommend you’ll get better value by spending the whole budget with a single supplier, rather than spreading it around.

Media spend is usually the biggest element of your marketing budget. Getting good value is important. You want to make sure your advertising has a positive impact on your sales and profit.

Media agencies regularly interact with all the media suppliers. They 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

Much of media buying runs on economies of scale. The more you spend with the media supplier, the lower the cost per advert placement you run. That’s usually the main reason a media agency recommends going with one supplier (assuming they can also deliver on reach and frequency).

It gets interesting when there’s multiple media suppliers in the mix. When that happens, the media agency will set up a competitive pitch for your budget. They’ll ask several media suppliers to come in and propose why you should choose them. 

The competitive pitch means you get even better 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 team will share upcoming opportunities, and early details of new 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 team. This three-way connection helps you set-up more creative ways to deliver media. You can run 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. Do this and customers notice you more. 

The more customers notice you and like what you have to say, the more likely they’ll buy.

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 their interest 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 good sized media budget, the media sales team will be very interested in helping you. Your budget can help them hit their sales targets. They’ll be keen to woo you to spend with them. 

But in our experience, the quality of these pitches can vary wildly. We’ve seen some awesome ones, and some frankly awful ones. Let’s look at what distinguishes an awesome media sales team 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 objectives and how media delivers them is the first area where an awesome media sales team will stand out.

You want them to propose a media plan that shows exactly how their media will deliver your objectives.

Close up of a hand with thumb up

Awesome media means your advertising message reaches 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 everything else in your marketing plan. 

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

Use it to spread the word about 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 understands your business objectives in all these areas and how their media will help you deliver them.

Awful media sales teams

However, in our experience, this awesome experience doesn’t happen very 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 way that doesn’t fit your needs. This can be frustrating and lead to some awful meetings. 

The normal job of the media sales team is to sell media space to agencies, not clients like you. Usually, they don’t need to understand your business objectives. They focus on the media delivery. 

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

This can mean when you meet them 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. 

Awful media sales teams talk about themselves too much. They lack commercial and customer understanding. It’s not unusual to feel talked at in these meetings, rather than listened to. The worst 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 the media sales team

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

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 tricky. Let’s look at each in turn.

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 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. Gender, age and education level for example (see our segmentation guide 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 give you 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 link this to when they’re 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 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. These are your business, marketing and communication objectives.

The media sales team should consider your objectives, budget and timings and show what they their media can do you for give those constraints. 

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

Awareness is a numbers game. Look at how the media sales team proposal delivers 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 proposal 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 team 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 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. The money that comes comes from selling media pays for the content. It pays for the TV shows we watch, the magazines we read and the websites we visit. That content pulls in the audience. And with an audience, the media owner can sell the media space around the content 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 coming soon TV shows. Thes reels are professionally produced and make the content look amazing. Of course they do. 

It feels exciting to have this inside view of what’s going to be on TV before everyone else.

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 right audience. 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 from delivering your business objectives.

The ones that try to wow you with social connections

The media sales team is often full of extroverts. They like to be sociable. And they’ll often use this sociability when trying to win the 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.

Inside a concept hall, lots of confetti flying in air, with audience reaching out their hands towards it

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 the media sales team. 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 the media sales team is, they’re not what matters in the long-run. Business results matters when you’re spending your media budget.

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

Awesome media sales teams give you data showing clear reach and frequency. They share benchmarks of what similar media activity has done for other businesses. They work with you to set goals and measures to track on your performance dashboard.  

The best media sales teams commit to minimum levels of audience delivery. If they don’t reach those levels, they make up the difference. 

They aim to understand your business and pitch a plan that will deliver your objectives. You need to be confident in that plan, so probe them on the details. Ask questions. Remember, there’s always other places to buy media space. It’s your decision. You have the power here. 

You have the power, not them 

That’s a key thing to remember with the media sales team. 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. 

Remember, what the media sales team sells 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 objectives, you can sometimes get a better deal by working with a single supplier. 

If you then meet a media sales team for a pitch, make 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. Beware 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. Make make sure the numbers work for you. That’s what you find in 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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