The Future of Local Media Sales: The Digital Rockstar

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
-William Gibson

Anyone who has talked at length with me knows I have a few opinions about media sales reps.  I worked at an ad agency for over a decade and had countless reps call on me. I’ve worked alongside Digital Sales reps since my ad network days at CMGI’s AdSmart in 1997.  And the reality is that today we are going through a seismic change as to what makes someone highly successful in the local media sales job. The change is not apparent everywhere yet.  In fact I would argue that there are only a few excellent examples out there right now of who this person is. But I’ll give you one prediction: given the pace of change in the media business, if within 4 years you look in the mirror and you don’t see signs of the person I describe below, you may need to think about the burgeoning opportunities in plastics.

I’ve talked in past posts about how the local media sales reps are moving from just selling products (media “units” like radio/TV spots, print ads, online display ads), to becoming Digital Marketing Consultants who provide a whole range of interactive advertising services in addition to these basic media products. Essentially, they are becoming a highly knowledgeable agency of one, backed up by a larger organization of vertical experts.

With this shift from selling primarily one thing (a product), to providing advice and expertise across an entire array of often highly complex digital services as well as products, has also come the requirement for an entirely new skill-set.  So if you’re a media sales rep, here are the four capability areas I believe you’ll need to rock to win in this world.

A Human Digital Swiss Army Knife

If there is one capability that is key to the modern digital media sales rockstar- it’s a high degree of knowledge across a wide array of cutting-edge digital marketing strategies.  Whether it is audience targeting, paid search, retargeting strategies,  organic search optimization, social media marketing or content marketing- they are on it.  They can talk to a prospect in-depth about their business objectives, and understand right away that this particular client needs an initial paid search campaign to generate leads quickly, then an SEO effort to build for long term, cost effective visibility- all before the broader awareness campaign kicks in . They obviously aren’t the absolute expert the vertically focused specialist is- but they have a rock solid knowledge base.  And to a large degree they consider it their hobby to soak up information on the rapidly developing digital marketing tools that can light up a business’s sales funnel.

A Personal Digital Power Brand

The rockstar in this emerging world also has to be what I call a  Personal Digital Power Brand. Clients in the digital age look at how successful you are at creating visibility for Brand You, to gauge whether you are real (cause the reality is- if you can’t market Brand You in the digital world- how good can you be at marketing their brand?). The power of your digital brand tells them whether you are authentic, or whether you are a digital poseur. You can’t fake this. You can’t fake frequent daily sharing of good, smart marketing advice on Twitter. You can’t fake intelligent, informative blog posts. You can’t fake having 500 plus smart industry connections on LinkedIn. In this world, “what you are speaks louder then what you say”. People looking at your various social profiles can tell in about 5 seconds whether you are the real deal. And if you aren’t, they’ll move on to your competitor who is.

A Digital Marketing Thought Leader

Connected to the attribute above, is the fact that the Digital Media Rockstar is a thought-leader in this business.  It’s apparent from their social outposts and web presence that they are an active and enthusiastic contributor to deciphering the massive shifts we are seeing in the marketing world today. They are jazzed by what is happening and they regularly share, comment and write with the intent to educate their colleagues, customers and prospects.  They understand fundamentally the idea that when you present information in a way that helps customers understand (not baffling them with techno gobbeldygook)- you will win a customer for life (as opposed to churning out a confused and angry client 3 months later). So they focus on truly helping other people to understand.

Since they regularly advise clients about the fact that it is critical to own your own brand presence and build your own web equity (as opposed to relying solely on social outposts like Facebook), they have a blog that sits on a domain they own and control. On that blog they regularly post (cause nothing turns a reader off faster then when the most recent entry is a stale, one year old post). Overall, you look at their web presence and say to yourself: “this person gets it- and I want them in my corner”.

A Data & Analytics Ninja

The modern world of digital marketing has fundamentally become one of measurement, analysis, testing, optimization and a “prove it to me” focus on results. In my dad’s era, it was about selling that multi-page magazine ad schedule and then checking in with the client 6 months later in case they were interested in a round or two on the links.  That world is gone. This one’s focus on measurement, optimization and results is constant, real-time and relentless.

So to provide the insight needed to succeed, the rockstar provides a regular stream of key performance indicators as well as the deep level of understanding in order to translate the info for a busy client. Throwing tons of numbers at someone does not work.  Pointing them towards the numbers that really matter to helping them acquire and keep customers is what it’s about.

At the base of this capability is a deep understanding of Google Analytics.  Some of the knowledge here has come from personal experience running their own blog and using Google Analytics to understand how their site is doing.  More learning has come from logging into client accounts and looking at how various campaigns are working at delivering the client’s goals.  The rockstar has developed the ability to look at the client’s data and tell them things about their business they’ve never known.  ”By the way, were you aware that only 5% of your traffic is coming from organic search, and most of that is just existing customers searching for your name?”

They also know how to use analytics at an early stage of the conversation to diagnose the situation before they prescribe a solution. Where is their traffic coming from?  How much via paid vs how much via organic search? How much from social? Have they set up Key Performance Indicators that allow them to see how they’re doing against goals? Just like the first step of having your car checked out these days is hooking up its computer to diagnostic tools, the rep will have the saavy to check out the analytics to get a sense of what is going on . Then they create a plan designed to work for the individual business.

Summing It All Up

I’ve had reps tell me this is all very difficult to do.  “Where do I have time for all this?” they say. And they are right-  it is very difficult to do.

So here’s the deal.  The world you were in is over.  The puck is now moving at light speed, the demands of the business are exponentially higher, and your competitors are rapidly adapting to become the machine I describe here.  Stay where you are and you’ll become irrelevant.  It’s now your choice- embrace this new world or learn to love plastics.



John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

One response to “The Future of Local Media Sales: The Digital Rockstar

  1. Julie Levinson-Gabis

    This is great, John! Very motivating. And, a little scary. Also perfect for my “challenge du jour”:-). Thanks for sharing.

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