Ideas are worth more than the media time or space used to distribute them. If you don’t believe me, take a closer look at the development of Starbucks' first branding campaign, recently released by 72andSunny, the agency responsible for the work. The campaign itself includes a mini-documentary-style film shot in 59 different stores, in 28 countries, using 39 local filmmakers and ten local photographers.
This project may be one of the largest in scale for any branding campaign, but where the idea came from is even more important. Starbucks’ branding campaign was sparked by its observation of how Starbucks customers were using social media—specifically the stories they were telling in YouTube videos that were shot inside Starbucks' stores. To watch, click here. Digital media wasn’t simply used to spread an idea, but to source the idea! In any medium and on any platform, it’s the idea that counts, the idea that carries most of the value and generates all the value created with its intended target. Ideas drive campaigns, now more than ever.
When selling digital, we often find ourselves pitching products. It might be the digital product that has the highest profit margin at the end of a rough quarter or maybe it’s the latest and greatest feature that no one else you compete with has (yet). I hear too many salespeople present capabilities but neglect to provide an application, an idea, a solution. Many times it’s because the seller never really understood what the problem to be solved was. Without the idea to go along with the tangibles you sell, your value as a provider diminishes and you leave an open door for your competitors.
Focusing on the product and not the idea (or the need) is problematic, and not just in media. Financial planners who want to increase their sales of a fund would do better to focus on increasing the ROI of their clients. Someone selling office furniture needs to focus on what the office needs instead of trying to get rid of excess inventory. Figure out what's in it for your clients, and speak to their needs.
The media is simply the distribution channel and you don’t need a PhD to know there are lots of digital media distribution channels. To stand out and be seen for ideas versus just products, I recommend approaching marketers with these three things in mind:
1. Ask yourself how you can be seen as valuable
What can you do to stand out and be noticed for something more than the products you sell? Do you have strong recommendations on LinkedIn that showcase your ability to solve problems or be creative? Maybe you have a website where you blog about digital marketing, with content that clearly shows how you add wisdom and ideas to the products you sell. Exploit what you are best at and what helps differentiate you from others who sell nearly identical digital media products.
2. Plan ahead to uncover needs
It’s not good enough to walk into a meeting and ask, “So, how’s business these days?” You need to do your homework. And don’t just note that you saw a recent Facebook campaign. Show that you understand marketing and the value of ideas. For example, if your homework reveals that the company you’re meeting with has a lackluster Facebook presence compared to others in their industry, you might say “I noticed there hasn’t been as much activity on your Facebook page as there is on your competitors’ pages. Since every business has unique goals, can you share with me what role you want your social media to play in your business and how well it’s working?” A question phrased this way will help you gain more valuable insights. When you show you have empathy, marketing expertise, and problem solving capabilities, you move rapidly toward the trusted and valued position you seek to own. The more trusted and valued you are, the more a prospect will share delicate details and specific needs.
3. Don’t leave a meeting without a clear assignment you and the marketer have agreed on
I find that salespeople who establish a specific goal for a meeting often leave the meeting having achieved that goal. So go into a needs-analysis meeting with the goal to leave with a specific assignment, and set yourself up for success by preparing questions that will help you get there. At The Center For Sales Strategy we use a method called the Hourglass Needs Analysis. We call it that because it starts wide at the top (getting a sense of the client’s broad needs), gets narrow in the middle (as you and the prospect come to agreement on which need to focus on first), and then broadens out again toward the bottom (as you work to understand everything pertinent to that selected need). Asking questions in our hourglass form helps ensure that you leave the meeting with a clear assignment and a head start on what the ideal solution may be.
If you implement these three practices, you will find it easy to suggest—not merely this digital media product or that one—but how to use those digital products. You’ll be suggesting specific applications, based on ideas, and developed into solutions. If you make that process collaborative, the prospect will be fully on board. This is how the best salespeople make themselves more valuable than their competitors.
All media works. It’s the ideas that power media campaigns that ultimately get the credit, anyway. Think back to Starbucks: The reason the industry is buzzing about the new Meet Me at Starbucks campaign has nothing to do with the media being used. It’s all about the idea. If you’re all about the idea, you’ll find selling digital way more fun and way more profitable.