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Valid or not, an Advertiser’s perception is your reality.

However, recent Alexander Group research found that only one in five media companies had a defined process for capturing the voice of their advertising and agency partners (VO2A). Furthermore, the research shows that most media companies do not assign ownership for this crucial activity. “If I learn something about one of our customers that could apply to the rest of our clients, I’ll just share it during our next all sales call.” – SVP of National Sales, Radio Broadcaster. With the advertising community trying to figure out what comes after cookies, it is more important than ever for organizations to understand and align with their clients’ perceptions, marketing goals and business objectives.

While there are many avenues for gaining firsthand customer insights, these six best practices can be applied regardless of approach.

Alexander Group - Media Article - VO2A Best Practices

1. Establish a Cadence

Capturing the VO2A should not be a point-in-time endeavor. Institute a process for formally gathering insights on a recurring basis (e.g., every six months). Do not wait until things stall for a particular vertical, set of accounts, or team to initiate the process. Understanding what your customers are thinking and how their perceptions are evolving enables you to be steps ahead of the competition.

2. Include Cross-functional Stakeholders

Sales and Field Marketing will likely gain the most from the VO2A outputs, but do not forget to include representatives from Customer Success, Ad Operations, Revenue Operations, and other client-engaging teams who will gain from the learnings. Also, share findings with leaders from Product so they can validate that your solution/platform roadmap is setup to deliver what the market values in the near and long term.

3. Enlist Sales

Frontline reps and first-line sales managers are spending the most time with clients. Therefore, it is imperative that you work with them to identify topics for the VO2A effort – whether that be advertising value realization, solution effectiveness, or satisfaction with assigned sales, account management and customer success reps. Also, ask sales leadership to nominate clients for interviews and proactively identify those who will provide constructive feedback.

4. Outsource Interviews

Engage a neutral third party, such as a different division within your company, to oversee the process especially for the largest and most prized advertisers and agency partners. Bringing in a new voice will create an environment for clients to share freely and provide the most objective outputs. Provide your interviewers with a guide, but also permit them to take the conversation down different paths.

5. Focus on Themes

Do not react to individual comments or overly focus on the minutiae. Concentrate on central themes that are consistent across different segments and verticals. Remember that the end goal is to leverage the VO2A insights to advance the sales strategy and value propositions. If there is not a significant sample size to support changes, expand it through additional interviews, surveys and third-party research.

6. Translate Information into Action

Treat VO2A findings like perishable groceries, use them before they go to waste. Ensure proper follow-ups through assigning to-dos, establishing timelines to complete action items, checking in on progress, and providing a feedback loop for clients and partners. Making the information actionable includes things such as developing value propositions for lower-funnel offerings, making the case for new specialized roles, or conducting targeted skills training.

The day-to-day demands of generating revenue and “putting out fires” often puts VO2A far down the priority list. While many commercial leaders are in front of their customers on a regular basis, determine if you have been asking the courageous, often difficult, questions that inform how your sales strategy and solutions need to evolve. An SVP/GM of a leading integrated magazine company summarized it best when shown a quote from one of his top advertisers that read, “They need to stop showing us 30 pages of why we should work with them and give us five pages on how we can work with them in new ways.” His response―“Wow, I can’t believe we’re still hearing this, I thought we had fixed this a while ago.”

For more information on how you can build a best-in-class process for capturing the voice of your advertising and agency partners (VO2A), please contact a media practice leader.

Alexander Group’s 2021 Media Sales Industry Trends research is underway. The research includes executive interviews on prevalent industry topics and data submission on sales productivity, roles and coverage, headcount ratios and pay mix. To learn more about the research topics and participation, please visit our Media Sales Research page.

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