2014 is ‘the year of mobile,’ and there’s no shortage of new product offerings in digital media. Traditional banners, on the verge of becoming passé, are getting a second life through new, traditionally rich media, features such as ‘click-tos.’ Not surprisingly, it’s rich media sales that will extend last year’s double-digit industry growth through 2014. When launching a new digital media product offering, what is the best path? Your two basic options are:

a) Add it to the ‘bag’ of products your current sales reps handle
b) Deploy a product specialist dedicated to the new product

To make the right decision, consider the following four factors:

1) How important are the products, strategically? This is the most important question. Is the future of the business dependent on the success of the new product? Is the industry moving in the direction of this new product? The more strategic the product, the more you ought to consider deploying specialists. Simply adding the new product to your current AE’s ‘bag’ means it may get limited focus and attention. If the product is similar to existing products, you might make a case for training existing reps and tying more sales compensation to the new product as a means to drive necessary focus. It’s important to look at the strategic value from a ‘dollars today vs. dollars in the future’ standpoint. The effort required—headcount and investment—immediately after launch will drive profitability per rep lower, but it’s something most companies can accept in the short-term. If you chose to add it to the current AE’s portfolio of products, you may see productivity per rep increase, but potentially at the expense of getting broad market share.

2) What are the sales dynamics? If the point of contact for the new product is the same individual that the AE calls on regarding your core business, consider adding the offering to the current AE bag. Customers, businesses and end-users alike are quick to share their frustration about multiple sales touch-points when one will do. It’s not uncommon for us to hear comments from our clients such as, “Bob is my banner ads contact, Suzanne is for search optimization and Mark for mobile…” Even customers with modest budgets are looking for an easy way to do business with you—or a ‘single throat to choke’ when things go wrong. If the point of contact is the same, deploying a specialist may be overkill. The average digital media AE already has a full and complex bag of product offerings. Naturally, the more related the product offerings the easier it will be to shoe-horn it into the current AE’s bag. Your organization’s level of pre- and post-sales support—the number of people there to help with the sale—factors in to this decision as well. Does your organization have individuals with titles like Sale Strategy Specialist, Creative Specialist and Product Packaging Specialist? If so, you probably have the right enablement resources to help the AE position the new product. If not, then the product specialist is the more surefire way to ensure the launch is successful.


3) What type of digital media agencies do you engage with? Digital media agencies are a key player in the value chain linking advertisers and publishers. Assuming your sales force engages agencies for a portion of your total business, the type of agencies will influence your product specialist decision. The agency landscape is constantly evolving, but two agency types dominate: the Creatives: highly sophisticated, all-inclusive, creative powerhouses; and the Traditionals: more conventional, planning and buying agencies. Deploy the right resource based on the agency type you deal with:

a. Creatives – These agencies typically do the selling to their customers that you would ask your product specialist to do. They integrate mobile into holistic campaigns for their customers and act as the intermediary. When dealing with these agencies, the current sales will not need the necessary depth in positioning the new product. The product complexity is high, but so is the buyer knowledge (agency)!

b. Traditionals – These agencies will need more hand-holding. When dealing with more traditional agencies, a product specialist is a valuable resource to effectively convey the value proposition. Unlike the creative powerhouses, these agencies focus mostly on ad serving analysis, performance reporting and swapping ad tags rather than creating new marketing campaigns.

4) Can you afford a specialist? Sometimes decisions come down to simple economics and scale. Your organization size plays a factor in your decision on product specialist use. Large organizations use specialists much more frequently, but only for new or highly technical products. Large organizations enjoy significantly higher productivity per rep (up to 5x) and can therefore more easily afford deploying specialists. In some cases smaller sales organizations simply can’t justify the additional investment (infrastructure, productivity, etc.) at current efficiency levels. Size drives efficiency. In this very fragmented industry, this is one area where the big players clearly have the upper hand.

These four factors highlight some key considerations in the specialist vs. generalist decision. No one factor alone is enough to sway the decision completely. As your organization grows and changes, the importance of any one of these may also change. While we typically see the use of specialists in larger, more evolved organizations, it’s not uncommon for small, nimble organizations to create a compelling enough case for specialists. It’s a balance between strategy, cost, sales dynamics and the media agency types you work with.

To learn more about this and other topics in Media Sales, please visit the Alexander Group’s Media Sales page.


Insight type: Article

Industry: Media Sales

Role: C-Suite, Sales and Marketing Leadership

Topic: Strategy

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