Solution Selling: Top-5 Questions to Ask a Prospective Advertiserin Community Content Engine
We talk a lot about the importance that publishers embrace solution selling rather than simply pushing ads at local businesses. But, we often find local print sales people aren't comfortable with the concept and don't necessarily know where to start.
Here are the top-5 questions we ask any local business in order to understand their objectives and, as a result, build a campaign for them. Without understand your prospects point of view on these questions (and the follow-up questions they elicit) it's impossible to truly help them reach their goals.
1. What are you trying to accomplish with your advertising and promotion?
Don't be quick to help them answer, a little awkward silence goes a long way. The temptation is to say, "make more money" but that's not a good answer. We need to understand if they're trying to build a brand, introduce a new store, promote an event, run a special promotion, improve search results and embrace social media or something else entirely. Be prepared to ask follow-up questions, a great way to let your customers know you care about meeting their needs - not just selling an ad.
Update: 1.b. What digital activities are you currently investing in?
If your client already buys digital advertising of any type that's a good thing to know. If they're investing heavily in their social media efforts, search engine results or something else that's also good to know. This information helps you understand how much you need to educate vs. create something that they're already equipped to purchase.
2. What is unique about your product/service that you want customers to appreciate?
The reality is that most local businesses are boring... until you need them. Take home service providers like plumbers or electricians, we tend to view their services as a commodity but each one is different. What do they want customers to know? Their tagline may give you a hint but get them talking about what they're passionate about - "low priced leader", "done right and on time", "most pain-free experience", etc.
The campaign you craft should align with their core values and, should it include a content marketing component (and, YES, it should) you have a great start on what those articles should incorporate.
3. What is the biggest challenge you face in your marketing efforts?
Most local businesses don't know the answer to this but seeing their thought process is important. They nearly always struggle with SEO, social media, understanding the media mix and how print and digital are similar as well as how they're different. We ALWAYS want to deliver value during a meeting even if that means explaining how SEO works in a 2-minute, human-understandable way. P.S. because most businesses are boring, see #2, they can't get much benefit from social media without the assistance of a media property such as yours sharing their message.
4. What are you currently doing with social media and to improve your search engine rankings? Who is doing this work? - modify as needed based on the answer to 1.b.
The answer is often, "nothing" which is great. In a single buy, they can build brand, tell their story, drive traffic, improve their search results and benefit from your social media distribution. If they are doing something, we can help them be more efficient - and it's likely if they're paying someone for SEO or social they're paying for something they don't understand and we can always shed some light on the subject which builds the relationship.
5. Do you do any content marketing? If so, what sorts of things do you do? If not, are you familiar with the benefits of content marketing?
Content marketing is all the rage, while it's nothing new the web has opened up the content marketing universe to a whole new set of businesses... we've recently written a short post on the benefits of content marketing, a sales sheet is available for our Affiliates to incorporate into their sales material. Suffice to say, content marketing is huge and growing - digital in the US is already a multi-billion dollar industry.
Bonus Question: If they are a franchise or sell national products, do you get any co-op dollars and how can they be used?
If there are co-op dollars that the franchisor or brand provides they're often use-'em-or-lose-'em so let's help our local businesses put them to work. Also, understanding the rules associated with getting those dollars is critical and may shape what a campaign looks like. After all, it's easier for a local business to spend "someone else's money".
With these questions in tow, you'll be able to better understand your prospects and advertisers and be in a much better position to educate (when needed - it's often) and sell a solution that they both understand and are excited about.
Want to learn more about how to grow your business, better serve advertisers and compete in a way that digital up-starts can't?