8 Ways to Increase Digital Ad Revenue by 50% or More

Companies need to take a serious look at their digital ad programs, make needed adjustments, and prepare sales teams for success. From fixing inventory and pricing to launching programmatic audience extension, here are eight tactics worth considering.

I recently received a fantastic email from a single title B2B publication that I work with: “As of today, we are on track for $452,380 in digital revenue alone. This is a 66% increase over last year’s digital revenues of $271,798!”

How did they do it?

We took a serious look at how the team was approaching digital ad sales, removed programs that weren’t working, reworked their products, delivered more value to their advertisers, and simplified the program. The publisher, editorial, and sales staff got behind the changes and their advertisers obviously responded positively.

Now they’re getting ready to launch some new digital products for next year.

With the fall sales season coming up quickly, now is also the time for you to take a serious look at your digital ad programs, make needed adjustments, and get your staff ready. Here are eight tactics that you should consider.

1. Simplify Your Digital Advertising Program

When I look at most publishers’ digital ad programs, they’re too complicated and have too many products. Ask your ad reps to give you a quick recap of your digital program. If they can’t quickly and easily do this, then you’ve got a problem.

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re not selling out any specific product 70% of the time, you should consider eliminating it. Use that inventory to bolster the value of other digital products. Or get rid of it altogether to reduce site clutter and the number of emails you send – and to improve the performance and value of your other products.

Simplification of your digital products is the best way to help your ad reps sell more and to deliver more value to advertisers, making them want to buy from you again and again.

2. Fix Your Inventory and Pricing

When your advertising program is simple, you can ensure that each product has enough inventory to provide excellent value to your advertiser. This is absolutely critical. If you don’t provide true value, you may sell an advertiser once, but you won’t sell them again.

And when you put enough value into each digital product, you can then adjust your rates accordingly. If you do it right, your base digital ad product should roughly sell for the same price as a full-page ad in your print magazine and deliver comparable value.

Adjusting inventory and pricing also allows you to control supply and demand. If you have too many products that aren’t selling out, there is no urgency on the part of the advertiser. But if you consolidate and simplify your products, you can charge more, deliver more value, and create urgency among advertisers to get access to your limited opportunities.

3. Get Rid of the Frequency Rate Card

Frequency rate cards are a legacy of the print-only era. They were designed to give advertisers a discount if they spent more money with you. But today, we sell print and digital (and more). All the frequency rate card does is silo print and disincentivize advertisers from buying digital.

Consider ditching the rate card and replace it with an overall spend discount. Have a base, 1x rate for everything print and digital. Then, give tiered discounts based upon total advertiser spend instead of just on the number of print ads they buy.

This incents advertisers to spend more money with you regardless of the medium.

4. Consider the Digital Sponsorship Model

I’ve covered the digital sponsorship model before, but it’s worth reiterating here. In the sponsorship model, you take all (or most) of your web and email inventory, package it together in a single price, and limit the number of sponsorships you sell.

You bring a ton of value to your advertisers, can charge a premium, and completely change the nature of discussions with advertisers and agencies. Instead of you competing for limited ad budgets, your advertisers compete for the limited sponsorship opportunities on your site.

It isn’t for everyone, but I’ve seen many publishers (especially in niche B2B markets) increase digital revenue by 50-200% after implementing this model.

5. Develop an Inbound Marketing / Lead Nurturing Business

Lead generation is something that most publishers already have in their arsenal. But very few publishers take it to the next level and develop a true inbound marketing/lead nurturing business. Yet this is where advertisers are moving their budgets.

In a lead nurturing business, the publisher leverages its content expertise to help the advertiser develop a very compelling lead magnet. They use their own website, email, and social channels to market the lead magnet, but also remarket to their audience on programmatic networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, etc) to drive even more people to the lead magnet.

And you don’t stop after the initial registration. You then upsell people into requesting direct contact with the advertiser through an email drip sequence and other methods. This help turns “prospects” who access the lead magnet into qualified, sales-ready leads … a huge difference!

As a publisher, you either become the best inbound agency in your market or be prepared to watch other ad agencies or competitive publications take market share away from you.

6. Launch Programmatic Audience Extension

Your advertisers are already running programmatic advertising on Google/YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, and other networks. They’re just not doing it with you. But with programmatic audience extension advertising, you can position yourself to recapture a good portion of this business.

The concept is relatively simple. Use your website visitors, social media followers, and email subscribers to create remarketing audiences on various programmatic networks. You then sell programmatic campaigns to your audience targeting your specific audience on those networks.

For advertisers, this is a much more targeted demographic than they could otherwise get. They also get the added benefit of leveraging your brand equity.

For publishers, this taps into new budgets and opens up new inventory that you don’t have on your own website. I have seen programmatic audience extension add hundreds of thousands of dollars of new revenue for publishers, often at 70% margins or higher.

7. Educate and Communicate with Your Advertisers

As I’ve written about previously, it’s critical that you align the advertiser’s objective, creative, and success metrics before, during, and after their campaign. Doing this on a regular basis helps set proper expectations and improve repeat business.

I often see advertisers who want clicks or leads but give the publisher a branding creative. They’re then upset when they don’t get enough clicks. Or the advertiser will say they want a branding objective but are still upset about not getting enough clicks.

As a publisher, you must align the client’s campaign objective, the tactics used in their creative, and the metrics they’ll use to evaluate the campaign. This happens at three critical points: when making the sale, when they deliver ad creative to you, and after the campaign.

Some publishers even do a webinar for their advertisers to help reinforce the importance of direct response versus branding campaigns and aligning campaign objective, creative, and success criteria.

8. Keep Digital in Front of Your Sellers Regularly

Finally, keep your digital products in front of your sellers on a regular basis. Every month dedicate a portion of one of your sales team meetings to review how well products are selling and inventory that is still open.

Talk openly about financial performance and key metrics. Discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what you’re hearing from your advertisers. This helps answer several questions:

  • Do my sellers need more training on certain aspects of our digital business?
  • Do I need to better educate my advertisers and their agencies?
  • Do I need to eliminate or modify our digital deliverables or pricing?
  • Do I need to restructure my sales team to better sell under-performing products?
  • How can I help my sellers better overcome advertiser objections?

Talking about digital sales openly and bluntly also keeps digital at the forefront of your sales team’s mind. It’s a level of accountability and keeps your digital products from accidentally “falling off the radar.”

I hope these ideas were useful. If you have any questions about them or how to implement them in your market, please feel free to contact me and let’s chat about your specific situation.

8 Tips for Creating Content That Creates Leads

The goal of content marketing is, of course, to win new business. More precisely, it’s to win new business in a manner that is sustainable and profitable — you can’t spend $2 to earn $1. Below are eight tips on how to create content that will power a successful, high-ROI content marketing program.

The goal of content marketing is, of course, to win new business. More precisely, it’s to win new business in a manner that is sustainable and profitable — you can’t spend $2 to earn $1. Below are thoughts on how to create content that will power a successful, high-ROI content marketing program.

Getting to Know You

Get to know your audience and their interests. Don’t assume you know – ask! And once you’ve asked, don’t assume the answer never changes. The goal is to create content that addresses the topics they love with answers to questions they have. And that’s a whole lot easier to do if you’re not guessing about what they want.

Let Google Guide You

If “let Google guide you” makes you think “SEO,” you are correct! But you don’t have to commit to a full-on SEO campaign if doing so doesn’t make sense for you. (It may not, depending on your target market, your offering or other factors.) There are all sorts of keyword tools available if you don’t have an SEO expert in-house or on contract. One caveat: if SEO isn’t right for you, there may be limited value to keyword research: the two generally go hand-in-hand.

(But It’s Not Really Google)

It’s worth splitting hairs to say that it’s not really Google that is guiding you here. They’re just aggregating the data for you. It is your audience and potential audience who are telling you (through their choices of keyword phrases) what they’re interested in and what language they use to find relevant information. Which brings us back to talking to your clients, prospects and all who interact with them (sales teams and customer service personnel) to find out what really interests them.

Personality and Perspective

Have a voice and a viewpoint. More than anything else, being “you” is the only thing that will make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t shrink away from showing your personality, whether through humor, a sense of wonder, or absolutely geeking out over the details of your niche.

And don’t worry about alienating some of your audience. You’re going to do that anyway, so you may as well help those members of your audience who aren’t a good fit to weed themselves out.

Worms, Roxanne. I’m Afraid of Worms

That subhead is a reference to Roxanne, the Steve Martin movie re-imagining the Cyrano de Bergerac story. The line in the original is “I’m afraid of words” but the worms paint a nice picture, no? All of which is a long way of reminding you not to forget visuals. Breaking up the printed word is critical, especially for longer pieces, so make use of images as well as white space, sub-heads, bullets, and other formatting.

And think beyond the printed word. Video, animation, and other tools will help bring your ideas to life and get your audience engaged.

Planning

An editorial calendar will help you stay on track throughout the year. And should also ensure that you pay attention to all audience segments and all stages of the buying process. IBonus: if you map out what you need, there’s much less “what am I going to write about” stress.

Take a Load Off

You wouldn’t dig fence posts with a teaspoon. Don’t do your content generation manually. Use tools to automate processes and batch tasks so that it’s not a never-ending death march of, say, social media posts. Do ‘em once a week, schedule ‘em with a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer, and get on with other work.

Track, Analyze and Adjust

Use the firehose of analytics data for good. It’s tempting to ignore it because it can be so overwhelming. Start small if you have to, and look at just one aspect of your data. Track it over time. Make adjustments to content and track whether they help or hurt your results.

Then add another dimension to the simple data you’re tracking. Do a little research and you’ll find out how to get the data you’re aiming for. (And your analytics dashboard will become a little less intimidating.)

Your goal should be to turn data into information and information into actionable insights. With that as your guidance premise, creating content that creates leads will be much easier and your content marketing programs much more successful.

Push vs. Pull Marketing: In B-to-B, You Need Both

The other day, a marketing colleague told me she was feeling under pressure to move all her efforts to inbound, or “pull,” marketing. “Outbound is bad,” she said. What? Well, I guess her feeling is understandable. Inbound marketing is all the rage today. Hubspot promotes it. Marketo promotes it. Seth Godin promotes it. With the new popularity of pull marketing, B-to-B marketers may be under the mistaken impression that push marketing is dead—or should be. How wrong they are. And here’s why

The other day, a marketing colleague told me she was feeling under pressure to move all her efforts to inbound, or “pull,” marketing. “Outbound is bad,” she said. What? Well, I guess her feeling is understandable. Inbound marketing is all the rage today. Hubspot promotes it. Marketo promotes it. Seth Godin promotes it. With the new popularity of pull marketing, B-to-B marketers may be under the mistaken impression that push marketing is dead—or should be. How wrong they are. And here’s why.

Simply put, B-to-B marketers need a mix of push and pull. Limiting your strategy to pull alone will reduce your market, and limit your ability to identify all the prospective buyers who might need your solution to their problems.

In B-to-B, pull marketing generally means making yourself visible, or being helpful, and hoping that people will get the idea that they should visit your website or otherwise reach out to find out more about you and your offerings. The theory is a good one. And it works great for luring prospects at various stages of the buying cycle, especially when they have already identified a need and are researching potential solutions. Bingo, with pull marketing tactics like providing educational content, you have a good chance of snagging a fairly qualified prospect.

Typical pull tactics in B-to-B include:

  • Developing informative, non-salesy content, to educate all comers on how to solve their problems, and what a great partner you can be in helping them. This can be in the form of blogging, downloadable white papers, videos, infographics and others.
  • SEO and SEM, which will pull prospects to your site and your content when they are looking for particular information.
  • PR, or media relations, to persuade others to write interesting and favorable things about your products, or highlight your expertise and experience.
  • Social media, for distributing your content to followers, and inviting them to share it with their networks.
  • Speaking engagements, whether online or in person, where your expertise is on vivid display.

But what about prospects who don’t even know they have a problem? Or who haven’t defined the problem yet, not to mention considered a solution? Or maybe you have a solution that is so new, prospects don’t even know how to research it. To get all the business you deserve, this is where push marketing is essential.

In B-to-B, push marketing includes all the outbound messaging that have proven themselves for decades, most notably:

  • Direct mail, including dimensional mail. Keep in mind that the list business in the U.S. is so mature, and so sophisticated, you can find just about every prospect using mailing lists, no matter how narrowly you target.
  • Telephone calls, using the same lists, when the list owner gives you permission to call.
  • Advertising, online and offline, with a strong call to action to generate a response.
  • Event marketing, such as trade shows and conferences, where you can not only kick off relationships with new prospects, but also convey your expertise through speaking engagements.

Sure, these methods may be intrusive and unfashionable. But this is what we marketers do. To fulfill our mission of market coverage, scalable lead generation, and profitable sales growth, the modern B-to-B marketer must pull—and push—every possible lever.

Anyone want to argue about this? Let’s discuss!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Disengage: Create Response (and Sales) With Content Marketing

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media. At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Does your content marketing create reaction beyond sharing? When using LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs, creating response is critical to netting B-to-B leads and sales. The key to success is getting your target market to take action—moving them off of social media.

At some point you’ve got to disengage and get the inbound in the term inbound marketing going!

Many inbound marketing experts claim being engaging within LinkedIn groups or telling compelling stories on your blog will help you net generate more leads and sales. It’s simply not very effective. In fact, most content marketing plans fail because popular wisdom the practice is fatally flawed.

Before you can net a lead, you’ve got to create confidence in potential buyers with social media. This is an exciting, effective, new way to generate business leads with social media. But where to start?

How can you start creating response-right now-without investing more time in what you’re already doing?

How to Create Response-Now!
If telling compelling, transparent, authentic stories about your brand won’t help you make sales what are you to do? Trash the idea totally? Never. All that’s needed is this to make those remarkable stories you’re telling actionable.

You’ve got to give prospects a compelling reason to ask for more content in exchange for qualitative information about them. Because when they do that they become part of your sales funnel.

I know it’s fashionable to say marketers are publishers but the truth is you’re not in the publishing business at all. You’re in the response business. Not the reaction business (ie. getting shared) but the response business (getting leads).

The success formula is quite simple.

Step 1: Create content that solves a problem.
Step 2: Locate and/or attract qualified discussions.
Step 3: Lure prospects into taking an action that connects to your sales funnel.

Create the Honey: Useful Content
Pick an itch your customer has and scratch it with blog, video or some other form of content. Solve a common problem that relates to the end goal your customer is pursuing, for instance. Whether you’re a service or product marketer, this is the best content for blogs or any B-to-B content marketing vehicle you publish.

In my case, I published a handful of stories and audio interviews on my site featuring a niche subject matter expert. My guest told readers/listeners how to take action on a burning problem-one that related to a specific solution I sell.

The idea is to use content to give confidence to buyers. The trick is to do it in ways that increase their ability to feel emotionally grounded and intellectually stronger-fully equipped to do what they want to do. Buy.

Attract the Bees
Next, simply locate and/or attract qualified “conversations” with prospects. You can hunt them down inside LinkedIn groups or blog in ways that attract search engine traffic based on questions (keywords) your prospects are asking.

In my case, I decided to begin using LinkedIn for sales prospecting. I spotted a discussion on a niche LinkedIn Group where I answered a question in a way that “brought to life” the specific valuable answers my guest expert was offering… but not in the usual way.

Provoke an Action
I did not link back to my content; rather, I quoted my expert’s best sound byte. He was honestly provocative because he shared a new perspective and unique remedy. It then became easy for me to invite my prospects to join me on a journey… one where they would receive more useful content if they opted-in.

Of course, this moved them toward (or away from) my solution.

Remember, in B-to-B marketing you’ve got to go beyond telling a good story. Start netting leads by creating content that is provocative-compelling enough to cause prospects to sign up for more content they’re craving. It can be a webinar, ebook, downloadable tip sheet, self-assessment or educational video series (like free sales training videos) that solves a common problem or addresses a popular fear or myth.

Good luck!

To Gate or Not to Gate, That Is the B-to-B Content Marketing Question

There’s a spirited debate in B-to-B marketing about whether it’s best to give away information (aka “content,” like white papers and research reports) to all comers, versus requiring web visitors to provide some information in exchange for a content download. In other words, to gate your content or not to gate. The debate involves aspects of both ROI and philosophy. Here’s why.

There’s a spirited debate in B-to-B marketing about whether it’s best to give away information (AKA “content,” like white papers and research reports) to all comers, versus requiring Web visitors to provide some information in exchange for a content download. In other words, to gate your content or not to gate. The debate involves aspects of both ROI and philosophy. Here’s why.

I know that plenty of very smart and well-respected Internet marketing experts line up with dear old Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, who famously said in 1984 that information “wants to be free.” The underlying assumption there is that people buy from companies that they trust—a valid point, to be sure. Casting a net through free—unimpeded—distribution of content encourages both trust and, perhaps more importantly, wide dispersal and sharing of information. You’ll get to a much bigger audience, who will be educated on the solutions to their business problems, will be grateful for the free info and, one hopes, will think of you when they’re ready to buy. So far, so good.

The problem is that this model—which lives under the umbrella concept known as “inbound marketing”—leaves marketers in a serious quandary. We don’t have any way of knowing who is reading our informative, educational and helpful content. We are left sitting on our thumbs, unable to take any proactive steps toward building relationships with these potential prospects. All we can do is wait for them to contact us and, we hope, ask us to participate in an RFP process, or, more likely, give them more info and more answers to their questions. Is that any way to sustain and grow a business relationship—not to mention meet a revenue target? In my view, it leaves too much to chance.

Let’s look at the numbers. The ROI model for inbound marketing says that distributing the content to a wide audience will eventually result in more sales than gating the content and marketing proactively to a smaller universe. Let’s look at how these numbers might actually work:

To start the conversation, say that wide distribution would put your content in front of 10,000 prospects, via free downloads and pass-along.

In contrast, we might similarly assume that by gating, and requiring some contact information in exchange for the content download, we would only get 1 percent of that distribution: 100 prospects. These are now legitimate inquirers, and we can conduct outbound communications to them. By applying typical campaign conversion rates, we could predict that of 100 inquiries, 20 percent will qualify—producing 20 qualified leads. Of those, we’ll be able to contact 50 percent (or 10), and of them 20 percent will convert, resulting in 2 sales.

But how many sales will we get from the 10,000 with whom have no direct connection? It’s hard to say. When inquiries come in, we can ask where they heard of us, and certainly some will say they read the white paper, or whatever content we put into circulation. But this data tends to be unreliable. Inquirers usually don’t remember how they heard of you, or they just make up an answer to get the question out of the way.

This is exactly why business marketers debate the subject with such vigor. We have data, and thus proof, on the gating side. But we only have conjecture on the other. So it boils down to which side you believe. It’s tough to do sustainable marketing on faith.

Myself, I grew up as a marketer in the world of measurable direct and database marketing. So it’s no surprise that I favor the gating side of the fence. I like marketing campaigns that provide predictable results. Where I can stand up in court and show a history of my campaign response rates, conversion rates, and cost-per-lead numbers. And most important, where I can reasonably expect to deliver a steady stream of qualified leads to my sales counterparts, who are relying on me to help them meet their quotas.

So that’s my argument for gating content in B-to-B marketing. I understand the logic of the other side. And I see clearly situations where it makes sense to let the information run free-as a teaser, for example, to persuade prospects to come and get the richer information that is so useful that they’ll be falling all over themselves to give me their name, title, company name and email address. But what about you? Where do you sit in this debate? It’s a biggie.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.