A matter of survival: Direct sellers must evolve into brand evangelists

By Rachel Barash, Demand Media

Let’s travel way back. Back to before there was the Internet, TV or even the telephone. Back in 1859, when the only paid media were newspapers, Charles Darwin laid out the theory of evolution. The basic tenets of evolution are the struggle for existence, variation, survival of the fittest and natural selection.

While that may seem to describe just a basic day of commuting to the office on NJ Transit for some (okay, me), Darwin also sketched out the process by which species adapt to their environments. Now it’s time for direct sellers to get their Darwins on and figure out how to adapt to the new media landscape.

As seasoned media professionals we’ve all heard stories of the death of the direct seller, with many variations. Programmatic direct, for example, was one phenomenon that some feared was going to wipe out flesh-and-blood sellers. The truth is that neither publisher direct sales nor direct salespeople are dead. But they have definitely changed.

Taking a cue from Darwin, then, we’ve survived. But now, to keep ahead of industry changes and stay relevant, we direct salespeople have to evolve one step further. How do publishers and advertising sales professionals do that? How do we make direct sales campaigns work in the programmatic landscape? The answer is that we have to become brand evangelists – because acting as evangelists is something that machines cannot do.

Here are some ideas that would make Darwin proud:

The more things change the more they remain the same: As evangelists we need to understand our customers’ goals, objectives and needs. Without knowing what our clients are looking to achieve, sellers and publishers cannot provide coherent, well-thought-out advertising solutions. What are the brand’s goals? What type of audiences do they wish to speak to and in what fashion? What are the success metrics? A basic understanding of core objectives is the first step in brand evangelism.

Talk to me: As in most relationships, communication is key. Discover what makes the brand tick and what they feel is important. If you can figure out what a brand feels is valuable, then you can build it. Customization is the key to winning in the new sales game. However, don’t make the error of going down the wrong customized road. Avoid this failure by talking it out with the client.

It takes a team to build a dream: Don’t go at your evangelist work alone. To truly create a unique consumer experience that speaks to your client, get a team involved. You need editorial ideas, graphic savvy and technical support. Team involvement in the creation of a branded play on a publisher’s site is paramount for success (and yes, evolution).

Rinse and repeat: Once a publisher has created a successful brand campaign it will be over. It’s done. It’s dead. The same brand experience cannot be repeated. Each advertising campaign where you’ve created and nurtured a voice is exclusive and particular and cannot be duplicated. The process, however, can. Get back out there and prospect, create and evangelize your advertiser success.

It’s your thing: As a sales professional, you need to own the entire process of the campaign from start to finish. Brand evangelism requires creativity, accountability and professionalism. Advertisers buy from companies with which they’ve had good experiences. A sales professional should drive this experience by being front and center for all elements of the campaign. Let your advertiser know that you’re there and you care. Be human.

Publishers and sellers can develop into something more complex. They can diversify from earlier forms of advertising and advance to become trusted brand evangelists with guaranteed marketing dollars that add to the bottom line. They can continue to evolve, they can survive – and they can even thrive.


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