Do you want to sell to me? Be prepared.

I know this is a frequently visited topic: marketers being inundated with calls and emails from media owners peddling their latest discounted rates on everything from TV shoulder time (which no one watches), available inventory on radio (which nobody listens to) and supplements and special features in print publications (which never get as much eyeballs as the main publication).

Me? Cynical? Never!

You know what does get to me? Not being prepared when you send the email or make the call. Whether I’ve done business with you before or if you’re cold calling me, I do expect you to know certain Basics about my business:

  • Know the name of my company and get it right. Mangling the pronunciation or misspelling the name is disrespecting my brand. If you’re unsure check the company website and phone reception and make sure about the pronunciation.
  • Know my name and get it right. If you got hold of my contact details, you either got it off LinkedIn, the company website or another social media channel. That means that you saw how my name is spelled. Don’t guess, make sure. Pronunciation is tricky, especially in South Africa, but again, ask colleagues or phone reception to make sure you get the pronunciation right.
  • Know what we, and I, do. Phoning me up to ask me to advertise in the latest issue of Nudist Campers (because obviously, the ATKV offers camping through our resorts) makes your publication a perfect fit. Not so much. The company website will normally give you a clear idea of the product offering, the target market and brand positioning. Use that information to assess whether your product will benefit mine. Lastly, when you send an email with a pitch and right at the end you slot in the sentence “If you are not the correct person please forward it to blah blah blah”, I hit delete.

These, lads and ladies, are the absolute bare minimum things you need to know before you make contact. This information is almost always available on your prospects’ website or other form of digital channel or can be had from the nice lady at reception. If the lady at reception isn’t nice, you might be out of luck. Get crafty then and no, web stalking your prospects’ employees would not be considered crafty. Sick puppy.

For those who have stuck around, next is the Intermediate section. Here I will dispense years of hard-earned experience and wisdom¹ on how to prepare a pitch, whether prior contact was made or you’re cold calling. The trick, the shortcut, the silver bullet is, that there is none. This is going to take effort. It is going to require research, analysis, internal collaboration, product design, cost forecasts and collation. Let’s tackle each one.

  • Research. In the previous section covering The Basics, you would’ve done a certain amount of research. What does the company do, what is their positioning and who they sell to. Once you know these things, you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Very few business sell only one product with no variations. Each product type and variation of that product type was probably developed for a specific reason: creating market niches, attracting secondary or tertiary target markets, complimentary products that supplement the primary offering and so on. If you’re pitching your media platform company-wide, you’ll be doing a lot of research and have a broad understanding as opposed to targeting a specific product, in which case I’m expecting you’ll know more detail.
  • Analysis. Once you’ve sorted your research information into a company profile (or just downloaded it off the company website. Just kidding) you’ll need to analyse your product within the framework of my business. Had you been in my shoes, knowing both sides of the equation, would you use your product? Can you see the benefits? Who are your competitors² and what do they offer? Who are my competitors? What do my financials look like and what might my objectives be? These, and other questions, are vitally important for you to understand and preempt, why? Because I’m going to ask you these questions.
  • Internal collaboration. Great, you know what we do and to whom we sell, you’ve “objectively” reasoned your product would assist me in reaching my objectives. Hi ho Silver! Pitch! No. Not by a long shot. Based on all the information you’ve collected, and based on the trends in the marketing sphere, how is your offer going to help me stand out from the crowd within your platform? Selling me inside backs, push-backs, pop-ups (never, ever sell me pop-ups), stings, live reads or belly bands will get you a “Thank you for coming, we’ll consider your proposal”. No points for knowing what that means. You’re going to have to sit with your editors, producers, layout artists, graphic designers and anyone else involved in putting together your product to come up with something that  just makes sense.
  • Product design. Integrates with the previous point, once you’ve spoken to all the internal stakeholders you’ll have to sit down and package your offering tailored to what my needs are. Know which periods during the year are my slowest, that’s when I need to push sales. Know my budget as that will determine what I can and can’t do. Know my creative execution as that will give guidance on what your offering needs to be able to do. How willing am I to take a risk on something that’s not been tried before in your media type? Do you know the boundaries of what your media type can do? How do you integrate what your product offers with other things you’ve seen me do in advertising? Do you have partners that will be a good fit for what I’m trying to achieve where we can collaborate?
  • Cost forecast. Not the most important part, but up there. If your offering is so good so as to force my hand, I’ll go find the money to do it. But, as in most cases, I have finite resources and need to stretch them as good I can while still making an impact. Make sure your proposal fits my budget, there’s nothing wrong with building in stretch elements that can be added should I have the additional budget, but the core proposal needs to fit within the amount we discussed.
  • Collation. Putting it all together. Make me see what you see. Remember, you’re seeing my brand or business from a unique perspective, share that perspective with me and get me as excited about your offer as you are. That inevitably means  you need to be excited about what you’re putting on the table, if you’re not I won’t be. Also, presenting your idea in a very creative way is sure to grab me and score you extra attention points. I’m still waiting for a media owner to wheel in an Occulus Rift setup and VR their presentation! Wink wink…

And there you have it friends. My guide to how to sell to me. These pointers might differ from person to person, but on the whole these tips will elevate you above your competition in the eyes of marketers. Now I can already hear you scream in frustration: “How am I supposed to know your budget?” or “I can barely get my foot in the door with most marketers!”. Having been on all three sides of the fence (media owner, agency and client) I can tell you that I’ve made the decision to give every ad exec the opportunity to pitch, because, as a marketer I don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity and having been an ad exec myself, I know the frustration. Many marketers don’t do this and won’t give you the time of day, unfortunately I can’t help you there, you’ll have to dig in and lay siege to their defenses.

On the first question on how you get the info required to follow my humble guide? Ask³.

May AMPS be with you.






¹ Nice words for jaded and grizzled and hell, I’m only 33…

² Your competitors are not just other magazines if you’re a publisher or other stations if you’r a broadcaster. It’s not just other media in your media type, it’s all media in all the mediums.

³Not in the comments section dummy, the person you’re selling to. Ask them, they might give you the info or they might not. It’s like closing the deal, ask for the order or, in this case, ask for the info you need to put a proposal on the table.