Five steps to selling mobile advertising effectively

Mobile traffic is growing at incredible rates and advertising is following suit. A recent report from BIA/Kelsey stated that U.S. mobile ad spend is expected to skyrocket to $4 billion in 2015 up from $790 million in 2010. Who is spending all these ad dollars? According to the same report, by 2015 targeted local ads will account for 70% of mobile ad spend or $2.8 billion. It is anticipated the mobile ad spend will migrate from traditional media but also from standard online display advertising. Read more about the report here. Needless to say, anyone selling traditional or online ads better be prepared to not only sell into the mobile advertising space but also deliver products that generate results for advertisers.

What to sell

So what is there to sell? There is text messaging of course. Mobile display banner advertising is another option. Running a tiny banner ad on a small screen is a start, but we have a ways to go to make mobile display ads truly effective. Soon, geo targeted ads on a hyper local basis will become reality in a big way. Deal sites such as Groupon, Living Social or a local deal site like the Orange County Register’s Deal of the Day are increasingly moving to mobile. And we know shopping is a big part of the mobile experience.

Lessons learned from the early Internet days

Remember the early days of the Internet? Most companies would bundle their traditional ad products with web  and more or less give away the online ads for free. The concept was driven by lack of traffic and lack of knowledge on how to sell. We know where this approach got us. We now have expectations for real measurement of audience experiences and CPM rates that in most cases are under $10. Web traffic continues to grow and CPMs keep coming down. Not a good economic model.

We have an opportunity to avoid repeating history. Traditionally, it would go something like this. We start by making sure we understand what the audience is doing on their mobile devices. Then we determine which advertisers will benefit from being associated with the audience. If we know the audience, advertisers interested in the audience and the ad products we can deliver (i.e. text, deals, display, email), we then get busy selling. Right? No. Wrong!

Five steps to selling mobile effectively

It is a bit more complicated than that. Here are five suggestions on how you can take a more comprehensive approach to selling mobile effectively:

  1. Identify the “experimenters”: Find the type of advertisers who are willing to experiment in the early stages of mobile advertising as compared to those who expect immediate quantifiable results. Then, identify which products will meet the needs of the advertiser. Use newer products such as geo targeted local ads with the advertisers willing to take on a riskier advertising approach. Use text, email and maybe mobile banners with the advertiser who is wary of mobile.
  2. Sell sponsorships or pay-per-use: In the early days, the traffic will not be significant enough to drive high CPMs. Even if you have a lot of mobile traffic, much of it could be fly bys and it is not certain how traffic will impact interaction with ad units.
  3. Set minimum sponsorship or CPM rates: Don’t compromise and accept ads sold below set rates.
  4. NO bundling with other products: Of course, sell whatever you have to, but sell mobile as a separate buy with line item invoicing so the advertisers recognize the value of mobile ads. Too many times sales will sell a flat rate price and the next thing you know it is a Finance person deciding how to allocate the dollars between products. On top of that, the customer gets a lump sum bill and never remembers paying for a mobile ad.
  5. (The big one) Don’t assume you can train or use your existing sales reps: Remember, many of the ad reps are still trying to figure out digital ads. At the same time, they are being pressured to sell legacy products, which in many cases are easier to sell. No training required. Selling digital is hard work. Educating the advertiser, using words that are foreign to many reps and then explaining results. It is important to establish a standalone unit in the early days that call on new prospects and act as a hunter group. This same group can either call on existing advertisers or do 4 legged calls depending on your organization. Whatever you do, do not count on the existing sales org to handle all products. Mobile will be late to the party if you follow this approach.

Now, we have the basics down for selling mobile effectively. Next time I will spend some time talking about mobile products and how best to position them.

Photo: mobiletor

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