Local media companies have a significant opportunity to increase revenue and capture more client dollars with digital advertising. Many have made it a bedrock of their growth strategy, while others face challenges or haven’t even begun the journey. There’s more to finding success with third-party digital sales than having the products available and letting customers know about them. 

Any organization needs a strategy behind a new offering, no matter the industry. Failure to do this will lead to frustration and lackluster results. We work with thousands of media companies at different points on their digital journey. This puts us in a unique position to identify the key components for success, and we’ve found that these three things make all the difference — leadership support, setting digital budget goals and ensuring your sellers have the skills to sell digital confidently. 

Let’s look at these three things and why they guide the fate of third-party digital sales. 

Why Digital Advertising Is Vital to Your Local Media Company’s Success 

In looking at promising avenues for growth, local media companies can’t deny the impact of digital. The reality of how advertisers spend their money is, in simple terms, going more toward digital than linear. Linear still has a place in the marketing mix and will see boosts in 2024 from political advertising, but digital will drive incremental revenue for many years to come. The 11th annual Borrell-RAB digital benchmarking report confirmed this, projecting that digital sales will approach $2 billion for local media companies. It also accounted for 16% of ad revenue in 2022, and the report forecasts it will rise to 22% for 2023. 

Additionally, we know from the report that most companies that buy radio spots also buy digital. They just may not be purchasing it from you. In fact, less than one-third of them purchase their digital and radio from the same station. Thus, there is great potential for stations to capture these budgets from advertisers they have existing relationships with. You may never get 100% of their ad spend on linear, but you can with digital. 

Your organization must have these three things to compete for these ad dollars. 

Your Digital Advertising Success Depends Greatly on Leadership Support 

As with any initiative, your leadership must support and completely be on board for selling digital advertising. Without this commitment, no one will consider it a priority or have any urgency to get good at it. You need decision makers to demonstrate their support in a few ways. 

  • They need to invest in digital advertising sales tools and resources, which could include technology, training and hiring new sales staff. 
  • Leaders should communicate regularly to the sales teams and others that digital advertising is critical to the company’s future. This involves some cultural shifting, so employees need to hear this from those in charge. 
  • Sales leadership should define strategies for bringing these offerings to market and where gaps exist around their ability to be competitive. Simply providing a way to propose and order digital advertising isn’t enough to be successful; the approach will need to evolve and include the involvement of those at the top. 

Digital Sellers Will Only Grow with Their Own Goals 

One of the biggest mistakes some media companies make is not setting digital sales goals for sellers. If there’s no number to meet, sellers will fall back into what’s comfortable for them. They may also do this because linear typically has a higher commission model. Along with defining budgets, you also have to discuss how you’ll incentivize sellers to bring up digital with every advertiser. 

In setting goals, you can look at historical data if applicable. If this is truly your first dive into digital, an industry benchmark could be a good starting point. The benchmarking report found that around $85,000 in revenue is the average for small markets. 

Want to forecast your digital advertising revenue? Use our ROI calculator!

Setting this digital budget for every salesperson is essential, and it must be separate from linear. How you pay commission on these numbers will be different than linear, so communicating all this consistently and regularly is necessary. 

So, how do you set your sellers up for success in meeting these goals? It’s all about empowering them, which is the third component of success. 

Upskilling and Continuous Training Create Confident Digital Sellers 

In your organization, you will have various levels of knowledge on digital advertising. Ideally, you want to level that with upskilling opportunities and training. There are five things your training program should include: 

  • On-demand video courses: Provide your team with online classes they can watch at any time. You do, however, want to give them a timeline for completion. Those with quizzes after the content can reinforce learning. 
  • Role-playing: Rehearsing scenarios that include objections from customers can help the entire team overcome them. It’s a great thing to incorporate into your sales meetings. 
  • Broadcast-relevant content: There’s lots of digital advertising training content out there, but you want to choose content that fits your situation. Your people are selling digital and linear, and they are predominantly working with local advertisers, so these things should be part of the curriculum. 
  • A best practices library of resources: Your sellers should be able to search a library of content to help them with challenges and get them up to speed on specific tactics. These assets need to be available in one spot, so they don’t waste time looking for them. 
  • Live training with experts: Finally, your people need access to experts to help them prepare for pitches or define the right digital ad mix. This doesn’t have to be someone internal. All our Marketron NXT customers have digital gurus to support them with live training, and they serve as on-call experts. 

When you commit to training and upskilling your sellers, they will be able to hit their numbers. They’ll also feel valued that you’re investing in their learning. As a result, this could help you keep high performers on staff. 

Third-Party Digital Sales Success Is on Your Horizon 

The path to success with third-party digital won’t always be linear. You may have to stop and start a few times, learning lessons along the way. These three components will help you build a solid program to increase revenue by diversifying your offerings. If you need some inspiration, check out these case studies from our clients. 

Hub City Radio Wins Six-Figure Digital Account Using Marketron NXT 

Meridian Media Lands $100K Advertiser with Marketron NXT 

Krystal Media Finds Third-Party Digital Success with Marketron NXT 

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