Discuss the Path to Purchase When You Sell Advertising

At ambro.com, we resist the urge to over-simplify in order to make headlines and the temptation to say there is just one key to making sales.  Advertising sales would not be so rewarding if it were not difficult.  And media sales is difficult because there are many competitors all promoting their own simplistic formula for advertiser success.

We can say, however, that there is one influence on media purchase decisions that trumps all else, and that is client, as opposed to agency, opinion.  Agencies try to do their professional best to develop cost-effective media plans.  But in the end, they bow to client opinion expressed directly or indirectly.  My recent blog post discusses recent research on media planner and buyer influences which clearly shows that client opinion is the most powerful influence at the beginning of the process and when changes are made later in the process, as well.

Smart advertising sales managers know that they can’t skip selling to the ad agencies and media buying services, but they must never forget where the power is: at the client.  And getting client appointments is harder and more valuable than ever.

What gets the attention of clients?  Certainly it’s not your circulation or your demographics.  That is what they pay agencies to put into spreadsheets.  In order to be successful working at the highest level of advertising media decision-making, at the client, you need to add value by contributing to their understanding of how customers make purchase decisions to buy their products.  If you bring value to keeping up with the changing habits of buyers, you will always be welcome in the executive suites of your advertising media customers.

It is the Path to Purchase that is intriguing to customers.  It is not simple, rather it is nuanced.  It is not static, but rather it is changing with the changing media consumption patterns of consumers and business buyers.

The best advertising sales managers can clearly show how their media help drive customers down the path to purchase.

The best advertising sales managers can clearly show how their media help drive customers down the path to purchase.

The Path to Purchase may be short for gum and soda-pop, and is certainly a long one for new factory machinery; either way, the people who hold the advertising purse strings want to know how their customers are inspired or induced to purchase their products.

As an advertising sales person you must be able to tell that Path to Purchase story and explain how your media influences that purchase process; helping customers understand their needs, building awareness of products and trust in brands, helping customers analyze alternatives and make choices sometimes through editorial and always through advertising.

Recently, social media has won enormous spending because it was equated with word-of-mouth, the holy-grail of advertising. But social media is not the equivalent of word-of-mouth. A social media “friend” doesn’t imply a valuable or trusted connection, because it reaches many people who aren’t really “friends,” but merely acquaintances, and some not even that. None-the-less it is critical that advertising sales people be able to clearly explain where social media fits in the purchase process for their client, so recent research on social media influence conducted by Harris Interactive and publicized by eMarketer is worthy of note.

Harris Interactive-Webby Awards Social Media Use from eMarketer 2014Considering all the hype about social media, 52% of the respondents said they are “not at all likely” to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media post.  While younger people are more active with social media, even among 18 – 34 year olds, 61% said they “rarely or never” share photos/thoughts of a new product/service.

In the media selling environment of 2014, most sales people are selling two or more media.  Advertising sales managers are selling print and internet, or internet and events, or TV and social media, or all of the above.  And there are many kinds of Internet media reaching consumers at very different times in their purchase process.  Do the research to know how to explain how each element fits in your customer’s purchase process, develop knowledge and skills to tell that story persuasively, and you’ll be a big success in advertising sales.

Ambro.com can help with Strategic Sales Training for media companies and groups of sellers, and the Masters of Media Selling for individual sales people.


About Daniel M. Ambrose

Ambrose, launched ambro.com, corp. in 1994 to provide sophisticated strategy consulting and advertising sales training to advertising-driven media clients in the U.S. and abroad. Starting with the founding of About.com and iVillage in 1995, ambro.com has worked with hundreds of clients to help accelerate advertising revenue growth.