Report: What leading media companies are doing to thrive in 2021

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Matt Bartels, principal and media practice lead, Alexander Group 
Quang Do, principal, Alexander Group 
Christina Politi, manager, Alexander Group

The marketplace for media companies is emerging from a year of massive change. Advertisers and agencies are flocking to online channels to capture the surge of content consumption and e-commerce opportunities that came with months of lockdown. For sellers, the challenge is how to deliver on all the promise — what are the right solutions?

In new research, the Alexander Group has identified five key areas in which media revenue and sales leaders typically excel, and each example highlights what their teams are doing to thrive in today’s evolving media landscape.

Leading media organizations are capturing the voice of the advertiser and agency 

Understanding the perspective of advertisers and agencies has always been important, but the significance of showing value and understanding the needs and perceptions of interconnected brand, agency, publisher and platform stakeholders in the cookieless future has made it even more critical. 

In the way of solutions, processes such as voice of the advertiser and agency (VO2A) are designed to capture an objective view of how partners and customers perceive and value a company and then integrate those insights into selling, product and engagement strategies. In recent research, the Alexander Group team has highlighted how embedding a structured VO2A method into the marketing and sales workflow is essential, yet only 35% of media companies have a defined process that translates findings into actionable strategies. 

Conversely, leading media organizations not only engage multiple internal stakeholders in the VO2A process, but they also have a formal and regular process to both capture and embed advertiser and agency insights, requiring a commitment to VO2A across the entire organization. VO2A is helping these companies stay abreast of changing advertiser and business needs and continuously recalibrate the go-to-market strategy to increase competitiveness and achieve better results. 

Data-driven opportunity planning is helping media to capitalize on market shifts

The Alexander Group’s research also found that most media companies are not set up to capitalize on significant and rapid market shifts, resulting in uncertainty and inaction. 

Most media companies rely heavily on historic spend data (95%) and current account plans (70%) as inputs into their opportunity planning, thus focusing primarily on where past growth came from. 

What was surprising was that less than half of participants use campaign performance metrics, macroeconomic projections or segment (vertical) data to identify new growth drivers. These metrics can help companies uncover and prioritize the products and offerings that are the most successful.

Effective opportunity analysis requires firms to look at both the past and the future, pairing historical account spend with research to see where the new growth will come from. Instead of prioritizing individual product wins, the shift to a buyer-centric organization means a greater focus on increased advertiser lifetime value (ALTV). 

The role of account managers and overlays is evolving to match new revenue cycles

Advertisers are increasingly demanding dedicated account managers to track, optimize and report on the ROI of their campaigns. Account managers are evolving from pure support to roles that ensure retention and assist with cross-sell opportunities. 

Overlay specialists, who primarily focus on identifying and landing accounts, have existed since the introduction of new products such as OTT, podcasts and newsletters. These roles are not new, but they do add to the cost of a sale and must be deployed efficiently.

Account management and overlay roles fit well into the new revenue cycle that is less linear and heavily relies on an ongoing relationship with clients and specialized functions. Account managers can help reduce churn and maximize ALTV by focusing on the ongoing post-sales relationship with the buyers. 

Media leaders consider factors such as account potential, offerings and sales complexity to determine the right role(s) to deploy. They equip them with sales playbooks and the proper incentive programs, and then successful teams rely on these resources working together in a coordinated fashion, linked together with shared data and workflows.

As media returns to growth, new individual and team goals are emerging

In 2020, nearly 70% of media companies adjusted plans to stabilize earnings for their sellers during the pandemic. For example, they removed thresholds, adjusted quotas and made it easier to hit accelerators. As media companies return to growth, they have begun to reassess their sales compensation plans to support a pay-for-performance culture. 

The lone wolf who lands the account is a thing of the past. As roles and offerings expand, collaboration becomes more important and also expands the players eligible for variable compensation. The Alexander Group’s research shows that companies are increasingly using a combination of individual and team goals for roles such as account executives and account managers. However, companies must select the right approach for the desired behavior. Getting these steps right takes some practice.

Revenue operations has become the ‘data science’ of sales

The Alexander Group’s research shows that some leaders are increasingly seeing revenue operations as the “data-science side” of sales, helping to uncover opportunities for greater productivity at a desirable ROI. As a result, media leaders are evolving their revenue operations teams: Revenue operations leaders are tasked with revenue analysis, sales enablement and revenue strategy. What’s the benefit? A single source of truth when it comes to the numbers as well as a data-driven, effective revenue strategy. 

Leading organizations are thriving in today’s landscape by capturing VO2A, capitalizing on market shifts, deploying the right specialist for the right job, aligning compensation with strategy and leveraging revenue operations. These steps are key for any team wishing to succeed in the competitive sales environment and give advertisers what they need to succeed as well.

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