Your print & web folks…side by side…in the newsroom; the integrated newsroom.

Forward thinking newspapers are evolving into multi-media news organizations; where print employees are mandated to see web as equally important as print…..and in some cases, MORE important than print.

Does the print ad director sit next to the web sales manager? What is the bonus/commission structure like? How many reps sell web only? How many sell both print and web? How do they avoid sales cannibalization and in-fighting? How do they push more than just convergence up-sell packages? This is the stuff that can get really hairy at local media companies; building new revenue and sales models.

Experts suggest that media companies MUST turn their web efforts into separate businesses, complete with stand alone sales forces, offices, etc……and for the most part… we agree. Yet with that strategy comes a few near term landmines. The biggest hurdle I believe, will be to find strong online sellers/managers to staff these online-only efforts, especially within the confines of a bootstrap budget. This will not be easy.

A big can of worms.These newly hired web-only sellers could then be calling on the very same agencies and major advertisers that the traditional reps already have relationships with. Unless the financial motivation/bonus structures are adjusted, this will just cause an awful lot of in-fighting amongst reps. In addition, the media buyer would prefer just ONE point of contact with your company. These overworked agency types would HATE to carve out more meetings to learn about your company’s web packages, especially from eager green horns who hammer them all day with cold calls and email.

I’ve seen this firsthand: traditional reps selling against web reps; literally bad-mouthing the online offerings of the parent company. This happened because the commission structure and job description needed a refresh. The traditional manager offered up a measly 2% commission for each web sale. Behind closed doors, traditional reps would lament; “2% was not worth their time”. They also knew they would NOT catch heat, for NOT hitting their web budget.

Solution: Adopt a hybrid approach for the near term. Train and financially motivate traditional sales staff, while you build a separate web sales force to go after businesses that has been, for the most part, ignored. Maybe most importantly, make sure that the upper level managers get trained in all things web. How can they manage a web sales force, if they barely have a grasp of the online marketing space themselves?

Here’s a quick test to determine if you are managing and maximizing your web sales efforts properly. In regards to traditional sales staff, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does each seller have a mandatory web budget to hit? How did you arrive at that number?
  • Is the commission structure similar or better to what your NEW BIZ commission is?
  • Are there penalties in place if the rep DOES NOT hit their web budget?
  • Do you have senior reps that reluctantly sell web? Do they know their clients online strategy?
  • What is the total local online spend in your market? What is your share?
  • Does top management have strong grasp of web marketing? If not, how will they effectively manage the effort?