The Negotiation That Matters.

This week I was forwarded a promotional e-mail from a sales rep at Undertone who offers his client the “Standout Brand Guarantee” — a promise that if a pre-discussed brand metric is not met on a campaign then Undertone will hand back up to $50,000.  Last year we heard a similar pledge from Meredith Corporation:  Its “Engagement Dividend” would use Nielsen Homescan data to show that ad campaigns run across its magazine properties would actually lift product sales.  And then there’s Universal McCann, the agency that’s leading the way in negotiating pay-for-performance compensation deals with its clients:  UM actually wants to get paid based on the effect of its work in driving agreed upon measurement for clients – rather than fees, commissions or both.  Whether any of these three actions ends up being the harbinger for a new model, I’m not sure:  there is bound to be pushback and hairsplitting around all of them.  But they are all tied to a critical sales lesson.

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Historically terms like pay-for-performance and guarantee have been non-starters for digital sales organizations, it’s usually been because some brain-dead click-based metric was being imposed on them by a disingenuous buyer.   It wasn’t about having skin in the game… it was all about getting skinned.   But while sales leaders and reps have bitched about lowest-common denominator metrics and payment, few have offered any alternatives.  In each scenario the seller (Undertone, Meredith, UM – it is ‘selling’ its services to marketers) is taking charge of the conversation about ROI very early in the process.   By agreeing to own an outcome, they are putting themselves in position to decide what that outcome should be and how it will be measured.  I think you’ll see more companies taking steps like this in the immediate future, if only because the alternatives – getting paid in bulk for page views/impressions and arguing over click rates – are so unpalatable.

But to localize the idea even more, I encourage every digital sales person to begin proactively negotiating the nature and measurement of campaign outcomes at the very earliest stages of the sales discussion.  If you wait for the RFP (never a good idea, by the way) to tell you what’s being measured and how, you’re already screwed.   For the past 17 years we’ve left the definition of ROI up to the direct-response oriented ad buyer, and look where it’s gotten us.   Truth is, most clients don’t have the background or the vision to really say how digital marketing can help them.  Helping them define and rank the potential outcomes is something we owe them.

Take a stand.  Get creative.   Seek to drive the ROI conversation early and you’ll naturally occupy a stronger and more valuable place in your customer’s esteem.  And you’ll find you’ve built a more sustainable base of business for yourself at the same time.

Being Grateful.

It’s a short week at the close of a busy, hectic year.  It’s also the time when many of us take our last breath before the sprint to make Q4 numbers while simultaneously shopping for the holidays.  So during this all too short breather, a quick note about the people, ideas and values for which I’m really grateful. Thanks go out to…

The 3-4 sales people in every workshop I teach who are truly dedicated to the profession of media sales.  I recognize your ambition and commitment, and they inspire me to keep doing what I do.

Those who read, comment on and forward The Drift to others in their companies.  Because of you, meeting this weekly deadline has become something I look forward to.

Ad:tech and the past recipients of the Industry Achievement Award.  To be recognized by such an amazing group last spring was humbling and inspiring.  I feel like it’s something I have to continue to live up to in the years ahead.

My wife Sharon and my daughters, Lucy and Madeline.  I’m grateful that such amazing women choose to keep me around so that I can see  the great things you each do for the world.

The people at iMedia, ad:tech, the IAB, AdMonsters, Evidon and Business Insider who’ve all given me the chance to speak or moderate at their events this year.  I hope everyone who ascends your stages feels the same gratitude and commitment that I do.

Enduring, enriching friendships with people like Wenda Harris Millard, Scot McLernon, John Durham, Dave Morgan, Larry Kramer, Rick Parkhill, Tom Deierlein, Charlie Thomas and Mark McLaughlin.  Through inspiration, support  and advice, you’ve all contributed so much to what I do.

The advisors who continue to guide The Seller Forum into its tenth year, and the sponsors — Collective/Amp, PubMatic and Mojiva — who continue their commitment to this unique and valuable environment.

Tamara Clarke and Christina Ross who work hard every day making sure the experience of working with Upstream Group continues to be a great one.  None of this would work without you.

All the companies who’ve been our customers this year  — for training workshops, Seller Forum events, Drift sponsorships, consulting and more.  33 Across, A&E, About.com, AccuWeather, Adap.tv, Adara Media, Adconion, Adobe, AdoTube, ad:tech, Amazon, AOL, AT&T AdWorks, BabyCenter, bizjournals, Bizo, Blue Kai, Bonnier Corp., Brand.net, Burda, Burst Media, Business Insider, Buysight, BuzzLogic, Cars.com, CBS, Centro, Collective, Comcast Interactive, comScore, Condé Nast, ContextWeb (PulsePoint), D&B Digital, deviantART, Discovery Communications, Disney, DMG WorldMedia, eHarmony, ESPN, Everyday Health, eXelate, Facebook, Fairchild, FOX News, FOX Sports, Gawker, Google, Grab Networks, Halogen, Healthline, Hearst Digital Media, IAB, IGN Entertainment, iMedia, InflectionPointMedia, Interclick, ITN Digital, Jingle Networks, Jumpstart Automotive, Kontera, Krux Digital, Lotame, LucidMedia, Martini Media, Meebo, Meredith, Microsoft, Mojiva, Monster Media Networks, Move, Inc., MTV, MyWebGrocer, Nature Publishing Group, Navteq, NBC Universal, NCC Media, The New York Times, Newspaper National Network, Orbitz, PubMatic, quadrantONE, Quantcast, Reader’s Digest, Remedy Health Media, Resonate, RMM Online, RTL Netherlands, Seeking Alpha, Sojern, Sugar Inc., TechMediaNetwork, The Daily, Hollywood Reporter, Weather Channel, TheStreet.com, Thomson Reuters, Travel Ad Network (Travora), Tremor Video, Triad Digital, Turner, TVGuide, Us Magazine, Undertone, Upromise Inc., Vertical Acuity, Washington Post, Weatherbug, WebMD, WhitePages.com, Yahoo! and YuMe.

And last but not least, I’m grateful that none of this is even close to being finished.  That there are so many ideas yet to be conceived, so many mysteries yet to be framed, so much of the future left to be invented.  Here’s to being grateful for what this year has brought us, and to remaining excited about what the years ahead will offer.  Happy Thanksgiving.