local media insider

10 steps to a winning mobile sales strategy

Alisa Cromer

Just getting started? Want to know if there is really money in mobile and if so.. where is it? 

A great mobile strategy works by having all the pieces in place. These basic tactics are gleaned from the smartest sellers of mobile advertising in 2012. They boil down product, packaging, sales teamsm target accounts and having the right partnerships. See this case study on Schurz' top mobile sales market to see how these apply in the real world. Also, evaluate the mobile revenue potential of your site here, to see how big the opportunity actually is. 

1. Start with a browser for the web site - and sell it

Much mobile traffic simply goes direct to URL or through the search engines -not apps. So having a browser based solution is a first step. Sales departments that do well selling apps do well selling WAPS. So start with what you've got. There is NO DIFFERENCE in the sales/pricing/packaging strategies for WAPS versus apps, unless the app is very specific such as weather or sports.

We'll get to pricing and packaging in a minute, but in short: Commit to block-and-tackle Local Mobile Sales. We are seeing too many small media companies "taking the money," which is only marginal dollars from national ads with revenue share, instead of training teams to sell mobile. Mobile IS digital. 

2. Create an app strategy 

Do you have to have apps? Yes. 

There are a number of reasons why apps are valuable: Discoverability in the app store (remember you are competing for your franchise with others!); Visibility and top-of-mind branding on the smart phone; Higher useage rates; and easier sell to related advertisers among them.  Consumers, especially male and younger, like to consume media via apps. It's simply faster. 

Take into account when selecting which apps to build:

a. Core franchises for your company and market.

 TV  - and some radio - sites typically  start with news and weather and sports.

b. Proven successes elsewhere

Weather and sports fall into this category, especially if your market is in a toronado zone, or has a top local sports team. 

c. New trends towards apps that incorporate social media, locational elements and deals

There are plenty of other ideas, but cover the basics first, then build from there. Have a stong arts  or dining franchise? Think of guides like Cocktail Compass (available as a partnership, btw). One suggestion from a leading director of digital is an obits app. And you don't neccesarily need to own the franchise first - an app is a way to leap-frog other local media who are not paying attention to mobile.

We would add to this list, locational ecommerce of some kind especially tied to deals - which is clearly the direction of the future - and social content, which also keep apps fresh and evocative. 

3. Line up your technology partners

For WAPS and apps, there are a number of pre-built platforms. Verve Wireless, a basic news app, keeps 25% of the revenues but brings in national business. Forkfly, takes around $30 per month per client from its exclusive by DMA locational coupon app.

Some large, standard apps - news, sports, weather -  can be created by a licencing arrangement - anywhere from $200 $1500 a month depending on the complexity - a safe way to enter, though the competitive advantage is usually lost (everyone doing the same thing) and you have to pay year after year. 

WillowStreet and NewsoverWireless have both built some great custom mobile apps. Building an app that includes tablet and new functionality is around $25,000, but the cost is, for the most part, over with. Until the next iteration. 

BENN is a free, Joomla based-CMS  that comes with mobile and tablet platforms for community newspapers. For radio sites, Social Radio provides a platform that is both an app and desktop and allows users to choose new radio "songcasts" created by the station in different genres; Commotion's app provides a social media feed from both the station's and user's Facebook or Twitter accounts, that let's people discuss songs while listening from the app. We expect to see a lot more of these partnership opportunities so spend some time getting to know the vendors. 

You will also need a few more key partnerships: A third party provider of SMS services, and a third party provider who can build a mobile site/landing pageon the fly.  Additionally, if you are planning to bundle mobile for smaller businesses, consider offering repuation management and search (Resources for these are included at the bottom of this report). These are inexpensive software platforms, but a critical part of laying the groundwork for a successful mobile sales effort. 

4. Go all out to promote your new apps 

The app plan just starts with "Discoverability" in the app store; for Apple that means including a key work such as the city, or type of app in the name; for Android the key word description is more important. 

One reason television is beating out newspapers in addition to the number of apps launched, is that they promote them more heavily - everywhere and often. That means lots of on-air spots, especially in channels that "tie-in" like sports and weather, personality fan pages, and contests. Radio also has this advantage. One company promoted its new app with a local car dealer that offered a Honda Giveaway. 

But print companies have assets too: Newsboxes are great billboards for promoting a new app. So is the front page and full page ads with QR codes that lead to downloads. Plus newspapers have other audiences like email, and Facebook to use, as well as expertise with contesting. Launch with a huge plan.

5. Pricing for larger campaigns: Use  CPM-based SOV pricing, with significant chunks of traffic 

As with selling banner ads and other digital products, there are two sets of advertisers: Large (or Key Accounts) and small.

Key Accounts require great ideas and mult-media strategies. While smaller accounts need dirt simple bundles that include other core services. 

To create pricing for medium to large accounts buying campaigns across media,  the sponsorship model  can trap ad dollars as inventory increases; ie WAPS and apps quickly get overrun with impressions that are pre-promised, but  could have been sold.

So you can still use the word "sponsor,"  but give advertiser an amount of traffic that is only  most, or half of the site with a guarantee.  Stay free to sell to more advertisers.  

Sponsors can also get (unclickable) "sponsored by" logo on the home page as it loads, and take part in the launch promotions such as posters or on-air spots - all important added value that still leaves room to bring on new advertisers down the line. 

A key to monetizing sites fully is to have a baseline CPM value under all impressions, and look  an SOV plan that has big chunks of traffic - 50,000 to 75,000 page views.  The price per share at around $10 cpm is  still affordable  and gives a great return for advertisers.  The price can fall to $6 to $7 when bundled with larger campaigns, but start with $10 

With click-through-rates at .5 to 1.2% on mobile campaigns - even going up to 2.5% for WAP campaigns - advertisers are generally very happy with results. The hardest part is getting them to take the plunge. So ensure big wins and repeat business from your early adapters buy selling larger chunks of inventory. 5000 page views a month will not cut it. 

(For newspaper sites without enough traffic to make mobile viable, the app plan is important, so pay attention to the road map expanding inventory).

Once the pricing is set, always include mobile in multi-media bundles, and give reps a minimum of 10 to 15% mobile when pitching a digital campaign. 

6. Pricing and Packaging for smaller accounts

Smaller accounts need simple, a, b, c options that solve a number of problems. Package mobile  with high-touch SMS or text-campaigns that work well for high-touch businesses. Be sure to keep the number of impressions up -at  least 10,000 delivered in a  week - for best results. 

A good model is SoloMo, created by Morris Publishing Group, which includes mobile in bundles (full case study here) that also include local search, reputation management and texting - basic services for high touch local businesses.  This program now has an early track record that includes hundreds of small, but long term, sales. 

7. Organize the sales force to focus on mobile 
Mobile is one area where  separate digital sales forces have come into their own, partly because television sites, which have natural advantages in any case, have been more likely to deploy them and are going after the larger prospects who are more likely to have experimental budgets. Radio also has big sales forces that are typically under-utlized in the digital space - only 1/5 are "diigtally ready" according to a study by Borrell Associates. 

In general, whether your strategy is increase market share of smaller advertisers or creating four figure monthly or six figure annual mult-media compaigns, selling mobile first makes the whole organization better.

Here are a few smart sales organization strategies to move the sales dial on mobile when your core strategy - products, pricing and packaging - is ready: 

*Hire a mobile first digital seller who also sells all things digital but is responsible for specific mobile goals. The chain of reporting goes to a digital manager and general manager. There are a number of ways to work this out including the Hunters and Gatherers approach at Source Media and another version at WBOC.com.

*Management takes the lead in collaborating to help storm big account targets. As we've noted, teh largest more marketing -oriented accounts are the ones most likely to move into mobile first. So big dollars are at stake and managers need to get involved.

Here's why. Most large sales in the six figure range require extra things only a manager can say "yes" to.

Only a manager can, say, include a large sponsor in promotions for a new app as part of a larger sale, partner with another local media,  bring legacy and digital reps together to work on a major presentation to a board, or invest in a pre- and post- campaign survey to measure results... you get the idea.

For target accounts, there are usually just 10 to 20 in the market responsible for most mobile revenues today. This is just the low-hanging fruit, but it is up for grabs to the most aggressive sales teams.

*Include mobile targets -  along with digital - in goals for compensation. Use bounties to bring in the first mobile sales. At least 10 to 15% is the recommended starting point. 

*Lead with mobile on calls. In general, Mobile has the highest growth rates and merchants are listening - even if they don't understand right away. Simply adding text-back option to a campaign makes it trackable and the advertiser more willing to invest. Layering a mobile display advertisement on to a text-back campaign is an "aha" moment for the advertiser. Like Facebook fan contests, text-back campaigns attract onair/print campaigns because they need these to drive the end result - conversions to customers. 

8. Train on mobile and mobile target accounts

Sales reps need to understand strengths of mobile - its added functionality, huge growth, and ability to reach consumers wherever they are. Reps need to have some key tricks to get merchants to understand mobile, such as merely asking them the last time they checked their phone and for what.

Use this sales training tool:  the four hottest categories and how to sell them with examples. 

Right now, the mobile audience opportunity is being delivered by someone in your market. Training should include who mobile buyers are likely to be and who are the best prospects for various products. 

Questions for sales meetinga: 

What kinds of businesses are likely to buy the weather app? (Likely customers: HVAC, outdoor sports like skiing or sailing, tires (in northern climates), windows, etc.)

Why should political ads  (this is one category that actually likes buying around news!) run on mobile devices?

What categories are most interested in differentiating from competitors? 

How can a fast food company use mobile? Fast food relies on people "not knowing where they are going to eat" at almost meal,  every day, and the ability to serve them a special or coupon via mobile, while they are out.

How would you sell mobile to  a grocery store? A large festival? These make great topics for discussion and help the team understand what they are selling.

9. Develop and package the ancillary products, not just banner ads: mobile sites, and SMS are important parts of any program. 

Most mobile sales efforts are focusing developing multi-media campaigns for large accounts in the hottest categories. For these, you need to be able to build a mobile landing page on the fly, specifically for that campaign. 

But as mentioned, mobile can be packaged for ongoing sales to smaller accounts (the   SoLoMo model,  currently selling hundreds of long term contracts to small and medium sized business).   The trick is to keep bundles simple for small merchants, and package that fix their basic "get up to speed" digital needs. Again, these require partnerships with vendors (see the list from SoLoMo, under resources unde the case study) including reputation management and SMS capabilities. 

The key is to be able to offer solutions - and that means going back to step three and making sure you have the right vendors and partners in place. Remember search is mobile too, so make sure that all search products include this added benefit.


How does this all look in reality?  You can see most of these principles in action in every top-selling effort we've looked at, including this case study on Schurtz's top-selling mobile market. This group focuses on large accounts, but also has a number of $500 a month buys and also sells text-back campaigns and mobile sites as part of its digital packages. To map out the revenue opportunity available for your size market, given the number of apps you select, use this mobile evaluation worksheet.

Here are some resources referred by members: 

Mobile SMS and short code provider, inSequent

Reputation Management, Vendasta

Directory listing-check service, Yext

Mobile landing page creation: Mofuse

Platform to extend interactivei mobile radio channels: Social Radio

Platform for social activities app:  Commotion

All set?  If not give us a call at 408.892.9815. Happy to help. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.