Ofcom's latest Communications Market Report reflects this, estimating that digital advertising expenditure on regional news brands rose 25 per cent to £174m in 2014, and the latest AA/WARC Expenditure Report figures show that regional digital ad-spend will increase by 17 per cent this year.
With bigger adspend comes bigger competition for consumer engagement, so how do regional sales teams build on existing relationships with advertisers and consumers to unlock this potential and continue to grow revenue?
SMEs are becoming more sophisticated in both their commercial and digital outlook – increasingly wanting know about ROI before they invest. With the advertising market seeing a rise in digital spend, it is still important for local media owners to continue to grow the core print revenues of their business.
It is also essential that local media sales teams expand their role – it’s no longer just about selling ads on your own media, although that is still hugely important of course.
As well as this, they must become trusted advisors in their community, providing education and insight around the value of paid local advertising and its effect on each customer.
It is down to the sales team to advise on solutions to help grow local businesses and sit in the middle of those client conversations.
This value is still high, despite having gone through challenging periods – we reported our first increase in revenues and profits in eight years last month and managed to limited advertising decline to 1 per cent – but we know that local advertising continues to remain effective.
Our recent study, Prove It, demonstrated the impact regional advertising has had on local businesses, proving that it had a measureable and significant effect on both sales revenue and brand perception – with a 30 per cent revenue uplift for local businesses. Confidence is key for local media sales teams, as well as the ability to demonstrate success.
Local media has the huge advantage of having a strong engaged connection to SMEs – many client relationships last across generations and this is something that other media, including global players can use to their advantage by collaborating with local media businesses.
In order to build on existing relationships with advertisers and consumers, local media sales teams need to help customers create a community through different initiatives and affiliate relationships.
It is down to each team to be consultative in their approach and nurture the relationship they have with the advertiser. In order to grow, the sales team has to keep the retention of businesses in mind rather than a one-off campaign.
We work closely with Marie Curie on a multi-platform content campaign that runs across our local portfolio of newspapers and magazines (Let’s Talk magazine and the EDP Norfolk Magazine help them to reach their target of 35+ year old women), on social media and also on our digital platforms. Archant has developed a relationship with Marie Curie who chose to deliver their messages across trusted brands.
As obvious as it sounds, it’s also key that we continue to commit to investing in learning and development for our sales people to ensure our sales teams are well equipped with the latest media skills and trends.
Traditionally there isn’t a high turnover of staff in local media sales which often means a change in culture and new skills can be rare.
Local media sales teams need to stay fresh, relevant and up to speed with the modern day SME to ensure their needs are met. They need to be made up of a mix of ‘local sales team DNA’ – ensuring they are consultative and customer-centric to provide a high-quality service in the local community.
We have recently moved our content marketing division, Dialogue, under the commercial team structure to deliver the best-in-class solutions and help us grow our commercial and content side of the business – helping our customers reach the full potential for their audiences.
It is this structure that lets us reach 11 million consumers and 12 per cent of the population each week.
Despite changes in the global media landscape, local media is uniquely positioned to continue at the heart of communities for years to come.
The way the sales teams are operating will change of course, to reflect the state of the global media landscape. But the high level of trust and engagement it solicits means it should not be underestimated, not now and not in the future.Craig Nayman is the chief commercial officer of Archant