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Transforming the Sales Organization at the Houston Chronicle – Stephen Weis

January 16, 2011 3 comments

A colleague of mine recently forwarded me a link to a series of video presentations from the Newspaper Consortium 2010 conference hosted at Yahoo! in 2010, and impressed upon me to PLEASE check out the presentation by Stephen Weis on reorganizing the sales organization at the Houston Chronicle. So I watched Weis’s presentation, and was very impressed with what he and his team has accomplished at the Chronicle. First, the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I also transcribed the presentation for those interested in a more concise summary.

Below is a summary of some of the key messages I took away from Weis’s talk (with some insights from other NPC talks sprinkled in):

Rebuilding the Sales Organization from the ground up

Clearly, Weis completely redesigned the sales organization at the Houston Chronicle. I thought his the quote below from his presentation was telling:

We were looking at [revenue] numbers … indicative of a larger problem within our sales organization – and I use that term loosely, because I don’t think we were really a sales organization.

Changing the way we sell

Several common themes are repeated throughout the NPC conference around changing the way the sales force sells. Some of these are, most of which Weis calls our are:

  • Increase focus on Digital Ad Sales
  • Focus on integrated Multimedia Ad Buys
  • Instilling a “hunter” mentality within the sales organization – moving beyond being just order takers.
  • Moving away from Product-based selling to Audience-based selling
  • Focus on improving customer performance, with ability to deliver measurable ROI to the customer

Reorganizing for better sales performance

The heart of Weis’ presentation, however, was about reorganizing sales roles and responsibilities at the Chronicle to improve sales performance. Probably the most fundamental problem for Weis was that Chronicle Account Executives were spending less than 50% of their time selling, and far too much time on low-value administrative activities.

The Chronicle also had issues with their Sales reporting structure – whereby operational and admin roles were reporting up to sales managers, and not into an operational group.

Impressively, the Houston Chronicle skill-mapped their entire sales organization – something they had never done before. They identified 10 core skills that they expected for different types of roles in the new sales organization. These new roles – with some of Weis’s comments, are, are listed below:

  • Regional Sales Specialists – Go sell. I really don’t want to see you in here unless we’re at a sales rally or there’s an emergency. And we’ve equipped them up with the tools to do that.
  • Account Strategists – Client retention. Prospecting and Selling on active accounts. Do all the things that our account executives were probably really good at. And the ratio BTW is 3-to-1 (Regional Sales Specialists to Account Strategists).
  • Multimedia Coordinators – Sit in a completed different area – responsible for ad order entry, ad fulfillment, and pulling performance reports.

Weiss elaborates:

So sales is sales – there’s only 2 roles in the Sales department. After that we drew a line and said we’re creating a department called Advertising Services.

The Chronicle was built on many, many silos. So you had your Printing group over here, and your Digital group over here. And I’m talking from an Operational standpoint – and I don’t even know how many there were, I stopped after 5.

So we brought them all together under Advertising Services, so that they could be managed by people who know that, and how to be efficient in that. Not Sales people, because I wasn’t, I’m not efficient. I’m Sales, I have no idea. And we can get rid of the noise.

So at the end of the day, get rid of the noise. Sales go sell. Advertising Services. Your client is the sales department of the Houston Chronicle

The Chronicle also reorganized how reps were allocated to specific clients and geographic territories.

Find the right people for the right job, and give them the tools and training to succeed

Weiss doesn’t speak too much in his presentation to the re-training challenge. Other presenters addressed this more directly. However, he does mention that they “blew-up” their training department, and redefined it as Sales Development.

Weiss also doesn’t talk much about how new sales tools and technology were used to improve the productivity of the Chronicle sales force.

Performance-driven Sales Organization

Finally, Weiss implemented an increase focus on measurement and performance. There was in increased focus on:

  • Tracking Sales results
  • Increased transparency of sales data, and sharing high-level sales data throughout the organization, and how the sales organization was performing.
  • Aligning compensation to performance

In Summary

All in all, a fascinating window into the challenges of modernizing a traditional Print sales organization to sell in a highly-competitive, multimedia world.

glenn

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Marketing in the Age of Google – Vanessa Fox on Search Marketing

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Vanessa Fox wrote a very nice book that was published in May 2010 titled Marketing in the Age of Google. The book talks about the importance of Search Marketing in the age of Google, focusing specifically on organic search (as opposed to paid search). You can listen to Vanessa talk about her latest book in the interview below:

The following book reviews are also worth checking out:

In the following interview at the O’Reilly Where 2.0 2010 conference, Fox speaks to the many ways people search for Local Businesses on the Web.

With the emergence/growth of Google Places, Facebook Places, Facebook Marketplace, Foursquare, Groupon, Social Commerce, and local mobile technology generally, understanding the various ways that your local business can be found on the web (and mobile/social web) will critical for SMEs.

I highly recommend Marketing in the Age of Google for anyone involved in Marketing strategy.

glenn

Google Local Search Relevance & Ranking – video overview

January 2, 2011 2 comments

A nice 3-1/2 minute overview of how Google ranks local information – the 3 main relevance/ranking factors: (i) relevance, (ii) prominence, and (iii) distance. Here’s the video:

The video also provides a brief overview of 3 Google local ad products: Hotpot, Tags, and Boost. For an introduction to Google’s Hotpot local recommendation engine, see the video below:

glenn

TBD.com – reinventing Hyperlocal

October 4, 2010 2 comments

Revisiting Hyperlocal

Media companies – large and small – continue to look for ways to capture the huge market for local advertising (see here and here). Earlier this year, I posted a series of posts that surveyed the hyperlocal landscape – according to 5 core dimensions:

  • Local News/Journalism
  • Local Business/Commerce
  • Local Advertising
  • Local Community
  • HyperLocal Business Models
  • Enabling Technologies

I think I would now add one other dimension to this list:

  • Local, Places, Things, and Events of Interest to me

But providing hyperlocal news and information as a viable business model has proved a challenging task for mainstream media organizations, as reflected by this post from Sean Carlton from March 2010 titled Is ‘Hyperlocal’ just hype?.

Witness for example, the New York Times decision to pass its community-driven blog in New Jersey to Baristanet.

Does this point to the failure of Hyperlocal for mainstream media organizations? Not so says Jeff Jarvis. In his own words:

For the record, I do not count The New York Times ending its New Jersey version of The Local and passing over its readers to Baristanet as a failure. The idea that The Times could have owned and run a blog with a journalist in every town and neighborhood in New York — let alone America — simply didn’t scale. The more important skill for The Times to learn is working with networks of independent entrepreneurs who own and run their own local enterprises.

Enter TBD.com

Enter TBD.com

TBD.com is a local/community newsite based in Washington DC that fully integrates social media tools and community into the newsgathering process. I borrowed those words from an excellent article by Vadim Lavrusik’s excellent review: TBD.com Takes a Community-Driven Approach to Newsgathering.

As Lavrusik points out, what most differentiates TBD.com is its network of local bloggers – 127 and counting – that will provide content and coverage for its site. This phenomenon of incoporating the local community and bloggers as fundamental participants in the news gathering process is sometimes referred to as Community Journalism – and it represents a profound change to how news is generated and reported in our communities.

Jeff Jarvis, Matthew Ingram, and Newsonomics also covered the launch of TBD.com, and had interesting insights to share.

So who’s behind TBD.com?

Just a few familiar names. TBD.com is led by Community Engagement Director Steve Buttry. Obviously this role is a highly strategic one, but it’s not like Buttry hasn’t thought about community engagement!

Equally interesting is the involvement of GrowthSpur. GrowthSpur will work with TBD.com to develop new business models around local news, content, and advertising.

Note that GrowthSpur’s other media partner is the Journal Register, John Paton’s company, and the instigator of the Ben Franklin project.

Location, Mobile, Video, and Social Media

All four will be key pillars of TBD.com’s strategy for sharing and delivering news and information to their communities.

In Summary …

With TBD.com, we’re seeing nothing short of a bold new attempt to reinvent local media – in terms of content, format, organization, and process. It should be an interesting experiment to follow.

glenn

SEO for Local Search – David Mihm

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

A nice 10 minute-ish video with David Mihm on SEO strategies for Local Search:

[Vimeo 5119126]

Click here to access David Mihm’s articles at Search Engine Land.

glenn

Categories: Local, SEO Tags: , , ,

Hyperlocal – Key Technologies

February 14, 2010 3 comments

This is the fourth in a series of posts on key dimensions of Hyperlocal. Other posts in this series are:

In this post we consider key enabling technologies that many of the hyperlocal platforms mentioned in previous posts will leverage.

Key Enabling Technologies

The initial post in this series identified the following key enabling technologies for Hyperlocal solutions:

  1. Identity and Personalization
  2. Social Media/Social Web
  3. Real-time Web
  4. Geolocation
  5. Search
  6. Mobile
  7. Machine Learning
  8. Structured Data/Semantic Web

Let’s explore each in turn.

*** Update January 5 2010 ***

It looks like ReadWriteWeb concurs with my identifiation of key enabling technologies for emerging web-based applications. See ReadWriteWeb’s Top 5 Web Trends of 2009. I think leaving out Geolocation is a fairly important omission on RWW’s part. I didn’t make reference to the Internet of Things in my list, but have referred to Web Meets World (another name for the same thing), and its impact on HyperLocal, in previous posts.
*** End of Update ***

Identity and Personalization

Identity is a key part of any online platform these days. Not only does Identity represent one’s online presence, but it’s the basis for relating to other in the context of one’s social graph.

Chris Messina has some great insights into the emergence of Identity as a platform – here’s video of his Identity is the Platform presentation from October 2009, and the slideshow accompanying his talk.

The two key players positioned to dominate the Identity Platform space are:

Identity forms the foundation by which to deliver and manage personalized content for a user. I’m not going to discuss Personalization strategies in detail here, but ReadWriteWeb has an excellent piece on the topic.

Social Media and Social Web

I’m not sure too much needs to be said here. Obviously, Social Media and Social Networks, or what’s often referred to as the Social Graph, is a key feature of the Web today. If you’re going to host and service a Community on your website, you won’t get very far if you don’t design your website for the social web.

Interestingly, the Identity Platforms mentioned in the previous section – OpenID and Facebook Connect – allows you to import the Social Graph from external platforms into your Community site. Alternatively, you may also want to promote your content on other sites on the Social Web – including Twitter and Facebook.

Another important concept to be aware of in the context of the Web and HyperLocal is that of the Social Object. The Social Object is any piece of Content or information that a community might potentially socialize around. So for example, Twitter posts, news articles, photos, business listings, videos, URLs, movies … all are potential social objects that a community might share and discuss.

Social Media is any form of publishing that facilitaties social collaboration and sharing of information, content, and conversation. Social Networking sites, Blogs, Wikis, Microblogging platforms etc. all fall under this category.

The following are just a few of the more popular platforms on the social web:

It’s important on your website to enable key forms of social behavior, including sharing and bookmarking content, commenting, rating and reviewing, and so on. These are features that any social website should support, and the key community platform players, such as Jive, Pluck, and Lithium all support.

Real-time Web

With the viral adoption of Twitter, the real-time web has really taken off of late. To understand the state of the Real-time Web heading into 2010, see the following:

The Real-time Web can be viewed from a number of different angles. Three are:

Real-time Feeds/Sreams

This is the core of the Real-time Web – the underlying real-time feed protocol. Please see:

Real-time Search

Here, see:

Real-time Geo, or Geo-streams

Here, see:

For more on real-time geo and geolocation trends, see the Geolocation section that follows.

Managing the Real-time Firehose of Information

With the Real-time Web, information bursts furth as a massive stream – or firehose – of information, which is then filtered or consumed according to one’s particular social filters and interests. It can be overwhelming at first, as Nova Spivak discusses here.

Geolocation

… This post is a work-in-progress. Please return later to view the completed post.

glenn

Hyperlocal – Core Dimensions (Part 2)

February 14, 2010 3 comments

This is the third in a series of posts on key dimensions of Hyperlocal. Other posts in this series are:

In the previous post, we explored the dimensions of Hyperlocal News and Commerce. In this post, we will explore Local Advertising and Hyperlocal Community.

Local Advertising

Local Advertising is definitely a key part of Local Business/Commerce, which I explored in the previous post. But local advertising can also be embedded within Local News and Local Community portals. Thus I’ve chose to deal with it as a separate topic.

Insights into Local/Hyperlocal Advertising

First off, I have a few favorite resources for keeping informed in the Local/Hyperlocal advertising space. These are:

Borrell Associates – headed up by CEO Gordon Borrell – also sponsors the Local Online Advertising Conference, which was held in New York city early this month.

Jeff Jarvis also frequently has compelling insights into Advertising strategies for Local News Media. For example, see his recent blog posts from February 2010: Stop selling scarcity and NewBizNews: What ad sales people hear.

Search Engine Marketing/SEO for SMEs

Obviously, SEM strategies are critical for any local online business on the web. My top go-to resources for local SEM/SEO insights are:

Big Ad Networks

On the solution provider front, you have the big ad networks around Search Engine marketing, some of which include:

Local Advertising Media/Platforms

A number of application/media providers – many with a mobile focus – are positioned to be significant players, including:

Niche/Regional-based Ad Networks and Services

Increasingly, however, you also have your niche/regional-based ad networks and service providers. Here’s some examples:

Bargains and Deals

Numerous vendors provide applications to notify consumers of bargains and deals in the local vicinity, including:

Additional Local Advertising Solution Providers

One more advertising solution provider I’ll mention:

So there you have it, a sampling of Local Advertising solution providers. Local Advertising should be a very interesting space to watch in 2010, particularly when it comes to mobile, location-based tools and technologies.

Local Community

The Local Community view of HyperLocal is about information and events of interest to the Community. Information and Events around the Local Community may be contributed by businesses, community organizations, or municipal governmental sources, or it may be user-generated content contributed by the Community.

When you talk Community, by definition you are talking about Social Networks. Therefore, you have to consider the various social networking platforms, and particularly those that host large social graphs. I’m thinking here most specifically of:

Many of the HyperLocal News platforms are also positioning themselves as Local Community platforms. For example:

You also have open city initiatives/discussions such as those initiated by:

For additional information on open city initiatives, see here.

Then there are do-it-yourself City initiatives and tools, for example:

You have Local Event platforms, such as:

And finally, organizational and community tools around local causes. See:

This is really just a very small sampling of possible ways/platforms for organizing people within a geographic community. I look for a lot of innovation in this space over the next several years.

HyperLocal Business Models

This viewpoint explores various ways to make a HyperLocal business commercially viable. There’s some great pioneering work being done by Jeff Jarvis and the folks at CUNY here – see the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY, and Jarvis’ overview of the work on HyperLocal business models here.

More on this to come.