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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

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

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.

HyperLocal Advertising – Borrell interview with Yodle CEO Court Cunningham

January 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Finding the Local Advertising space interesting these days. One of the fasting growing players in this space is NY-based Yodel. Here’s a Borrell interview with Yodle CEO Court Cunningham.

For a nice intro to Yodel’s Local Advertising services, see the following video:

glenn