SWOT Away Lackluster Ad
During a recent
AM&P Lunch & Learn, sales expert Robert Silverstein shared how to apply
the SWOT business strategy and other great tips to improve your association’s advertising
By Mark Wright
"How’s business? How
are your ad sales?” asks Robert Silverstein, the featured speaker
at AM&P’s September 29, 2015, Lunch & Learn, in opening his
presentation on "Applying Business Strategy to the Sale of Advertising.”
The answer, according to
participants: pretty mixed. Association publishers and advertisers alike are
trying to navigate print-versus-digital issues, among other challenges.
that developing a sound ad-sales strategy starts with a SWOT analysis —
realistically examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
your products face in the marketplace they serve.
"Look at your
organization as a whole, as well as at your individual products and the
environment in which they’re operating,” he says. "Each product and each target
market should have its own SWOT analysis.”
All About SWOT
Silverstein took Lunch
& Learn attendees on a step-by-step exploration of SWOT analysis and walked
through its application to a couple of real-world companies. Key SWOT elements
that might apply to your organization’s ad sales include:
- Strengths — your association’s
reputation in its industry or profession and the success of its other products
such as its annual convention.
- Weaknesses — publications held back
by small circulations and/or a part-time sales staff — either can hold you
back, he says.
- Opportunities— what’s happening in the
association’s field, such as changes in your competition or new regulations
that have a direct and positive impact on your members.
- Threats — external issues could
jeopardize your ability to succeed.
Silverstein says you
need to grasp both internal and external factors during your SWOT analyses —
and understand your limitations. You may be able to control or change internal
factors (e.g. strengths and weaknesses). But the only thing you can control
about external factors (e.g. opportunities and threats) is how you react to
offered practical B2C and B2B examples of SWOT analysis that included a
discussion of how a brand like Goya might advertise its pinto beans in two
different markets: Washington, DC and Boise, Idaho.
Start with audience
demographics, says Silverstein:
is a pretty bean-friendly town. Brand awareness of Goya is high, plenty of
stores carry the product, and ad messaging can leverage customers’ familiarity
with and acceptance of pinto beans in their meals.
on the other hand, might present some hurdles, and a SWOT analysis will
identify tactics to overcome them. Customers in Boise might be clueless about
the Goya brand. Goya beans are not readily available in local stores. And Boise
customers are probably used to potatoes instead of pinto beans on their dinner
Goya’s strategy to sell its beans in the two markets will be different for each
— and SWOT is a vital part of any ad-strategy recipe. From an association’s
perspective, advertisers are like those bean customers. You have to segment
them into specific groups and create a SWOT analysis for each one.
"For example, some
advertisers are also trade show exhibitors, while others will focus only on
advertising in your competition to reach their target market,” he says. A thorough
SWOT analysis will help guide your organization’s sales efforts to each of
these unique groups.
Silverstein also led Lunch
& Learn attendees in a hands-on SWOT analysis demonstration in which
AM&P member Chris Murphy, senior director, communications & publisher
at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, discussed some of his
organization’s advertising challenges and received audience feedback.
Really Understand Your
Association publishers have
to know their ad prospects, which means understanding their goals and the
return on investment each one seeks. After all, notes Silverstein, advertisers
do their own SWOT analysis to decide what role — if any — your association
might play in helping them build profitable relationships in their marketplace.
"Think of target
markets as individual groups of people,” says Silverstein. "Each group has
Associations that think
they’re simply selling ad space miss the point. "You’re not selling space,”
Silverstein emphasizes. "You’re selling value. Potential advertisers ask: ‘How
can your media help my company reach its goals?’”
Silverstein points out
that an association’s sales staff may be its most valuable asset in
understanding how to best serve the marketplace. "Speak with your ad sales
people to get market and competitor intelligence,” Silverstein urges. "And
don’t blame staff for weak sales, but utilize the results of the SWOT analysis
to create tactics that your sales staff can implement in the field.”
When asked if most associations
use their own staff or outside contractors for ad sales, attendees’ show of
hands revealed a 50/50 split. Silverstein discussed the pros and cons of each
approach, but emphasized that the best choice is to "just use your best
people,” wherever you find them.
Develop Your Own Client
That being said,
Silverstein discussed how advertising agencies work and the role they play in
the placement of their clients’ advertising.
"Ad agencies are not
your ally in your ad sales program,” he says. "They’re in business to make 15
percent off their clients’ ad placements. There’s no incentive for an ad agency
to change the plan in your favor. They will not help you sell ads.”
A better approach: Develop
your association’s relationship with each supplier in your industry directly.
"There’s nothing more
valuable than personal, face-to-face relationships,” Silverstein says. "Ad
agencies may not respond to your request to include your publication in their
ad plans, but they will certainly listen to that request when it comes from
Silverstein, make sure your ad strategy is realistic, executable, and
manageable. "Every strategy should be measured by something that can be
counted. Those data points must be used to measure your success.”
For more ad sales tips,
Silverstein invited attendees to visit www.adsalesexperts.net.
Mark Wright is a freelance writer
and communication consultant based in Rockville, Maryland. AM&P is grateful
for his volunteer work in covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who
were unable to attend.