We just wrapped up the 2019 Selling Digital Marketing Services conference, a partnership of Local Media Association and Borrell Associates.

Nancy Lane, LMA president, just posted her top 10 takeaways from the conference. Here are more highlights of what 120 registered attendees — media and R&D executives — heard and learned, as well as links to presentations available to share:

Peter Newton
Kyle Hebenstreit
Monica Boyer-Blanchard
Gary Smith

Keynote Presentation: GNI Data Lab (presentation): Media businesses may know what data they have, and even what they want to do with it strategically, but struggle to execute on those strategies. That finding emerges early from the work of the Google News Initiative Data Lab, in partnership with Local Media Association and Deloitte. At SDMS, presenters Kyle Hebenstreit, manager, strategy and analytics, Deloitte; Peter Newton, managing director, Accelerate Local; Monica Boyer-Blanchard, senior advertising manager/digital, tampabay.com/Tampa Bay Times; and Gary Smith, vice president of advertising, The Seattle Times, observed this struggle and outlined efforts to address it head on.

Jason Holmes

Best Practices — Key Vertical Areas: Jason Holmes, founder and CEO, ThriveFuel, described the challenges of achieving escape velocity for a digital agency business born adjacent to a local media company. Now, ThriveFuel drives its success apart from that media company alignment in a small market via emphasis on professional services and high-quality customer engagement. One digital service line Holmes identified as high potential: chatbot marketing. He showed examples of chatbots for clients that provide their customers efficient assistance with routine communications, engagement and services.

Perry Evans

Local Search and SEO Transformation (presentation): Perry Evans, president, ThriveHive (part of GateHouse Media) described that agency’s  new emphasis on Google My Business as a critical component of search optimization for local clients. ThriveHive has rebuilt its entire ecosystem into an integrated subscription SaaS covering guided marketing and advertising, with a “help-them-do-it” approach to its clients.

Julia Campbell
Michael Koenigs

Best Practices — Branded Content (presentation): Attendees saw the great creative and production values ABC Owned Television Stations’ Localish team provides on its Secretly Awesome series of branded content. Presenters Michael Koenigs, executive producer, ABC Owned Television Stations / Localish, Julia Campbell, LMA/LMC Branded Content Project lead, also gave quick updates on early outcomes of The Branded Content Project, funded by Facebook Journalism Initiative in partnership with LMA and Local Media Consortium.

Daryl Hively
Jonathan Muzio
Sandra DeFilipp

Best Practices — Prospecting: This panel featured three presenters from digital services firms that, combined, have met with thousands of local clients and countless local sales executives. Each made different recommendations for filling the top of the sales funnel. Daryl Hively (presentation), founder and CEO, Guarantee Digital, advocated cultivating multiple sources of leads, and approaching the market with multi-channel, category-specific bundles based on your expertise in each vertical. Jonathan Muzio (presentation), vice president of business development, AdCellerant, gave a list of things to consider to qualify new leads, such as why they advertise, level of digital/tech expertise, and state of their current presence on Google and the web. Sandra DeFilipp (presentation), partner manager, AffinityX, recommended going for low-hanging fruit by asking current clients to refer you to prospects, reviewing your inactive lists, and looking for companies that are hiring as good prospects.

Corey Elliott

Best Practices – The Voice of the Customer (presentation):  Corey Elliott, executive vice president, local market intelligence at Borrell Associates, flagged the disconnects between what media companies think clients want, what clients themselves say they want, and what clients actually buy and do in digital marketing services. One surprise: 32% of advertisers surveyed said they are underspending on advertising, while only 15% thought they were overspending.

Rebecca Capparelli

Best Practices — Bundling (presentation): Rebecca Capparelli, vice president of promotions, GateHouse Media, applied her focus on client promotions to the topic of bundling. Integrated solutions, she said, are a foundation for all the promotions GateHouse offers. Other keys: multi-channel media plans that reach advertisers’ target markets; promotions with low barriers to entry, such as contests and quizzes; and strong prizes that appeal to the intended audience.

Shannon Allen
John Hoeft

Best Practices — Client Reporting / AttributionShannon Allen (presentation), vice president/digital sales, Federated Media, recommended starting with specific, agreed client campaign performance goals, educating clients on what data elements mean, and reporting back to clients consistently and transparently. John Hoeft (presentation), former general manager, TruMeasure, walked through stages of reporting and attribution from Google Analytics to more in-depth data visualization and detailed attribution models.

Christina Rice
Jessica Romaniuk
Alice Patel
Peter Schwarzbach

Advertiser Panel: At the end of Day 1, we assembled a panel of clients — local advertisers and agencies that buy digital marketing services from local media companies. Moderator Christina Rice, co-founder, Supplemental Oxygen Digital, led panelists to describe their biggest challenges in working with media sellers. Wine store owner Peter Schwarzbach: “I know enough about this to know when the sales rep isn’t a true expert, but I don’t know enough to know when the rep really is.” Jessica Romaniuk, director of media, Two by Four Advertising, Alice Patel, senior director of communications, Clearcover, Inc. both stressed the importance of knowing your clients’ businesses and immediate needs and expectations.

Shawn Riegsecker

Keynote: Agency/Provider Perspective on Digital Marketing Services (presentation): Shawn Riegsecker, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Centro, described how the profound transformation of the Centro business, and the ground-up rebuild of software that drives it, led him to some important conclusions about the value and importance of automation. He said he expects almost all advertising decisions to be made by algorithm in the next few years, but that shift does not preclude the need for human support and expertise, especially for local clients.

Kelly Wallace

Best Practices — Pricing (presentation): Kelly Wallace, director, digital and account development, Beasley Media Group, explained how Beasley evaluated all levels of successful corporate strategies and value propositions to develop its own go-to-market approach for digital advertising and marketing services. Beasley’s integrated sales use multiple tactics, create long-term campaigns and focus on unique ideas that can’t be commoditized.

Matt Bartels

Best Practices — Staffing, Compensation, Incentives (presentation): Matt Bartels and Quang Do from Alexander Group focused on the compensation and incentive strategies that will help drive growth and transform sales organizations, and their leadership, from focus on transactional deals to solution selling and better relationships. Sales compensation must align to a company’s growth phase, from startup through maturity and optimization.