In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, local media organizations find themselves at a crossroads. The traditional advertising avenues of newspapers, television, and radio have been joined by an overwhelming array of online platforms, from Google and Facebook to Snapchat and TikTok.

For small and medium-sized businesses, this proliferation of options can be daunting, often leaving them feeling like marketing rookies. Local media companies have the right to win in this new era, not only by offering advertising solutions but by transforming sales teams into true marketing consultants.

At LMA Fest in Chicago, we heard from a digital sales expert and digital marketing company Adcellerant on how local media companies can take advantage of this opportunity. They were: Robert Young, the vice president of digital solutions at The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest locally owned media company, and Melissa Sheehan, the chief revenue officer of AdCellerant, an advertising technology and services team that helps media companies create scalable and profitable digital advertising programs.

The local media company’s right to win

In the world of marketing expertise, small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) predominantly fall into the category of novices. A staggering 66% have fewer than 3,333 hours of experience, equivalent to less than two years of full-time work, according to data from Borrell Associates. This gap in knowledge presents a golden opportunity for local media companies to step in as trusted advisors.


“Local media organizations are often the oldest and most trusted source of information and advertising services in their communities,” Sheehan said. “Local media sellers are also more experienced, innovative and now have access to all the tools any local business needs.”

According to the 2023 Gallup Consumer Survey, local media hold a significant advantage in terms of consumer trust, with twice as many respondents expressing “high” trust in local media vs. national outlets. This trust extends to businesses’ purchasing decisions, with more than half of them choosing to buy digital services from local media companies, data from Borrell’s 2023 local media revenue benchmark report.

Why consultative selling matters

Consultative selling has become the cornerstone of successful sales strategies in the modern marketing landscape. Unlike the limited options of the past, today’s advertisers must navigate a complex web of platforms, data layers, and reporting mechanisms. This complexity necessitates the expertise of local media consultants who can guide businesses through the maze. By adopting consultative selling, a media organization can align its goals with both the sales executives’ objectives to close and retain customers and make money, and the advertisers’ aspirations to do the same.

Building a framework: Connecting businesses to their audience

One of the foundational principles of consultative selling is to focus on the advertiser’s customer, Sheehan said. By understanding their audiences and how they interact with the business, local media consultants can craft a compelling narrative that resonates with potential customers. This approach also involves mapping out the customer journey, identifying the touch points where businesses can make the most impact.

It’s crucial to ask key questions during discovery calls, such as who the ideal audiences are, where they can be found, and what messaging resonates with them. This deeper understanding empowers consultants to offer tailored solutions and engage in meaningful discussions about value rather than price.

Full funnel expertise: Maximizing impact across the customer journey

In today’s landscape, a comprehensive marketing strategy covers the entire customer journey, from awareness to conversion. Media sales teams should possess full-funnel expertise, ensuring that the right products are matched with each stage of the customer’s buying process.

Sheehan referred to an AdCellerant study conducted across thousands of digital media campaigns that showed employing full-funnel strategies with four or more products yields twice the retention rate of those with fewer offerings. Additionally, the ability to showcase real-time progress and results through live dashboards enhances transparency and builds trust with clients.

Setting the team up for success: Prioritize training and collaboration

Empowering your sales team to become true marketing consultants requires a robust training program. Effective training instills confidence, enabling consultants to navigate the complexities of the digital landscape with finesse.

Consider integrating digital product highlights into regular sales meetings, leveraging a digital learning management system, and facilitating on-the-job learning through joint sales calls. Encourage the creation of success stories to build a comprehensive case study library, showcasing the tangible impact of your strategies.

“We start with teaching the mechanics of how digital advertising fits in the customer sales funnel,” Sheehan said. “If you can show how your media plan reaches your advertiser’s customer, they’re more likely to invest.”

Trust the process and transform

In an era of unprecedented advertising options and ever-evolving consumer behavior, local media companies have a unique opportunity to redefine their role. By embracing consultative selling, building a strategic framework, and investing in comprehensive training, many sales teams can evolve into true marketing consultants.


“The most important thing is to pick a model and stick to it,” Young said.

As we transition from a landscape defined by newspapers, television, and radio to a digital world brimming with possibilities, local media’s right to win lies in our ability to guide, empower, and elevate businesses toward meaningful success. Trust the process, embrace the transformation, and seize the opportunity to shape the future of local media and marketing consultancy.