Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Millionaire Returns to Prime Time. Investors and Home Buyers Return to Markets

And you just had your budget slashed and headcount trimmed. How to sell beyond the spreadsheet.

It’s just so predictable. We’re on the verge of one of the greatest economic recoveries in a generation and Corporate America is still figuring out how to hunker down and get even leaner and meaner. At HB we’re all for spending wisely, but at some point, you can’t keep asking what’s left of your staff to run on fumes, smoke, mirrors and duct tape.

Sooner or later you’re going to have to start investing in talented people and regaining your market share with some smartly placed ad spending. If not, you’re not only going to be left alone on the launch pad; you’re going to be singed by your competitors’ after-burner fumes. Pink slips continue across all sectors of the workforce, including the media business. Conde Nast shutters Portfolio. More marketing directors report cuts in spending. IDC's marketing barometer study, which looked at b-to-b marketing trends for the first quarter of 2009, noted overall spending was down about 10 percent.

So what. Back in March on this blog, we called the statistical end to the Great Recession (aka “Great Disruption”) of 2008-2009. Since then, positive indicators keeping cropping up like dandelions in the northern climes of this country. You don’t have to look too hard to find them.

The Equity Markets: The S&P 500 is in positive territory for the year – having rebounded more than 34 percent from its 12 year low in March. The Nasdaq Composite Index is up nearly 12 percent for the year.

Housing: Pending sales of previously owned homes rose for a second month in March, while construction spending edged higher. A Federal Reserve survey of loan officers showed demand for prime mortgages rose in the first quarter for the first time since early 2007. The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in March, rose 3.2 percent as first-time buyers waded into the market to take advantage of favorable prices and mortgage rates, and an $8,000 federal tax credit.

Consumer Confidence: For the first time in five years, more Americans than not think the country is “headed in the right direction” (48% to 44%) according to the latest Associated Press/Roper GfK Roper Public Affairs poll released last week.

Popular Culture: The game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” – which got a nostalgic boost from “Slumdog Millionaire’s” dominance of the Oscars this spring, will return to prime time (ABC-TV) for a two-week tournament this summer, with Regis Philbin again as host. (Disclosure: my wife works in production for this show). Millionaire, which has been quietly chuggling along nicely in syndication for years, since being dropped from prime time in 2001 (with “only” 10 million viewers). At its height in the late 1990s, it had 30 million viewers. Wealth and life-altering hope is back.

Macro Economy: The U.S. economy is on track for a recovery later this year, but the pickup is likely to be sluggish and the jobless rate is likely to rise further, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday. "We expect economic activity to bottom out, then to turn up later this year," he said in testimony prepared for delivery to the congressional Joint Economic Committee. Bernanke said the expected recovery will only gradually gain steam and that the economy would grow below its longer-run potential for a while. "Businesses are likely to be cautious about hiring, implying that that the jobless rate could remain high for a time, even after economic growth resumes," he said. Go back and review your history books. That’s a green light if we’ve ever seen one! He didn’t even mention that borrowing rates, oil prices and inflation rates are at the lowest levels in a generation.

What Online Publishers Can Learn From Print Sales

Since we’re sometimes accused of being too hard on print media, we’d like to point out a smart pro-print piece in Online Publishing Insider blog the other day by Kevin Mannion of Sky Road Consulting. Again, we don’t believe in bashing print or any other media. We just don’t believe the days of a single media dominating the landscape are likely to return.

Here are some excerpts of Mannnion’s commentary: “As a rule, digital media is numbers and results-oriented, while print has traditionally relied on a more conceptual sell. Online selling is geared to the spreadsheet; print to the PowerPoint presentation. Print selling emphasizes market knowledge, educating clients --especially on the marketer side -- on buying dynamics, and telling a compelling sales story that shows clients how they will succeed. Digital selling is fast, RFP-oriented, emphasizing media technology knowledge and campaign metric optimization.

Successful digital selling requires going beyond the spreadsheet, while selling print ads needs to be more metrics-oriented than ever before. But the best online sales teams have learned from the legacy of print selling. They don't rely on hits and clicks and answering RFPs with agency spreadsheets neatly filled in with the right numbers. They know how to move beyond the RFP to market creation. And most important, they know how to sell their audience engagement story -- and sell it as a highly compelling advertiser/audience engagement story.Simple truth: Advertisers care about how you can help them see more business through their sales funnel.”

Sure, we could spend the rest of this space hedging our optimism with talk about “bear market rallies”, less-tha-stellar bank stress test results and fears of inflation. But if you want your organization to be a leader rather than a follower, you’ve got to throw out your lifelines, commit to business as usual and start gobbling up market share that your rivals are leaving on the table. If you don’t someone else will.

Final answer!

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