How to effectively pitch your digital media (buy side) solution to publishers (sell side)

Working closely with a wide number of demand partners over the years, one thing I’m consistently asked is what’s the most effective way to communicate value with publishers? This is an answer everyone in the space is seeking from the largest fish (Google) to the smallest specialty rep firms or SSPs.

As you’re probably aware, there isn’t one definitive answer (outside of ever publisher is different, which of course isn’t helpful) but there are certainly some best practices and there are absolutely things you should avoid when trying to win a new publishers business. While not everyone can achieve this, there are certainly best practices to follow:

  • Never send a generic email blast as an introduction. As tempting as this might be because of its simplicity (an entry level employee can pretty much blanket the web) and potential ROI, it’s a bad idea and should be avoided. Any publisher worth working with will sniff this tactic out immediately and it will discredit your message. I think often the sell side doesn’t realize how many of these emails a large publisher receives and just how adept you become at recognizing them and quickly ignoring them.
  • As an alternative, try targeting publishers in smaller and more specific vertical blocks or groups. You can still have that entry level employee paste the value adds your solution provides but also include at least one specific reason why they are beneficial to the publisher. Tools like Ghostery (Or YieldMetrics if you have budget) will easily let you know what ad partners a publisher is working with and give you a sense of how you can add value to their solution.
  • Attempt to start a two-way conversation. Initial email outreach should include a request to speak on the phone about the publisher’s current ad setup. What works well? What’s not working well at the moment? The more consultative your sales approach is the more likely you’ll be viewed as a unique value add.
  • Provide specific examples of how you can add value. At this point every buy side solution can monetize first look impressions at a competitive CPM. What else can you do? What honestly separates you from your peers? Do you offer rich media? Do you have strong fill rates? Do you have any company specific ad products? Faster payment terms? Letting a publisher understand how you differentiate yourself will make you appear as more of an opportunity and less as spam selling me something I’m already doing with partners I trust.
  • Why should I even be reading your email? Most publishers are already working a number of partners they know, trust and have history with. Be clear about your value, be upfront and specific.
  • Don’t oversell. There’s nothing worse and it happens all the time. It’s OK to tell a publisher you’re not certain how things will perform but outline your track record of success. That tactic will be far more respected in the long term vs. claiming performance there’s no way you can achieve.
  • Communicate with the publisher on their current managed demand stack performance and setup. The networks that win our business work to understand our current performance and where they’d fit in best. They don’t make demands or empty promises, they ask to see data that we’re happy to provide.
  • Set mutual goals and hold yourself accountable. We recently launched with AOL MarketPlace and before doing so we set floor CPM rates and fill performance goals. This allowed both AOL and StudyBreak Media to understand what we’d need to be successful.
  • Let your performance be the incentive. Believe it or not we’ve been offered cash sign up bonuses, iPads, and entrance in raffles to entice us to join a network. What is this amateur hour? If your best incentive as a demand partner isn’t the performance of your network or exchange you shouldn’t be in the business, period.

For example, and with name and company information redacted, take a look at this email:

Hi Emry:

It’s been a while since we connected about the (Redacted, name of the company, and their technology platform). Your account has been inactive for some time. With great Q4 performance, we have lots of advertisers pushing campaigns and I’d love to see your traffic active in our exchange again. So, if you go live by December 6th, I’ll add you to a random drawing for an iPad Air.

Here’s how it works:

·       Go live by December 6th (tell us if you need tags or a new backend portal invitation)
·       Stay live for at least 45 days (through January 31st) 
·       Send us at least 30,000 impressions each day for 1 entry
·       Send us over 100,000 impressions each day for 2 entries 
·       Send us over 1,000,000 impressions each day for 10 entries

 Please respond to this email to enter.  I look forward to growing our relationship through the holiday season and into 2014.  It’s going to be a great year!

Best wishes,
EVP Revenue & Operations
I’m all for creative pitching ideas but this falls way short on many levels. In a vacuum, I suppose I’d love to receive an iPad Air but if that raffle in anyway sways me to add this company to my managed demand stack I should be out of a job. Instead of focusing on a gimmick (a poor one at that) to incentivize new partners, this email would have been far more effective if they actually outlined tangible things going on with their solution or technology.
“With great Q4 performance”
What on earth does that mean? Great in relation to what? The standard performance of your network or vs. the industry as a whole? Are you outperforming yourself or your competitors? The only specific metrics in this email outline entrance rules for a contest I can’t imagine anyone with a credible site being interested in entering.
To be clear, the goal of this post is to be helpful and not to bash anyones efforts. Believe me I’ve written plenty of poor pitches and conducted plenty more of them in person. Attempting to improve is the key and in such a competitive space it’s important to take a step back and determine if your pitch clearly outlines what your company is doing to help publishers make more money. If you’re honestly achieving that, it’s more than likely your pitch will be a success.