Crack the Nut at the Ad Tech Casino

Do you ever feel like you’re rolling dice with your ad tech? Every day, publishers are experimenting and gambling — each hoping to discover a new sustainable business model and develop the right technologies to support them.

Nowhere is the difference between winners and losers more than stark than in how they handle the intersection of CRM, Salesforce automation, and the rolling waves of new ad platforms and ad tech solutions.  Over the past ten years, I’ve had an insider’s seat for all the action in the Salesforce global ecosystem — first, managing digital ads sales teams as customer, then working with media teams on Salesforce CRM as a certified consultant, and now selling applications designed specifically for media sellers.  Three different viewpoints on the marketplace have added up to a unique and valuable perspective on who loses and who wins in today’s marketplace.

The consistent winners I’ve seen have invested heavily in sales tech infrastructure, at a pace in step with their ad tech investments. This has allowed them to quickly expand profitable ad product lines, roll out new products to market and where needed, bring divergent products or sales teams together to satisfy customers in alignment with strategic priorities.  The companies that have met this challenge? A tiny group at the pinnacle of the industry.

At the other end of the scale, one need only look at any big media company going through layoffs, a distressed buy-out or product shut-downs.  There you’re likely to find a team that didn’t make the transition to modern day sales tools, collaborative selling and the automation of the many repetitive tasks and processes.  In short, they didn’t pave the way for their customers’ complete deal journey, from RFP through delivery and billing.  These are the casino’s losing players — teams that didn’t develop an effective method to blend old and new products while also balancing bets on emerging ad tech.  For the many players in the middle– those working hard to develop profitable positions — there are a lot of lessons to be learned from both extremes.

Don’t Just Shuffle the Deck

Disconnected legacy systems and custom-coded, unsupported solutions are two huge burdens that often push media teams to breaking point.   Beyond the obvious performance factors which result in low customer satisfaction and service speeds, these two blockers can consume heavy support budgets and drive IT teams into reactive support mode rather than innovation and strategic planning.  They also tend to keep sales teams on disconnected, siloed tracks with lots of blind spots.

All-in-one proprietary ad serving and proposal systems are often another significant obstacle.  While these typically look great when viewed from the perspective of the specific channel for which they were initially designed, very few really measure up to the multi-channel, multi-platform challenges and demands of today’s market.  These solutions instead often lock customers into rigid solution designs and processes, resulting in significant custom coding and investment needed for integration with other systems.

As the digital wave rolls on, these types of blockers along with the lack of a unifying strategy can cause mayhem in the back office. Companies under these pressures often have very high levels of manual processes.  How? Why?  They’ve patched together a delivery process over a labyrinth of loosely connected systems.  (Quiz your team on the number of process steps in your shop.)   High risk for make-good credits and not passing financial audits is the way the cards read for these players.

The Hottest Hand at the Table

The Boston Consulting Group recently released a study called The Programmatic Path to Profit for Publishers which emphasizes that a cross-selling strategy is a must for any publisher aiming to keep pace with the best performers.  The study further suggests that programmatic buying must be fully integrated with other sales channels. The goal should be to create a cross-channel, data-driven sales strategy linked with traditional direct buying.   This is great advice.  In short, they say, emulate and implement the formula winner players are using to provide great customer experiences. Design for increasingly complex buying processes, multiple product lines, delivery challenges and the often missed up-sell or renewal opportunity.

This is where CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) and Order Management elements of the Quote-to-Cash solutions shine and they have started to make a real difference for media sellers. They offer a clear way through much of the current ad tech madness.   Companies using these tools are able to dramatically reduce both deal processing times and costly internal errors associated with process misstep and manual entries.

Pressing The Bet

There are two major areas where media companies should aim and leverage these tools:

Pre-sales complexity:   proposal building, combining multiple products into single orders and consistently nailing both accurate pricing and inventory availability is impossible for media reps to do manually today.  Let CPQ do the math and product bundling for them.  Doing so has an immediate positive impact on proposal error rates and helps your bottom line. Quote to Cash technology provides elegant answers to both these complex problems.  It does this by providing a single but agile product catalog which helps teams to sell any combination of products backed by a rules engine, automated approvals and electronic signatures.

Post-sale pain points: even highly automated platforms or channels like Programmatic can have numerous manual process and approval steps, creating risks for significant errors and revenue loss.  This is the ‘Closed Won to Closed Done’ zone where big make-goods can be prevented and it is far and away the #1 area where most media companies can improve.  Strong post-sale order management can head off self-inflicted errors before they happen.  Quote to Cash technology provides this level order management automation – running over long periods of time ensuring all members of the team and steps in along your delivery process hit their respective marks.

Taking this approach, media sellers can maximize sales, increase order values and remove order errors while smoothing the customer journey to ensure more sales in the future. Having a unified strategy also helps a team sell with confidence across multiple product lines.

In this way, Quote to Cash technology can help sellers minimize many of the risks the industry faces at the moment.

Having sat at the table now for years, I can tell you, this is a winning combination — the safest bet in the midst of all the ad tech casino chaos.