At a dinner two weeks ago with CEO's and senior executives from B2B media companies the conversation naturally turned to the economy. There were varying opinions and reactions, some were optimistic, some pessimistic but overall I'd say the mood was pragmatic optimism. The discussion evolved into whether the tough economy was actually a benefit for some businesses as it might allow companies to increase share in a tight market. I volunteered that I thought this was one of the benefits of the current economic climate
Great media companies and great media brands take share in tough markets. They do so with audience's; by expanding share of total audience, time and engagement and also with marketer's by expanding share of marketing budget. I won't go into detail here but as TechWeb competitors will attest, this philosophy is a core part of our cultural DNA, in bear markets as well as bull markets.
What surprised me was how some of the executives at the dinner agreed but only in context of "sales". They talked about not letting sales people use tough markets as an excuse. They talked about "sales" as though it's an isolated function in their company, practiced only by sales reps and disconnected from other parts of their operations. They made it clear that they didn't see sales as something that everyone practices. This is where we differ.
Growing up at Ziff-Davis under Bill Ziff's leadership, as well as CMP Media under the Leeds family, I received extraordinary media, business and leadership training and experience. One philosophy that was baked into my DNA early on was that "Everybody Sells Everyday".
This doesn't mean that content people cross the line and "sell" editorial. What it means is that regardless of your position you are selling a product and service to a customer. If it's content, then the quality, the packaging and the value will ultimately be determined by the level of audience engagement, your traffic, how many attendees you generate, how many subscribers you have, your readership levels and how the market responds to your content. Regardless of where you sit, Editor in Chief, to beat reporter, to blogger, to conference director, you are selling your value to your audience constantly. And you should be all too aware if you don't deliver high quality, actionable content that the audience wants and needs, someone else will. In today's digital world your audience is talking back to you constantly, providing a whole new ability to actively engage with your customers. You should be fine tuning your "selling" based on how audiences engage with your content in real time.
On the marketing side of our business, from the CEO of the company through to all of our managers, sales executives, sales assistants, to the receptionists in our offices, everyone works with customers. The value of our selling to our marketing customers is judged based on the creativity and the results of the marketing solutions we sell and our customer service. The report card on our selling in this part of the business is very clear as well. It's represented in our repeat business, our revenues, our profits and our share of marketing budget.
We don't view our customers as the employees of our company. Our customers are the professionals who rely on our brands, products and services to make informed decisions and the marketer's who buy our products and services to drive their revenues. These are the people that we sell to everyday. Everybody in our company serves customers, so everybody sells.
When people say, "they have good message discipline" or "they are all on message" or "they have a very focussed culture" they are touching on variations of the same theme. "Sales" is more than a business practice and discipline. It's a philosophy and one that entire companies should embrace. I know ours does.,