Don’t let loyal partners get stuck in a rut with the same old ad and exhibit programs.

By Gretchen Kast

Once you come up with a marketing program that’s working, it can be hard to find a reason to shake things up. Sure, you update with new ads, refresh the content pieces and reassign the exhibit space – but you’re not really rocking the boat beyond that. There are plenty of upsides to this scenario: it’s consistent, efficient and you maintain a predictable revenue stream. But even the most well-thought-out plan can get stale with time. Rather than trying to pick up the pieces after a program starts to get tired, it’s important to always keep an eye out for fresh ideas you can pitch to your long-term marketing partners—and new prospects as well. 

It’s easy to get complacent with your sales strategy when your marketing partners are happy to re-up their contracts year after year. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? But you may be leaving money on the table by staying the course—and your advertisers, exhibitors and sponsors may be missing out on bigger engagement. As a sales manager, its your job to keep innovating. While some companies may be proactive about coming up with fresh ideas, a lot of them won’t have the bandwidth to do so—or they simply aren’t aware of what sorts of opportunities are possible.

Don’t be afraid to float a new idea past a marketing partner. Maybe you’ve been thinking about new insert opportunities within your print magazine. Or maybe this year’s convention location has the space for a different kind of presentation or activity option. For many companies, getting early access to a new concept is appealing; it offers exclusivity. Of course, not every organization will be on board with an untested idea right away—but simply starting the dialogue may help you lay the groundwork for something even bigger down the line.

The idea of mixing things up is different than a standard up-sell. In fact, it may not come with a cost increase at all. Recently, when putting together a new issue of one of our own magazines, we decided to pitch a new idea to one of our advertisers. We have long offered a paid “feature story” program that combines a mix of advertising and a one-page original article. Over the years, this has become one of our most popular offerings. Rather than simply stick to the status quo, we worked with this company to develop a different kind of story—replacing the one page print article for a collection of illustrated facts and insights sprinkled throughout the edition of the magazine. This achieved the same goal of positioning the company as a thought leader in the industry, but presented it to our readers in a fresh way. By coupling this with a stand-alone digital story and a comprehensive social media plan, we were able to create a more exciting cross-platform opportunity.

At the same time, avoid making changes solely for the sake of change. When pitching your new idea, it’s important to have a clear reasoning behind it—successful examples to compare it to or research into industry trends and a strong explanation for why it’s a strong fit for the company’s goals. Be strategic about which advertisers you pitch it to; some may be more receptive than others—and be sure it is customized to support their expressed needs and goals. Once implemented, be careful not to jump the gun on scrapping a new program before you see how it’s performing. It can take time for a new ad or content campaign to really gain traction. Identify a few KPIs you plan to monitor—and be sure to give it a wide enough test window so you can get an accurate look at how they change over time.

Long-term marketing partners stick with you because you continue to deliver value to their company. But they hopefully also have faith in your judgement. Whether you’re talking with an old friend or a brand new prospect, remember that good sales people are trusted advisors. By putting in the effort to stay flexible and informed, your support and insights can be a real asset to advertisers, sponsors and exhibitors—and help introduce them to new ideas they may have never even considered.

Want to learn more? Get in touch today.