If you like a challenge, you might consider selling Digital Marketing Services to small to medium size businesses (SMBs). You could go up against 1000s of local competitors and service one of the most fickle and skeptical segments of marketers.

Personally, I like a good challenge. If it’s “easy” I’ll get bored; I need to be solving problems by providing solutions. That’s probably why I’ve dedicated my entire career of 20-plus years selling digital marketing services to advertisers. You’re probably saying wow, he doesn’t look that old (or maybe not). Anyway, I wouldn’t change a thing and have enjoyed all the ups and downs. As a journalism major, I focused primarily on helping the local media industry with its transition from selling only traditional advertising to a combination that included digital. Helping news organizations with an evolving business model is my way of keeping local, trusted journalism alive, which is more critical today than ever!

If you are a local media company, advertising agency, marketing consultant or entrepreneur looking to start selling digital marketing services – I’m here to help. In fact, there are 1000s of marketing technology companies that want to help you, making this even more challenging. Here’s the upside: if you are successful you will be able to tap into the $300 billion that SMBs will spend on digital marketing services in 2018. Borrell Associates also reports that these small business owners will spend at least one full day a week on marketing tasks. It’s the perfect opportunity – they have the money to spend on digital marketing services, but they don’t have the time or resources to manage it. They need help from a trusted, experienced digital marketing professional that can stay on top of the technology, the ever-changing landscape, and what the digital giants Google and Facebook are doing. Google changes their search marketing algorithm 500-600 times per year! If your business is selling furniture, why would you spend all your time managing your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign, while trying to keep up with all these changes?

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Local Media Association’s (LMA) conference, “Selling Digital Marketing Services” (my favorite topic). There were representatives from several local news organizations from the broadcast, print and digital publishing industries along with agency and marketing technology services… including Facebook, Google and HubSpot. Jed Williams, Chief Innovation Officer at LMA summarizes some of the specific key takeaways here and I’ve offered a few of my own.

A.  Know your AUDIENCE. SMBs need your help from the ground up. If they don’t have their sites, listings or landing pages optimized for search results, your AdWords and display efforts are going to come up short in terms of effectiveness. If you want to specialize in selling SEM/Pay-Per-Click or display, target accounts that are already set up for success… typically the “M” in SMB. If you target is the “S” in SMB, then you need a transactional product or service that can be purchased online with monthly recurring revenue and managed efficiently through a “do-it-yourself” or “build your own” model. Keep your margins in mind and your mind on your margins!

B.  Focus on measuring BUSINESS OBJECTIVES, and less on impressions and clicks associated to specific services and media tactics. More phone calls, store visits, online conversions or even just more traffic to the website are viable business objectives that can be measured and reported. Position your digital marketing services as a wholistic approach focused on goals related to these specific business objectives and measure the Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

C.  COLLECT and leverage data. This is often the biggest differentiator, in my opinion. If you’ve managed and reported on 1000s of campaigns across 100s of industries, and have your own first party data set, you can bring more to the table. Your ability to optimize against benchmarks increases significantly as well as your ability to build custom audience segments and look-alike audience acquisition tactics. If you don’t have access to the data, then you should partner with someone that does.

If you’ve made it this far in the article, then you are likely as passionate about this industry as me. Maybe you want to see local businesses succeed and contribute to helping the economy, or maybe you want local news industries to thrive in your community and across America. Either way, if you are or want to be selling digital marketing services, you need to do it right and be up for the challenge.


John Hoeft is the General Manager at Tru Measure.