Ken Doctor wrote an interesting article yesterday detailing the $156M sale of Reach Local to Gannett.   In it he described the struggles of certain digital services sales teams in their attempts to crack the local market and that many had experienced high churn rates.

What he described wasn’t surprising to those who have ever followed some of these guys after they have trampled thru a local market, leaving in their wake lots of confused and unhappy clients.   We’ve talked with many of these Merchants, folks who were simply trying to make sense of Digital…do the right thing for their business, but now weren’t exactly sure what they bought, were angry about poor customer service, weak fulfillment and felt trapped in contract they couldn’t get out of.

Lack of Rep & Merchant Education –  common problem is reps set loose in the world with a little training, a rate card and zero knowledge of the local market.   Often in Blitz Mode, they hit the phones or roll into town for short period to close as many deals as they can.  They are on the clock…as they have 90 days to get merchants to sign on the line which is dotted, or they are out.   On the Merchant side, there’s little in the way of education or proper needs analysis…and many of the sales pitches start to sound the same.   As do the constant prerecorded robo-calls:  “I’m calling with an important message about your Google listing”.    Ugh.    Eventually, some wear down and buy something…only to be sorry later.

Smarter Reps, Smarter Merchants – On the flip side of this is the way Guarantee Digital, our sales partners and certain others in the Local Media business approach the opportunity.  It all starts with education of both your sales team and then the potential customer.   Smarter reps sell more – Smarter Merchants Buy More!     As we tell our media partners, our goal is teach your men and women to fish.   Not just during launch week, but long after we are gone.  Training isn’t an event, its an ongoing process designed to improve the skills of your staff and get them ready to compete in an increasingly competitive multi-media world. Virtual, On Demand, Classroom and curbside…its all part of a continual education process.

From the merchant side, education takes on many forms – from the content on your agency website, audit reports, webinars, seminars, workshops and one on one consultation. These events are not the old blitz sales rally disguised as an seminar…but instead are truly focused on giving these merchants real tips and advice they can implement today in their business.     When you do this…the dynamic changes from just another digital seller…to true consultant and educator.

We’ve recently taken this concept to the next level with the launch of our Digital Media Lab in our home market of Milwaukee.   The Media Lab is a learning center and media store for the local merchants.   We help them figure out what they need to do to improve their online presence, with options that include enrolling in a hands-on workshop, working one-on-one with a Digital Personal Trainer or hiring our agency team to do the work for them.    For many merchants its a refreshing change and a much different approach from the constant cold callers.  Armed with the knowledge we provide, Merchants feel empowered to finally approach this digital stuff from a point of understanding. Their decision point is now:   Do I have the time/skills to DIY Digital?   Or should I get these guys to do it for me?    It leads to a completely different customer relationship that’s based on education and trust!

You’ve Done this Before!  At the end of the day, successfully offering Digital Agency Services or opening a Media Lab shouldn’t be that hard, right?  As I tell my media friends…you’ve done this before!   Think back on any successful venture you have launched…and it’s about having the right products and people in place, educating your staff and the market and then delivering a first class customer experience.   Mix in true organizational commitment (this is not the next flavor of the day) and ensure the effort is a priority for everyone in the building…and you have the recipe for long term success.

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