How Different Are You?

We are pleased to welcome Tom Hespos as a monthly contributor to The Makegood. Tom is Founder and Chief Media Officer at Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing programs. Look for Underscore Marketing’s monthly column every second Friday.

It’s no secret that agencies have a problem with the sheer number of media partners asking for time to pitch business.  Agencies remark all the time that sales organizations look too much alike when it comes to capabilities and technology.  I feel confident in saying that the sales pundits would back that up, particularly since they’ve been screaming it from the rooftops for the past couple years.

I can see it in the salespeople’s faces as they present to my teams. They’re wondering whether the capabilities they’re pitching are significantly different from those pitched by the person who will be standing in their spot in an hour or two.  Here’s something they rarely consider, though: Are they different enough from the agency?

Sometimes, the quizzical looks that potential media partners get from agency people have little to do with not understanding technology or problems figuring out how the potential partner stacks up against their competitors.  Sometimes, the agency media team is wondering “How much of what they’re describing can I do in-house without their help?”

Just as creative agencies wondered why they needed to meet with rich media companies after the rise of Flash or HTML 5, digital media teams are wondering why they have to meet with DSPs if they have an in-house trading desk. Often, comments about potential reach across the Internet are ignored.  If the agency believes it can do a better job targeting, presentations about proprietary data are often ignored, too.  In that case, is there a whole lot to talk about?

Have a neat new creative format, and the ability to make ads for clients who are tapped from a production resources perspective?  Congratulations, you’re competing with the agency.  Look at 300 kajillion impressions a second across the ad exchanges? 

Congratulations, you’re competing with the agency.  You’ve managed to achieve double-digit lift by combining data from up to a dozen providers?  Well, you get the picture.

Some agencies may welcome the gesture – the opportunity to get some help from the outside with resources constrained as they are.  Others might not be so welcoming.  After all, you may be proposing to handle many of the functions an agency performs for its clients.  Even if you’re successful at selling it through, do you think doing so represents a sustainable business?

I don’t aim to be combative, but only to explain why your sales presentation might be falling flat.  Not only does your offering have to be better than the other guy’s, but it also needs to be significantly differentiated from the agency’s.

Tom Hespos is a contributor at The Makegood and Founder and Chief Media Officer at Underscore Marketing, a boutique firm that creates and manages digital marketing programs.