How many of you work for a company that utilizes Salesforce.com? Its adoption is really quite large in sales and marketing departments. The functionality is quite robust for managing sales, marketing, trafficking and ad performance reporting. Unfortunately most companies have initially configured Salesforce for only its most basic capabilities. Then people start asking for information and the first comment is always, “Salesforce.com isn’t working.”
We’ve done consulting with numerous companies in the media landscape and I can assure you that it does indeed work. We’re going to talk a little here about the most common challenges we’ve seen, and some simple takeaways for those who like to roll up their sleeves and dig further into optimizing their instance.
Standardizing the product catalog – Media firms frequently struggle as their product names and options are in constant flux. New products are continuously available and various inventory combinations can be bundled for promotional deals at a moment’s notice. With this in mind, it is critical to come up with a very flexible design for the product catalog that will both create a baseline level of standardization while supporting the sales and marketing’s need for flexibility.
Providing an accurate forecast – Media firms have a set of unique challenges around their sales forecast. An accurate forecast includes combining sold and delivered revenue (i.e., the value of all ads served), sold but not yet delivered revenue (i.e., the value of contracts not yet in production), and the current pipeline (i.e., the value of deals not yet sold).
This can be particularly challenging because all three data sets may have unique systems of record (delivered revenue in the billing system, contracted revenue in the ad server, and pipeline revenue in the CRM system). Given these logistical challenges it is critical to be working with a system that supports rolling up the data from across distributed underlying databases into the UI that sales reps are logging into on a daily basis.
Setting up the relationship between advertisers and agencies – Almost all publishers are dealing with a complicated landscape where on some deals the buyer is the advertiser, on others it’s an agency, and on some the buyer may be one organization and the payer separate. Regardless, it is critical to work with systems and people who understand this relationship and have the capacity to setup the CRM system to track not only the advertiser and agency on the deal, but also to roll up metrics that give insight into who the most influential agencies are, as well as provide the ability to track specific agency individuals and their inter-relationship with multiple advertisers.
Providing insight into ad pacing – One of the great challenges in ad sales is that even once the deal is signed, the revenue is not always guaranteed. A key benefit of any ad CRM system is the ability of the tool to provide sales reps with real time or near real time visibility into how a campaign or ad is pacing against its goal to allow the sales team to be pro-active in working with the customer to optimize the campaign.
With these key challenges in mind, here are the top four things publishers can do with their CRM systems in order to deliver a tool aligned with the broader operations of the organization.
Use custom objects for products – None of the major CRM packages provides a product catalog structure that fully supports an ad sales model. With this in mind, it almost always makes sense to leverage a custom object and custom page in order to streamline the way sales reps input order information.
A custom object and page can seamlessly take into account start and end dates for each line item, whether the line item is a sponsorship or CPM based deal, and whether specific line items involve revenue sharing across the team. This approach also eases the integration of pacing data back into CRM as it can serve as a repository for actual delivery information (pacing) coming back from the ad server.
Design with the ad server in mind – Many times this level of integration is put off from an initial implementation, but my experience is that for the sales team much of the value of having a CRM system is only derived once the order process can be automated and they can have visibility into how the campaign is performing against its goals. Giving them this visibility fundamentally improves their ability to deliver great service to their customer and improves their capability of hitting their sales goals.
Set up opportunities to account for advertiser and agency relationships – The opportunity form must include both the advertiser and agency relationship and allow for the context of who is paying for the specific deal as well as which individuals are contacts on the deal. This may mean a few extra fields, but it will provide for much richer roll-up reporting about the value of any given agency and it will drive a greater ability to automate quotes, contracts, and to pass accurate data into back end order systems.
Develop a clear strategy for account and contact data – Publishers have one of the greatest challenges with duplicate contacts and accounts. This is heightened because a given agency contact may have relationships with multiple key advertisers leading to inadvertent duplication of individual records, and because agencies themselves may have many distinct offices that act almost independent of the overall brand.
With these challenges in mind, it becomes critically important to have a common approach for how sales and marketing should name accounts, when they should create individual records, and a defined automated process that will routinely remove/merge records that are not aligned with the overall strategy.