5 Questions: On Efficiency In Ad Sales—And Other Parts Of The Enterprise

Feb 26, 2024

In a modern media company, particularly vertical B2B and B2C brands, the tech stack is the heart of the enterprise. Its capabilities and efficiency could mean the difference between success and failure. And of all the components of the tech stack, the CRM, in turn, might be the heart. It’s where sales, billing, finance, and sometimes audience development converge. And when they’re not built into a CRM, the other components still need to communicate with the CRM—the audience database, the content-management system, software for marketing automation.

One of the best-known media-industry suppliers specializing in the CRM and ad-sales is Mirabel Technologies, the software company whose products include The Magazine Manager, The Newspaper Manager, Magazine Central, and The Marketing Manager. Mirabel’s flagship, The Magazine Manager—a sales-management platform—serves more than 17,000 media brands worldwide, according to Mirabel’s website.

Mark McCormick.

Given the core importance of the tech stack, and Mirabel’s own experience with it where it affects ad-sales operations, we thought it would be great to catch up with the company’s president, Mark McCormick. Here’s our exchange, lightly edited for clarity.

Fox Tales: What’s the difference between operating efficiently and not operating efficiently in B2B media? 

Mark McCormick: Financially it’s probably a 5% to 10% point swing in earnings. The variance that we see between efficient companies and inefficient companies is dramatic. Efficiency can impact B2B companies in multiple ways. If it’s about your processes in production and accounting, you are going to see it on the expense side with manpower costs that might be 20% higher than they should be.

But where you really see it is on the sales side. If your sales staff is inefficient and they spend unnecessary time on administrative activities, you have a cost-multiplier effect in the sales per hour that they bring in. A great salesperson might bring in $500 an hour for every hour they work. If they lose four hours a week to slow processes, you could lose $100,000 a year in sales, meaning your costs per salesperson hour will increase and the margin on your cost-of-sales decreases.

Fox Tales: What techniques do you recommend to streamline media operations?

McCormick: You should write down all of the processes that you do (booking a sales order, writing a proposal, sending out a group of invoices) and how long each of them takes. Rank them in terms of inefficiency and calculate what your savings would be if you could shave 10% off a process. You’ll begin to form a “savings chart.” The functions that affect your sales team are going to be the place to start because of that multiplier effect of sales hours.

Fox Tales: What are the common missteps in Mirabel’s experience in maximizing advertising sales? 

McCormick: The proposal-creation process is a good place to start. With multimedia proposals, that can hit 150 line items. We have seen some sales teams whose members regularly spend two or three hours making up a proposal. That’s a red flag and a good place start. But call sequencing and sales automation can be areas for major improvement. Having good data is another area that you have to get right.

We offer built-in email verification tools that save sales teams a lot of time. Your sales team should not be the ones who are de-duping your database, and validating emails, prospects etc. We have our own B2B sales teams like our clients, and our data-preparation team is twice the size of our sales staff. We want to serve up prospects to our sales team on a “silver platter.” We view their time as the most valuable in the company and they should not be trying to find correct phone numbers and email addresses. Those functions can all be done by less-expensive employees.

Fox Tales: What are some areas for creating opportunities—as your website puts it—for media companies to engage leads and grow their businesses?

McCormick: We are unique in that we do CRM, order entry, and billing functions, plus audience development, in one database. There are a lot of advantages to that. Every data silo you create within your company probably costs you $5,000 trying to sync and move data back and forth. In the world of audience development, with the deprecation of the cookie, first-party data is a big topic. For B2B media companies it’s always been a big topic. There are many tools and techniques for gathering information manually that we offer, such as landing pages, surveys, gated content and the like, but the area that we are probably focusing the greatest energy on is contextual first-party data collection.

In layman’s terms, we are using AI to read all of the content on your websites, categorize the content and then tag all of the visitors to allow publishers to segment their email lists and then target segments with appropriate content or advertising offers. We have some audience tools that we are beta testing right now with some of our B2B publishers and the results have been very encouraging. We think we are going to be able to save publishers $50,000 a year in manual web-page tagging time and increase sales by offering more targeted email campaigns. That’s probably the offering that excites our audience folks the most right now.

Fox Tales: Tell us the value and importance for associations and for-profit media companies of working with an outsourced media-sales organization like Fox Associates. Would they take on the Mirabel suite of products and work in those environments?

McCormick: In general, outsourced sales organizations tend to have better systems and management than in-house teams. It’s all they do, so they have to be good at it. Usually, they are familiar with multiple systems and understand the nuances of an efficient outbound-calling process. Outbound sales is in general a poorly understood science within media companies. In general, media companies rely on great salespeople to “figure it out” and bring their own systems, but really good outbound-sales organizations have “system continuity” across their teams. The best performers are always going to be efficient, but it’s trying to elevate an entire sales team to have greater productivity where that gets complicated. The outsourced-sales organizations are generally better at this because it’s all they are focused on. They don’t have the burden of looking at editorial, production, accounting, audience, and all of the other functions that publishers have to oversee.