Rocking the status quo

Rachel Middlewick considers the challenge of selling a new idea in the modern media age

Selling content marketing ideas starts with audience insight and measurable opportunity, right? Add a cheeky sprinkle of relationship magic (AKA ‘chemistry’) and you’ve got yourself a new client or you’ve expanded the portfolio of an existing one.


Marketing spend has diversified massively over recent years. Not only is the media landscape increasingly complex, but ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ media has come into play alongside traditional paid media. Keeping up with the transformation is tough. Duncan Wynn, Sales Director at Sky Media, says: “The challenge for the industry this year is to bring together data, technology and creativity to ensure we don’t lose sight of delivering compelling and effective advertising for brands, agencies and viewers.” (Source: Marketing Week)

It is an incredibly intimidating statement.

Buying and selling marketing activity calls for greater audacity than ever before - and who wants to put their neck on the line? The typical buyer or brand marketeer has an average of 5.4 people to seek agreement from in their decision making unit before they can sign off spend (source: Flume Training). The initiative being proposed needs to outperform the current investment and deliver against a set of problem-focused metrics - not to mention being cross-platform and reflecting well on the brand by its audience-appropriateness and innovation.   

Quite frankly, sticking with the status quo is easier and less risky for both the brand and the individual’s career. And this is the crux point: before you can even begin to attract a buyer to your idea or your agency, you need to convince them why they should want to walk away from the status quo.

You need to be sufficiently informed about the sector, the audience and the business challenge, and have a clear vision of what success looks like. You also need to understand how to communicate effectively with the target audience. Most importantly, you should be able to justify why the current solution is falling short of these criteria, which is why sticking with it poses the greatest risk.

The age-old sales approach based on relationship trading simply does not work any more. At least not in isolation. We need to employ sales and account staff who are informed, curious, happy to question not just accept, and capable of analysing and understanding complex data and landscapes. We need to encourage those staff to spend time with clients to understand their objectives, to help them uncover challenges, help them save money and help them make money. Really getting under the skin of what the business and the marketeer want to achieve, and educating them to make it worth their while going to the effort of doing things differently.  

So my advice would be: don’t jump in and sell the brand, the agency or an idea, even if it’s backed up by audience insight. Think. Ask questions. Do your research. Understand and undermine the status quo.

And NEVER underestimate the changing role of an excellent account manager!


Rachel Middlewick @remiddlewick

Publisher of FS magazine @foreversports_

Account Director at Haymarket Network @network_digital