110: What 7,500 SMB Advertisers Want, with Gordon Borrell | At #LOAC2018

“They’re pissed off. They’re confused. And there’s your opportunity.” Gordon Borrell joins us this week from New York City at #LOAC2018 conference, where he and his guests are addressing critical trends affecting the local marketing industry. Tune in to hear Gordon’s key takeaways and trend predictions from his massive survey on SMBs (Advertisers) in the United States.

Gordon Borrell

Well, this week in the “Conquer Local” podcast, we are in New York City, and if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. Gordon Borrell joining us on the show. He has his local advertising convention. It’s one of my favorite weeks to come to New York and to meet with all of the media people that are working with Borrell and his organization. And the man, the myth, the legend, Gordon Borrell will be on the show, coming up next.

It’s another edition of the “Conquer Local” podcast and we have the privilege of joining us online, Gordon Borrell from Borrell Associates. Gordon, really excited to have you on the show. It’s a big week for you here in New York because your big convention is happening. And I want to give the listeners a bit of an overview of some of the insights that you’re gonna be sharing with the…usually, it’s well over 300 people that attend your convention. So welcome to the podcast and we’re looking forward to your big week.

Gordon: Hey, thank you. We’re looking forward to it too. We put a whole lot of effort into running this conference and we have the best of the best in terms of speakers, the folks who really know what’s going on. It’s a big challenge, George, to tell people something new because everybody seems to already know just about everything. So we’re trying to give them, in New York, this new view of really what is happening and also some of the ads for the conference have said pretty much what it’s about, which is cut the crap. And that is what’s really happening out there. Come on, let’s stop trying to sell and polish up all this Stuff what’s really going on and what our SMB is doing?

George: Yeah. I’ve liked that about your event to see it’s the ninth event that you’ve had and I think that you’ve done that all along where there isn’t a spin. Let’s talk a little bit about the research that leads into the convention. I think it’s important for our listeners to understand. This is the most extensive research piece of business owners, and I think you reference them as advertisers in the United States, and really that is the meat and potatoes underneath why this convention is that data. So let’s talk a little bit about that survey.

Gordon: Sure. We have a whole bunch of things that feed into the insights, and the survey is really just a piece of it. What we do is track ad spending by every single business in North America, US, and Canada and how much they spend, and there’s 24, 25 million of them. It’s a tough business to be able to actually do that, but every business reports to the government what it spends on advertising.

And then we do this large survey that you referenced really to begin to sort out what they are spending that money on, whether it’s print media, broadcast media, digital media, etc., and how it’s trending. What’s changing in their plans to advertise. And we are, indeed, in a great, great deal of flux. It’s the largest survey in North America. We conduct it once a year from April, runs up to July and then we do a panel every month of about 2,000 advertisers that supplements that information as well.

George: When I look at the list of speakers that you have at the event this year, it really is a who’s who, like, Tim Murphy from Entercom, Caroline Beasley from the Beasley Broadcast Group. You got my friend Kirk Davis from GateHouse. You have done a great job over the years of bringing in the leaders in the space. What are some of the speeches that you’re expecting to really rock the foundations with some learnings this year?

Gordon: Well, I think you’ll find some great insights from Rishad Tobaccowala from one of the largest ad agencies out there. He’s the Chief Strategy Officer. And he sits with all these big national advertisers trying to figure out what they’re doing. There’s great relevance. We’ve shunned national advertising because we really wanna focus on local, local acts pretty different than national, but what he’s seeing is really insightful and that is coming together of all of these opportunities at a media company to serve these local advertisers in marketing just like these big agencies do. And he sees it as a very, very powerful package in local markets for a new crop of ad agencies, people who are not just the old-timey ad agency, but a new crop particularly very, very digitally savvy people, and of course, media companies as well.

And then we’ve got Gian Fulgoni who’s the cofounder of comScore and the Chairman Emeritus, and I’ve challenged him to give us and I’ve seen his deck, it’s just tremendous, some insights on these new platforms and what we really have to worry about. There’s just way, way too much to worry about. And I said, “What are the things we need to worry about that are coming up really fast and are going to have a significant effect, not just piddle away?” And so he’s looking at OTT, over-the-top, or basically non-cable-type video programming, non-cable, non-broadcast, all those shows on Netflix or Hulu or Roku that people watch and what that means particularly to broadcast TV.

Big changes there for advertisers as this audience shifts to programming that does not particularly include advertising. He’s also looking at these smart speakers, which he believes will be very significant. I think you’ll be surprised to see the infiltration of smart speakers into businesses, into people’s homes, and what they’re capable of doing
So I think those two presentations in particular are really gonna set the tone in addition to last one and that is Randall Rothenberg who is head of the IAB. And we’ve challenged him to address ad fraud. What are you doing about it? What are you going to do to prevent the whole thing, from the internet from collapsing because of all this discussion about ad fraud news and things like that? And the IAB has done a very significant amount of work ensuring that particularly publishers are doing a really, really good job of cutting down on fraud.

George: Let’s talk about the information that you were able to provide to media companies and agencies through this survey. You run the survey, ask a whole bunch of questions of advertisers and then as a sales professional, I might be able to use that information in order to build a comprehensive strategy for a business person. How would I go about doing that as a salesperson?

Gordon: Yeah, it’s a great question because the information itself was just interesting. I mean it really is. So what do you do with it? The last thing we need is more insights. We’re just all overwhelmed. Here’s what it really boils down to. If I could look at all the survey results and everything they’re telling us about newspaper advertising, and outdoor advertising, and social media, and search engine optimization, and [inaudible 00:08:30] in email and their spending levels, and all that stuff, and you said, “Okay, just tell me one thing that’s really, really important. What characterizes everything?” And I’d say its people are pissed off and they’re confused, and there’s your opportunity. Go in and talk to them very frankly and don’t try to sell them something, at least not right off the bat. The last thing they wanna hear is how great your radio station is and it’s better than the internet, and the internet’s full of ad fraud. Or how great your newspaper is and that you shouldn’t be listening to the reports about newspaper dying. You have a really healthy audience. Here’s how big it is. They see through that. They really, really do.

What they need is for someone to come in and talk with them about what they’re doing, how much they’re spending, and give them some information, give them some research. Don’t just talk to them about it. Show them some data that helps them. One of the things that we offer, George, is the ability to see how much is spent by any particular local advertiser or an advertiser like them, dentist, furniture, store, real estate agent, restaurant, etc., in a particular market, Toronto, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Ahoskie, North Carolina, etc.

You show that bit of information to an advertiser and they really lean in. And if you show them what’s that florist in Albuquerque with 25 employees typically spends on advertising and how it’s split up, how much they spend on search engine optimization, how much they spend on banner ads in newspapers, etc., they really lean in. So I think that’s the actionable part of it, is you’ve got to be a marketing consultant. You can’t be a salesperson anymore. You really have to consult with them, have their interest at heart, come to their business prepared, know all about what it’s like to run an HVAC business or a plumbing business and what their particular marketing needs are. You gotta help them.

George: Yeah. So we’ve been working closer with you over the last year, and I will tell you that I have been on some sales calls using your data along with sales reps as we’re out training organizations and I found it to be very, very powerful. You’re sitting across from a furniture store owner and the furniture store owner is wondering if they’re spending enough in the marketplace, or wondering what their level of spend should be, wondering where they should be putting the dollars versus their competitors, and the fact that you have that data from all of those advertisers across the US, it really is some powerful information. I’ve used it face to face, firsthand and I’ve found it to be very valuable to help explain to the customer why the spend should be at a certain level for them to win in the marketplace. Now, of course, you have to deliver on that spend and you have to deliver results. Let’s just say that that happens but in the first conversation, I find there to be a lot of…you used the term “pissed off,” I think it’s also because the salespeople have had a tendency to just say whatever was to their benefit on the call and have not really been digging into the data to show the client exactly where the universe lies. So if you’re able to present really good information for the customer that backs up what you’re saying, it really adds to that trusted local expert that we’ve been talking about here at “Conquer Local”, that’s really the Holy Grail.

Gordon: That’s what they’re looking for, is somebody they can trust. And one of the things that we have discovered is that the conversations that really, really open up a pot of gold for a media company, an ad agency, are the conversations about how much time and money these businesses are spending in digital media. If you look at all local advertisers in our survey, about 3500 of them, what do you think the average local advertiser spends on social media activities in a given year? You might think it’s $2000, $3000, $4000, or $5000, it’s $17,191 on average. How many hours do you think they spend managing social media on average? 11.8, that’s more than a day, it’s a day and a half.

So if you get to the advertisers and say, “Talk to me about how much you’re spending on your Facebook posts or LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever? How much time you’re spending?” What you begin to do is open up to realization that they’re overspending and that it’s gotten out of hand. So guess what, media experts, marketing experts to the rescue. We can help you with that. We have social media management. We have listings claiming. We can do search engine optimization. Yeah, we know how to post stuff. We’ve got all these sophisticated programs. By the way, we’re marketing people, we’re media people. We’re experts, you’re not. George, 74% of the people in our survey are rookies at marketing and we determine that by asking them how many days a week and how many hours a week and how many years they’ve spent on marketing and calculated that if someone has spent 10,000 hours or more on marketing, they’re masters at it. Seventy-four percent are not the rookies. And really, really inexperienced rookies, I’ll tell you that, so they could use the help.

George: Yeah. I wanna take that to a real-world example. I was in Worcester, Massachusetts, working with Kirk Davis and his Worcester magazine staff and we went on a four-legged call with a client that was in the truck accessories business. The woman that was booking the advertising and doing the marketing is the girlfriend of the owner of the business, and we started to dig into where her ad spend was going and where her social media spend was going. And she went to the file folder and started to pull out some receipts and what I found was she was actually using five companies that were delivering the same thing. And what had happened is she had got excited and heard a good presentation and had bought that solution, but there was quite a bit of clutter out there. And we see that, vendor clutter, and we see that that the business person because they’re that rookie, they don’t really know where the most effective piece. There’s something that you’ve been tracking over the last couple years, I always find it to be really interesting, it gets people up in an uproar, how many salespeople are calling on a client. And I know that that’s a question that you asked. What’s that up to now?

Gordon: I believe in a month’s time, it is up to about 15 people and that’s doubled in the past five years. And that’s really the people who are getting through. It’s not the incessant emails that you’re getting, most of which are misspelled or using really bad grammar. “I’ve noticed a page is not at the top of the search rankings, I can help you get there.” So people are really barraged with calls, and what we believe is that this is a time when weaker media companies, companies that just send out a really experienced sales rep at selling radio advertising or just selling newspaper advertising, just have monolithic skills, they’re gonna fall by the wayside because these businesses very clearly in all of our surveys are looking for someone who is fair and someone who has some expertise.

Remember the “Miracle on 34th Street,” the movie, where Santa Claus advises the woman, at Macy’s, to go over to Gimbels because she’ll find a better deal over there, and it becomes a sensation. It’s kind of like that. Imagine if you’re a radio rep, or a newspaper rep, or a TV rep recommending perhaps that they might want to buy some advertising in a competing media because, hey, that works. What does it say to the advertiser? It says you have their best interests at heart. I’m not recommending that you do that. You wanna be smart, you wanna sell as much as you have to offer because you have their best interests at heart, but take that into account that these advertisers really are looking for fair advice. If you are fair with them, if what you provide them provides a great ROI on the marketing that works, they’re gonna come back to you. If you don’t, they’re gonna listen to somebody else.

George: Yeah, the trusted local provider has never been more important than it is today. Do you think that those sales organizations that you work with, you’re starting to see a better breed of sales professional?

Gordon: Overall, that’s true. I gotta tell you, probably about a third of the industry doesn’t quite get it and maybe just provides lip service. They’ve got reps that are just dumb as punk and are just waiting for retirement. And I hope that day comes soon because they’re just doing the industry disservice. The other two-thirds are broken in half. So I think there’s one-third that’s in transition and trying to learn and they still have quite a ways to go. The top third and this is about a third of the industry have done a really, really good job. And they would be the GateHouses, the Cox Media Group, Hubbard Radio, I could name a handful of them that are doing really, really well at sending out consultative sales reps. So the industry is changing somewhat but I feel sorry for that poor, lowly one-third of Neanderthals out there, they’re not gonna make it.

George: Well, I’ve never heard it put better than that, I really appreciate it. Gordon, I love going to the convention. It’s probably the best show that we go to all year long. And I understand you’re coming to the second-best show of the year, VendastaCon, to do some more speaking around this data and this information, so I look forward to seeing you in Banff, Alberta, on the 3rd of April. And thanks for joining us in the “Conquer Local” podcast. I really appreciate you taking time out of this very busy week for you here in New York to join us for a few moments and have yourself a great afternoon.

Gordon: Actually, George, I appreciate the opportunity.


Well, some big takeaways from all of that research that Gordon and his firm have been doing, and I always have some nuggets that I take away from his keynote address at the local advertising convention here at the Grand Hyatt. And we really appreciate Gordon joining us on the show, it’s a busy week for him and for him to take time out to be on the podcast this week is a true privilege. But a couple takeaways, we need to be training those salespeople and we need to be giving them the tools so that they can help those clients. And we also need to be watching the space because I believe that that space is changing dramatically when it comes to where advertisers are thinking about spending their dollars and they’re really looking for that trusted local expert. All of the research is pointing towards that, and yeah, a lot more in that one. You might wanna look back and listen to the episode again, Gordon Borrell.

If you’ve got questions, reach out to me on my LinkedIn profile. That’s where we’re starting to see more and more traction where people are asking questions and also give me some ideas for upcoming episodes. We meet with our team that delivers the “Conquer Local” podcast on a weekly basis and we’re always brainstorming around upcoming episodes.

Thanks to Gordon Borrell, and thanks to you for listening. My name is George Leith. I will see you when I see you.

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