So you’re a Local Mass Media Seller with a large book of direct business.  And you can C-N-A and close like a rock star. Good on ya’. You probably don’t need to read this any further unless…

  • Your Direct client churn rate is above 15%
  • Your Direct Key Accounts comprise less than 50% of your billing
  • You’re frustrated that many of your direct clients have still not totally bought in to the concept that long term business growth is driven by a consistent and compelling presence on your media platform(s)
  • Some new clients even cancel after just a few weeks of being on the air, up on a Billboard or displayed in your print publication

I feel your pain.  I’ve been there. For, like, 30 years.

But it was only recently that I figured out what’s really going on with all of these small and medium business owners we serve.

You see the light bulb finally went off when I uncovered an ancient marketing scroll (okay, it was actually a re-reading of the book “Marketing Warfare by Ries and Trout, published in 1986, which, for some of you younger sellers, probably does feel like the Mesozoic Marketing Era).

In it, the authors (both of whom are in the Marketing Hall of Fame btw) put forward that there are only four possible phases for a consumer-facing business…


  1. Survival
  2. Profitable Survival
  3. Growing Share
  4. Market Domination

The very next day, during a C-N-A with a local home restoration business, the whole thing came into clear focus.

See, I kept asking the owners – in a variety of different and non-threatening (I hope) ways –  about the importance of growing market share.  How, even if they couldn’t measure it, there must surely be something burning in their bellies that makes them get up every morning and want to crush the souls of that national behemoth SERVPRO.

But, no. Nada. Zip. In fact by the 5th market-share-related question, one owner said, “we’ve already got our three year plan in place and we are going to do 500 jobs.”

And there it was. The “tell,” to use poker parlance. These very fine people operating a very fine local business, are satisfied at…the Profitable Survival level, probably like many of the SMBs you’ve called on.

And that’s where the miss, and the opportunity, resides.

Because I submit to you that understanding the level of ambition of the prospect is something a lot of us have been overlooking in our C-N-As.

That’s the miss.

But now for the opportunity because, correct me if I’m wrong but, you’re selling just about everything today, right?

Mass Media?…Check.

Targeted Media (in the form of targeted and retargeted display and perhaps OTT video)? …Sure.

Landing Page management….Hope So.

Email?…Native Advertising?….umm…Maybe?

So now you have the tools to help almost any business owner, regardless of their level of ambition.

All you need is a system to match the level of ambition with the solution set.

And without further ado, here’s my freshly-minted take:

Pass…not yet worth my time but happy to recommend a strategy consultant for startups…and maybe a website developer and an SEO/PPC person

Profitable Survivalists
This is where things diverge from what I previously would’ve done, which was to close the big media deal and start wondering when the cancellation would come. Now, though, I’m more likely to lead with Targeted Display, Email, Native and maybe some “remnant” inventory on my Mass Media Platform (and buck for a Landing Page that I control). When you think about it, this is essentially a Direct Response strategy versus a Brand Building strategy which, to me, makes sense for businesses that are “satisfied” at the profitable survival level. And, hey, you might as well control the DR strategy, right? Because someone will. And who knows, maybe your early “small media” recommend will catch fire with the client and they’ll start to develop aspirations for more.

Which brings us to the fun stuff… the stuff your mass media platform was born to do:

Growing Market Share and Market Domination 

Ah yes, these two phases are for the personas I like to call “Egos With Budgets.”

And dang right, we’re gonna back up the Mass Media truck and load ‘em on up (provided you’ve got the right message, of course).

Because that’s what your core mass media platform is built for:

Growth. Brand Growth. Sales Growth. Sustained Growth. Market Share Lift. Market Domination.

Don’t want to get your hands dirty with the Profitable Survivalists?  I get it.

Just be sure you’re getting real in that C-N-A.

And for that, I recommend this killer two part question:

“Do you want to be one of the most recalled businesses in your category…and…are you prepared to invest in what it’s going to take to achieve that in terms of time and money…?

Because as the saying goes…Mind Share equals Market Share.

Start asking that question more and you’ll start finding it a lot easier to separate the Profitable Survivalists from the Egos With Budgets, and apply your solutions accordingly.

I’ll leave it to you and your sales manager to determine where you spend your time (which probably will have something to do with your level of experience, the digital fulfillment capabilities of your organization and your grief to effort ratio tolerance).

Cheers, Jim

PS: Here’s another little real life story about that magical CNA question, this time with the client’s SEO guy in the room.  : )