Are You A One-Trick Sales Pony? Explaining and selling the marketing triangle of success

Are You A One-Trick Sales Pony? Explaining and selling the marketing triangle of success

The idiom one-trick pony is derived from the circus. A circus featuring a pony that has only been trained to perform one trick and often is not very entertaining.  Unfortunately, that is how we are often seen in the media business. All too often advertisers see us as being good for only one thing, bringing them new business. While this is an important part of what we do, it is not the only thing that we do. It is critical as media sales professionals that we recognize this is a problem and we deal with it head-on. Whether in prospecting or hosting meetings, I always am talking with potential and current advertisers about the marketing triangle of success. If I could be so bold, I would like to lay claim to that phrase here in E&P.  I believe that an educated Advertiser will always buy more media for me. When I am teaching my ad sales training workshops I tell media sales pro’s like all of you, that you need to think more like a teacher than a salesperson.  What am I teaching?  The marketing triangle of success.


The marketing triangle of success has three sides. This is a formula that has been followed for years by larger, more sophisticated companies.  But, if we teach it to our clients, I believe they will spend more money with us.  On the bottom of the marketing triangle is new business development. On one of the other angles of the triangle, is re-engagement with past customers. On the other side of the triangle, is retaining customers. All three of these components of the marketing triangle of success are things that we can help an Advertiser control. But, if we don’t explain this to them, they truly will not understand why this is important. The triangle is actually the strongest geometric shape.


When engineers build structures, they want to make sure that the structure can bear weight. In other words, they do not want the structure to fall down when a force is applied to it. For example, bridges must be able to hold up the materials that make the bridge, as well as all of the traffic traveling across it.  That is why you see many bridges built out of series of connected triangles. When a force, the load, is applied to one of the corners of a triangle, it is distributed down each side.  That is why it’s a great shape to use in describing how we can be helpful to our clients via their advertising. Let’s break down each side of the triangle.


On the base of the triangle and in every graphical representation that you create, should be new business development. It is foundational. All advertisers want new business coming through the door. That new business comes in various shapes and sizes, but we impact it none the less. But, if we don’t explain the other sides of the triangle we are seen as the proverbial one-trick pony.   New business development is top of mind and foremost to every Advertiser. When we talk about new business development, I also talk about managing expectations. I like to ask questions like,  ”What does one new customer mean to you?”   Or, I like the question “If we could help you bring in even one new customer what would that mean to you?”  Or, “When this ad campaign runs perfectly what type of results would you be looking for?”    All these questions lead to managing expectations and setting up your Advertiser for success. Not asking these questions will put an unfair expectation on you as the media company. Please keep in mind that as much as I love my advertisers, most of them, they are some of the most unrealistic individuals that we will deal with. They literally feel that they can spend $500 with us and they will get $500,000 in return. That’s okay. We know this. So, we should be prepared to work with it. Explaining the foundational base of the marketing triangle of success is important but you have to marry that with the management of customer expectations as well.


New business is the base of the triangle, but one of the other sides of the triangle is customer engagement. It’s important for us to explain to an Advertiser that re-engaging with past customers is a mathematically positive equation that they should dedicate some marketing dollars to in order to maximize the return on investment from the total marketing plan. Experts tell us that you are 60% to 70% more likely to re-sign or re-engage with a past customer. This applies to your Advertiser and it applies to you as a media sales professional as well. Yet, most business owners and companies do not dedicate any budget to re-engagement or renewal of previous customers. When the focus is always on new business development, experts tell us that you were only about ten to fifteen percent likely to close a new account. So, knowing these mathematical statistics, it would only make sense for The Advertiser to focus a little bit of the budget on re-engaging or renewing past customers of theirs. Very rarely do I come across an advertiser  that does not want to re-engage with past customers. But, they are so focused on new business development, an important part of the marketing triangle, that they often forget to dedicate any budget to re-engaging former customers. If we don’t point it out, we’ll never get money for it. A lot of what I try to teach my media sales training and coaching clients is that we need to think like a teacher and not so much like a salesperson.  Explain it to sell it.


The other side of the triangle, still very important, is customer retention. This should be important to you as a sales professional and it should be important to all business owners and companies out there. Yet, again, I see very infrequently, budgets dedicated to retention or thanking their customers. This is a conversation that many people would frame as a ”branding”.   Just the nature of the word itself branding often means to an Advertiser that they will run an ad with us and not expect any results. That is why I have changed how I speak about branding.  I have now begun speaking in terms of “brand maintenance”.   I’m not trying to play semantics here with you. Brand maintenance and branding are the same thing.   But, what I’ve noticed, is when I throw the word maintenance into the word sequence there is an implied value that is received. When you maintain your vehicle or perform vehicle maintenance you’re receiving something for the price that you pay. It’s a subtle and small change but something that can be pretty darn dramatic.  Again, if we do not explain this side of the marketing triangle of success, how can we expect to get paid for it?  We can’t.  Each side of the triangle is important.  I will say to the advertiser, “You have spent thousands of dollars getting your business to where it is today.  How about we dedicate some marketing dollars to protecting your turf and protecting your brand?  Let’s look at some brand maintenance activities.”


The marketing triangle of success is only as good as your ability to explain it. Because every sales professional hates role-playing, it’s important for us to figure out the best way to present this concept. It’s also important for us to have good success stories and examples of other advertisers that truly do follow the marketing triangle of success.  In my opinion, the only way to effectively do this is with a nice graphical presentation. Experts tell us that over 70% of what you learn is taken into your brain through your eyes. That’s why I like to include a slide that shows the marketing triangle of success in every presentation. I like to walk my advertisers through what it looks like and speak about each side of the triangle. Many times I’ll do this by drawing on a piece of paper or having some type of graphical representation in my slide deck. If I’m face-to-face I prefer to draw it on a piece of paper. This allows me to create better engagement with the advertiser. And, in addition, to this show and tell, I can also further draw on each side of the triangle as we talk about budget allocation.


Being a one-trick pony does mean that you do at least have one trick. I suppose that is always a place to start. But expanding this conversation will help you get more advertising dollars. As I said previously, I truly do believe, that an educated Advertiser, will spend more money with you. Once you wrap your mind around this concept you will begin to get out of sales mode and move more into educator mode. A study a few years ago by the consulting company SAP told us that 89% of buyers would rather go to the dentist than talk to a salesperson. You’ve heard me talk about this on my As Sales Nation podcast many times. If this is indeed true, this is a bit scary for all of us. So, that’s why I feel that the epitome of consultative selling is explaining the marketing triangle of success. Never forget friends, and I say this all the time, if media sales was easy everybody be doing it. And they are not. We are the chosen few. We have found a career that will feed our families for a lifetime!