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Leverage Strategic Partnerships to Create Growth in 2021

Written by Nick Johnson 11/11/2020August 5th, 2021

Let’s face it, 2020 has been the longest decade — I mean year — that our industry has ever lived through. The political climate and social unrest are challenging enough, but throw in the ongoing pandemic and all signals point to an even-more uncertain 2021.

This uncertainty will stretch Leadership in new ways. And the CRO will be uniquely challenged.

The Challenge

For sales leaders, one of the large challenges ahead is executives’ 2021 budget and revenue expectations. The good news is that next year, it will be reasonable to imagine a recovery relative to prior-year results. However, many publishers will likely be off of their three- or five-year plans. In order to keep things on track, CROs will need to be aggressive, chasing new incremental revenue while at the same time managing expenses. To do this, everyone will be tasked with some form of business reinvention to achieve success, entailing everything from remote leadership and headcount resourcing to evaluation of revenue-generating partnerships.

Regarding these third-party relationships, tough decisions will be made next year as sales targets rise and bottom-lines are scrutinized. While CROs will continue to embrace programmatic monetization as an efficient revenue driver, more creative, solutions-oriented partnerships will be critical to supporting the business reinvention 2021 will demand. The competition will be fierce and the big wins should be recognized and celebrated.

Finding the right revenue partnerships will require CROs to think holistically about their business needs — and choose wisely. With myriad services and technologies available, finding the right partners will take effort. We all know this because our inboxes and LinkedIn feeds are full of requests, pitches and calls to action right now. The signal to noise ratio is high and navigating this landscape to find the right partner can be tricky. But the juice can be worth the squeeze, especially after a year like this one.

Once a strong revenue partner is identified, the work really begins. Today’s publisher-side CRO is part of a tight, three-pronged team partnered with both editorial and product. Clearly, alignment is key and requires a great deal of collaboration. Product wants to understand that the solution is additive and will not affect critical measures like page load time and viewability. Editorial will want to make sure an integration will not detract from the content experience. All three leaders will be focused on the return on investment required by their team’s time, work and energy to stand up a relationship.


The Breakdown

Given this context, what should CROs look for when evaluating revenue partnerships for 2021?

  1. Look for partners with a differentiated value proposition. The competition for attention among these companies is fierce but, frequently, inbound communication is bland and focused solely on revenue. Companies that present with a clear how and why to their value will break through the clutter: be on the look-out.
  2. Once in the door, a collaborative and consultative approach is critical. A good partner will be able to articulate their value proposition as a means for holistically solving for dynamic business challenges. Beyond that, however, a thoughtful and empirical approach to modeling out revenue impact is key.
  3. As noted earlier, the CRO is one stop. Building relationships with the product and editorial teams will also be important in vetting any new partner. Trust and respect are foundational. For these companies, the revenue lead is often the door in, but the interdependencies between the teams are important to acknowledge, support and manage. Help where it’s needed and facilitate these introductions to ensure your company gets the time it needs to evaluate its offerings and ultimately get the most value out of its services.
  4. Think beyond your short-term revenue needs and look at the big-picture of partner offerings. Make sure to ask partners about their product development cycle and pending releases. Post-deal customer support, including revenue updates, quarterly business reviews, and additional “off-menu” services are also good to discuss in order to develop longer-term viability and confidence in partner selection.

CRO or not, it’s a big year ahead of us all. Our industry will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. A focus on partnerships and mutual successes will help buttress our P&L’s as we move forward into a turbulent and uncertain 2021.


About the Author:

Nick Johnson is a digital media executive and advisor, serving most recently as the Head of Advertising Sales at McClatchy. Prior to leading digital transformation and revenue growth at McClatchy, he held senior sales leadership positions at Turner, NBC Universal, Reuters and CNN. When he’s not busy transforming the digital landscape, Nick lives in New Jersey with his family. Tweet at him at @MediaGuy.

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