Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Click here

News that the Chicago Tribune will start a digital consultancy comes 15 years after the Trib launched its flagship website. Fifteen years is the span between the movies "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and "Star Wars," or the distance from "Star Wars" to "Jurassic Park." Enough time for a concept to grow from a curiosity to a killer.

Fifteen years ago, the few people working in new media would write a page of code, and then test to see if it would display in both Netscape Navigator 3 and Internet Explorer 3. Subtlety was our enemy, not our friend. Just two words held the keys to click-through. As in the headline here, they just don't hold the same magic.

These days most editors and sales people work simultaneously in print, broadcast, web and mobile publishing. Not that they're kings of all media, but reaching an audience takes any means necessary. All hands on the digital staff are essentially their in-house online consultants. Advertisers need the same help to figure out Twitter or Facebook, or niche websites, or any of the pages that follow "click here."

This economy could turn any of us with a job specialty, whatever the profession, into a consultant for hire. So there's much to gain in cribbing the techniques of successful sales consultants. They're not pitching a product or service as much as listening to a client. Before any money changes hands, the buyer will have realized there's an unmet need, and a need to take action.

The wrong choice has consequences; extra expense, lost customers, trouble with the boss. So a successful sale requires some level of trust. The best sales people level with their clients about what they can and cannot do, and customers feel that everyone's on the same team. This is the difference between beating your chest like King Kong and being a Jedi knight. If the strategy works, everything clicks.