Ryan Dohrn began his career as a college intern at B2B magazine The Construction Bargaineer. After working in sales and promotions for local radio and TV stations and overseeing sales strategies for more than 45 magazine brands, he launched Brain Swell Media, a sales consulting firm.
Ryan shares insights from his career including advice for publishers, how industry challenges foster innovation and what surprises him the most about the industry.
Why did you launch your company?
Training seems to be one of the critical pieces missing for most media companies. After I launched Brain Swell Media, I started an advertising training program, 360 Ad Sales, because of the demand from media owners wanting to train their sales teams to be the best in the business. With my sales and marketing background, it was an easy fit. I truly believe my purpose is to teach people to be the best they can be whether it’s as a salesperson, a manager or in life.
Share an initiative that has helped your clients achieve their goals.
The pandemic caused some big changes in the media sales landscape. Most of our advertisers and clients became remote workers. As I began to write my latest book, “Selling Forward,” I realized that we were dealing with buyers and advertisers who were making emotional decisions. I came up with a recommendation-based selling model that eliminated the long-form customer needs assessment and replaced it with best-in-class advertising purchase scenarios. This gave media sales reps the option to bring ideas and recommendations to the initial sales call rather than creating a proposal after the meeting. By switching to this model, we've seen increases in sales by 40% and higher.
Anything about the industry that’s surprised you?
I am surprised to see the number of businesses that move all their eggs into the digital marketing basket, and the lack of education about holistic marketing investments. There is tremendous value in traditional media advertising, which is overshadowed by reports that make people feel good about what they've spent even if the total marketing result could have been improved by including traditional media.
I am also surprised by the level of instant gratification plaguing marketers around the globe. Many have become advertising day traders. This is discouraging for many reasons, the largest of which is that most marketers are looking for magic and not true marketing solutions. True marketing takes investment and time to work.
How do audits support traditional media?
In a world where we're trying to prove ROI, my clients use media audits to validate their market position and demonstrate their value in the market. Both are critical components of total sales. I believe that adding data to the sales process not only helps the buyer feel more comfortable with the purchase, but also helps them gauge the total success of the advertising campaign. Media audits help buyers understand that there is profound validity to the audiences we serve as publishers.
What is your advice for publishers to help them thrive in today’s market?
I always tell publishers to remove themselves from their echo chambers and get out and talk to other publishers. This is one of the reasons I acquired the Niche Media Events business. I truly feel that this 20-year annual event is one of the best opportunities for publishers to collaborate and learn from each other in a fun and engaging environment.
What in your career are you most proud of?
I have a tremendous amount of pride when I receive emails from salespeople who were in a slump and my training and advice helped pull them out. It is very meaningful to know that what I'm teaching is helping people feed their families and realize dreams they never thought possible.
Where do you see the industry in 10 years?
We probably will be looking at today's shiny objects in marketing and media as “traditional media.” We will be trying to convince advertisers and media service buyers that traditional media is still the way to go. Just like in music where the term “classic rock” means something different to each generation.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My wife and I have a farm in South Carolina where we raise American Quarter Horses and Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs. I enjoy training puppies almost as much as training humans. The same training principles apply: persistence and proper motivation equals success.
What is one goal you would like to achieve?
One of my professional goals is to grow the Niche Media Conference to be the size and scope that a serious company will someday want to purchase it and continue its tradition for many years to come. I would also like to create a management mentoring program that would help equip future media sellers and marketers to be leaders. I believe many of the problems our business world faces could be solved by properly mentoring our youth and employees.