Media Savvy? Build a Successful Media Firm from the Ground Up

Some industries have formidable barriers to entry. You don’t see people lining up to start aircraft manufacturing firms in their garages, for instance. To start Boeing from scratch, you’d need to invest billions before your first plane ever rolled out of the hangar.

On paper, at least, media is the exact opposite. To start a successful media firm, all you really need is talent, determination and a willingness to outwork your competitors.

Look closer, though, and you’ll see that the media landscape is rife with pitfalls. If you’re starting a media business today, here’s what you need to keep in mind as you work to build it from the ground up.

  1. Remember That Content Is King

Most cliches have a grain of truth. “Content is king” has a veritable sandpile of it. From the outset, your fledgling media company must invest in top-quality content that complements your overarching business model. Whether you’re producing hard-hitting documentary videos, longform written journalism or hot-take political analysis, you need to do it better than the competition. Expect to pay a premium for quality — and to be rewarded handsomely for your gamble down the road.

  1. Look for Overseas Opportunities

Expanding a media business overseas is a lot easier than setting up a new smelting plant or even warehouse in an unfamiliar country, at least on paper. Though it takes time to develop a trusted network of international content creators, salespeople and decision-makers, human investments are typically a lot less capital-intensive than physical infrastructure investments.

Start where you’re comfortable — stable, English-speaking countries, like Canada and the U.K. — and branch out from there. As you scale, lower-cost English markets (such as India) can provide valuable back-end support.

  1. Learn How to Step Back

Starting a media business is a hands-on affair. In the early going, you’re sure to find yourself wearing multiple hats at all levels of the organization — from the content-creation trenches on up. Once you’ve achieved escape velocity, though, that needs to change.

One of the key factors that separates firms positioned for success from firms destined to fail: founders’ and/or top-level employees’ willingness (and, frankly, ability) to step back and delegate to trusted subordinates.

Put another way: If you’re keen on micromanaging your employees, start a retail business. The people you’ll need to support a successful media firm aren’t likely to accept what they perceive as limitations on their creative freedom or unreasonable demands from higher-ups who don’t really understand what they do. Right or wrong, it’s the nature of the beast.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Saying that the media landscape is challenging these days is like saying that it’s hard to become President — it’s not exactly old news.

Savvy media folks have understood the industry’s challenges for years, but there’s finally a consensus emerging that the old ways of doing things are done and gone forever. The old school isn’t going to sweep back into the picture on a white stallion and make everything better.

And that’s actually great news. The first step toward recovery is, after all, acceptance. If you’re looking to make your mark on the media world, you’ve practically got a blank slate at your disposal. Here’s to doing great things with it.

You Can Run a Global Sales Team. Jeff Kamikow Explains How

“There’s literally a world of opportunity out there,” says digital marketing expert Jeff Kamikow. “You just have to be in the right place to take advantage.”

Kamikow learned firsthand what a boon international business can be. As a prominent digital marketer who’s developed original revenue strategies for several successful companies and built global sales forces that magnified his efforts here at home — boosting sales, revenue and income in the process.

Many of Kamikow’s fellow entrepreneurs are discovering the power of doing business overseas as well. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, 98 percent of all U.S. businesses that export overseas are classified as small to midsize enterprises. Exports account for nearly 7 million jobs and nearly 14 percent of U.S. GDP. And U.S. companies that export are about 9 percent less likely to go out of business than companies that focus exclusively on the domestic market.

Perhaps most importantly, 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is located outside the United States. That proportion is likely to rise, not fall, as time goes on.

Exporting can be complicated, sure. But given these facts, it’s hard to argue that expanding overseas isn’t in a growing company’s best interest, all other things being equal. And since many modern businesses don’t even make physical goods, “exporting” can be as simple as bouncing bits off orbiting satellites or shooting data through overseas cables.

If you’re looking to tap overseas markets for your products and services, you’re likely to need a global sales force that can support your efforts wherever you choose to set up shop. No matter how modest your resources or scale, it’s hard to beat an on-the-ground sales force that (sometimes literally) speaks your prospects’ language and spots threats and opportunities in plenty of time to respond.

Here’s what you need to do to build and maintain an effective global sales force, no matter what your company does.

  1. Plan Before You Expand

A few years ago, when Jeff Kamikow was putting together his first global sales team, emerging markets were the golden children of the global economy. No matter how hard you tried to find an underperforming or politically risky place to grow your firm, you’d find a firehose of eager buyers with fistfuls of cash — at favorable dollar exchange rates, no less.

Those days are long gone. Expanding overseas is a much trickier proposition these days, and the possibility of failure looms large. Former darlings — Brazil, Russia, even China — are struggling to keep their houses in orders. Some smaller players — Greece, Egypt — are on the verge of collapse.

Before you expand your global footprint, take a hard look at what your company brings to the table. Research the markets you’re targeting and determine whether consumers there are willing to buy what you’re selling. (Do they even care?)

If you’re targeting new markets primarily for back-office support for existing operations elsewhere, carefully analyze local political and economic risk. Even if they have favorable tax laws or incentives for foreign-owned firms, politically unstable countries present unacceptable risks. That’s why Jeff Kamikow’s latter-day global sales work tends to focus on relatively stable markets, like France and India.

  1. Build a Curious First Wave

When you enter a new market, you’re likely to build your first “wave” of salespeople and managers from trusted home-market employees. As you evaluate the candidates, take care to select culturally curious people who exhibit a willingness to learn about and engage with locals. You don’t want people who just want to hang out in the lobby of your Western hotel or apartment block.

  1. Develop Local Talent

Your sales team’s second wave, with few exceptions, should be comprised of talent hired and developed locally. This is particularly critical if you’re expanding into non-English-speaking markets. Establish connections with local civic boosters and talent search professionals to find qualified workers and reduce failure rates. Jeff Kamikow’s team wouldn’t be where it is today without talented natives willing to stick out their necks for him.

  1. Understand Local Customs

Customs and social norms differ widely from place to place, so it’s critical to conduct exhaustive research prior to entry and to retain an open mind afterwards. Even activities as simple as eye contact between subordinates and superiors, jokes made during presentations, and finger-pointing or other seemingly innocuous gestures can create tension and possibly jeopardize your position.

  1. Learn from Your Mistakes

At some point, it’ll become clear that things simply aren’t working out with a particular sales initiative or — unfortunately — an entire territory. Don’t fight a losing battle, particularly when you’re out of your element. Instead, cut your losses, analyze what went wrong, retrench your efforts elsewhere, and vow not to make the same mistake again.

  1. Look for Opportunities to Scale

As noted, the first wave of your global sales force may well be from your home country, or perhaps picked from other international markets. As you grow your presence in-country, you’ll then need to hire and develop local talent.

But unless it becomes clear that you’re on a fool’s errand in your new market, you should never stop looking for opportunities to scale quickly and cost-effectively — i.e., by acquiring smaller, local competitors or purchasing in-place assets (if cash flow allows) that align with your goals. For instance, if you catch wind that a local call center operator is looking to sell, consider buying them out, retaining high-potential employees, and retraining them to support your local goals (whether direct sales, inbound support or some other complementary activity).

  1. Leverage Your Global Presence

When you’re building a global sales force, it never hurts to brag. Jeff Kamikow is the first to admit that he’s played up his global sales chops in past situations where it’s to his benefit to do so.

Entrepreneurs who successfully build and manage global sales forces, regardless of scale or mission, demonstrate that they’re able to run complex, multipolar organizations outside of whatever cultural comfort zone they might normally occupy. The value of this competency is difficult to quantify, but it often leads to opportunities that weren’t previously on the radar.

Are you working to build a global sales force for your company? What are the biggest challenges and opportunities you’ve identified so far?

Jeffrey Kamikow is Chief Revenue Officer at Go2Mobi and principal of Kamikow Media Group

Jeffrey Kamikow is a successful media executive with more than two decades of experience in global sales, revenue strategy and corporate turnarounds. He specializes in repositioning brands through comprehensive, conversion-centric digital marketing and outreach strategies, as well as integrated custom media and marketing programs that seamlessly blend print digital and mobile strategies to optimize brand visibility and cohesiveness.

Kamikow graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1993. He spent the bulk of his early career at PC Magazine, working his way up from Chicago-area sales rep to director of sales for the East Coast and Midwest markets. In the early-mid 2000s, Jeff Kamikow served as national advertising director for Time Inc.’s Field & Stream and Outdoor Life properties, where he pioneered Time’s early digital advertising strategy.

Since 2006, Jeff Kamikow has served in senior leadership at a succession of fast-growing digital and mobile marketing firms. He is currently Chief Revenue Officer at Go2Mobi and principal of Kamikow Media Group, an independent consulting firm based in northern New Jersey.