Spot-on

Spot-on is a digital ad platform for political and advocacy efforts across the United States. Founded by former Washington, DC and Silicon Valley reporter Chris Nolan in 2008, Spot-on is currently transitioning from an agency business model to becoming a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for political advertising. The platform supports buying and tracking advertising on local news sites across the country.

  • Spot-on was founded in 2004 as an editorial outlet but pivoted to ad sales ahead of the 2008 election. The ‘08 presidential election is widely remembered for President Barack Obama’s use of digital technology to reach voters.
  • Founder Chris Nolan described Spot-on as, “A solution that allows online ad buyers to have more accountability and transparency in the system.”
  • Spot-On emphasizes the use of local news outlets with placements purchased directly from news outlets as the most secure and effective way to reach voters.

What Spot-on’s challenges were

Spot-on had been running sales out of spreadsheets but needed a more sophisticated way to separate its client and prospect lists into multiple tiers and groupings to better engage them. Political clients are very hard to qualify in the traditional sales sense: one-person consultancies can close down when the principal joins a campaign or larger firm. Relationships can also collapse if a firm’s client loses an election.

Running sales out of spreadsheets wasn’t up to the task. Spot-on tried using a CRM solution, but quickly hit limitations they couldn’t get around. “We weren't able to put ad proposals up and then share them with the team,” Nolan said. “We had to do it individually, and there were expiration dates.” They needed a platform that could track different types of information — and a lot of it — at the same time.

  • Tracking potential clients manually was too reliant on Nolan and her team remembering important details.
  • Political clients are also tricky to sell to because solo consultants often open and close shop, or join larger campaigns, as elections come and go.
  • Running sales out of spreadsheets hampered Spot-On’s ability to share ad proposals quickly across their entire team.

How Essentials solved their issues

Spot-on moved to Essentials in 2019, using it internally while developing features and processes. The platform addresses Spot-on’s most critical technology need — sharing advertising proposals within the company to track the progress of sales.

“We use it to tell clients, ‘Okay, you're going to be on these three newspapers in these two towns for this period of time, buying and selling this number of ads,” Nolan said. “That’s a lot of internal communication that needs careful tracking.”

  • Essentials gives Spot-on a customizable platform for tracking prospects, clients, and media outlets internally. Their previous combination of spreadsheets and a non-Salesforce CRM solution couldn’t offer the level of speed and sophistication they needed.
  • Brokering political ad buys means Spot-on often has to make last-minute deals involving large sums of money. As Nolan put it, “It's very important that we be able to share that information on the fly, which is something that Salesforce does for us.”
  • Essentials also provides Spot-on with what Nolan called, “The full range of Rolodex services.” Her team uses Essentials for everything from tracking opportunities and organizing contacts to leveraging the notes and reminders functionality.

Spot-On’s Results with Essentials

After roughly a year using Essentials, Spot-on is using its historical business data to glean insights via reporting features and shape future plans. “We’ve got information about cadence and what materials people are looking at, and what we need to do going forward,” Nolan said. “And so now we're trying to figure out, ‘Okay, how can we fine-tune this a little bit better for a political environment?’”

She added that by the end of the 2020 election cycle, Spot-On should have the contact data and tracking they need to be on a solid path to converting from an agency business model to a platform model. “This is invaluable,” Nolan said. Spot-On is planning a pivot to focus on the advocacy and public affairs side of the business. “That’s a whole new set of clients with even more data,” Nolan said. “So we’ll build off the techniques we’ve established this year to move into the next phase of our business model transition.”

  • With Salesforce Essentials, Spot-On’s team is able to see and act on trends in ways that couldn’t before. As a result, they’ve expanded their call-out and newsletter marketing lists to expand the business.
  • Essentials helped Spot-on land a half-million-dollar deal by tracking client conversations and touchpoints.
  • They’re also able to share sales documents in ways that they couldn’t without Essentials. “That’s helped Spot-On work better as a team,” Nolan said, “Which is really important now that we’re all working remotely all the time and will probably continue to do so through the November election.”
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