Thanks to advances and the growing acceptance of social media, publishers today have new avenues to connect with their customers and prospects and build their brand and at a lower cost per order. Sadly, many publishers have failed to embrace social media. As a result, many publications have shut down completely, consolidated and/or become less and less relevant.
Thomas Publishing Company LLC is a successful early adopter of today’s growing online world. They have evolved from an industrial trade print publisher that used to send out large 17 volume directories to industrial buyers into an information and technology business powerhouse.
Here is how I would get started.
- Speak with your editorial team and other key members of your company. Have a brainstorming session with everyone involved in the process. Make a list of all of the best ideas for thinking Web first in a relaxed atmosphere perhaps while all sharing pizza.
- Work towards starting a Web-First workflow for all editorial postings in a 24-hour cycle if feasible, and generating Web-specific content like Twitter/Facebook/SMS updates and possibly slideshows and videos in the future. Work towards a staff blog perhaps writing about the ideas brainstormed for posting #1.
- Help every editor set up Google alerts for their area of expertise as well as create a Twitter account to reach out to the readers of their content. At every budget meeting, require an aspect of every article pitch be based on feedback from readers on the Web. Start to build a strong community with your audience online and make sure it’s a two-way dialogue.
- Use a twitter account, to get feedback on possible new offerings and to post press releases on new products, new free e newsletters, etc. I do lots of PR.
- After your staff starts to get comfortable with the Web, take on a big project like a continually updated news wiki or an iPhone and Android app for readers on the go. All of your projects will feed on the other skills the editorial team has acquired: covering breaking news, thinking Web-First and encouraging community involvement.
Now leverage the Web to drive action! Prospects and customers are spending a great deal of time on the Web. This gives you the opportunity to be seen and to influence them on a regular basis. To capitalize on this behavior, the Web must be at the core of your marketing and communications strategy. Utilizing Web First Marketing is the best way to do this.
Web First Marketing focuses on how best to use the Web to support and reach your business goals.
Your Web First Marketing plan should:
- Identify all online sources, or influencers, your audiences might visit.
- Specify how you’ll utilize your site, as well as the other online sources you’ve identified, to help you achieve your goals and influence your buyer.
- Specify how you will incorporate the Web into all your outreach efforts.
Now let’s think Web First. These are some key points on how to execute that strategy:
- Widen your circle of influence. With the explosion of blogs, social networking, and user-generated content, your website is no longer the most influential source of information for your buyer. Today your buyer has immediate access to an incredible amount of unbiased information developed by other “industry experts”. You need to create a presence on the sites they go to for information. Find out where they do their research and where they look for answers. Find sites that offer up the latest opinions and news related to the products, services, or issues you focus on. Create a presence on those sites through advertising, sponsorships, and additional articles/PR. The key is to be where your prospects are when they’re looking for insight.
- Look for ways to push your content to other sites. Don’t limit your content, or your knowledge, to just your site. Push out your audio conferences, elearning, webinars, enewsletters, reports, and work towards pushing out podcasts and white papers.Publish articles on industry sites or in industry eNewsletters. Collaborate with others on joint webinars or podcasts. Having your content and your opinions on other sites gives you outside validation and added credibility. It’s another opportunity to get in front of your prospects and influence their thinking.
- Everybody’s talking and your prospects are listening. IT decision makers spend more time each week reading or interacting with social media than they do with editorial content or vendor-produced content. Prospects trust user-generated content more than vendor content because they see it as more objective. Get objective sources talking about you. Start by identifying peer-to-peer and community sites where your prospects go for opinions. Track down the most commonly visited blogs related to your product or services. Get them to blog about you. Join in the conversation yourself by sharing your insights and knowledge. Avoid anything that looks like you’re trying to “sell” them.
- Start a conversation with your prospects. It’s not just about having others talk about you; you need to get the conversation started on your site too. Your prospects are actively engaged in, or reading, multiple conversations on the web. They expect to be able to engage in conversations with you too (or at least feel you are open to what they have to say). Allow visitors to vote on the most helpful white paper, webinar, or article on your site, then bubble that content up for others to see. Create polls related to industry issues and publish the results. Create your own corporate blog where experts in your company share their thoughts and arrange for other experts to join in the discussion. Send the message that you care about what your customers think and that you’re not afraid to let everyone know how they feel. Companies that provide insights and relevant content visitors benefit from are seen as more transparent and as thought leaders to be respected.
- Engage with rich media. In addition to providing a multitude of information from a variety of sources, the web also allows companies to serve up content in a variety of formats. Flash animation, video, podcasts, and webcasts offer more dynamic, richer experiences that help engage your visitor and impact their buying decisions.
- Think Web First in off-line channels too. It’s not all about the web. Traditional marketing channels are still alive and kicking. Offline marketing such as magazine advertisements, direct mail, seminars, or tradeshows increased online activity. Look for ways to extend the off-line experience online. Drive prospects to targeted landing pages or microsites for more information. Offer up free online assessments, or ROI tools to help prospects better evaluate your offerings. Hold a webinar or live chat session with your product experts to answer prospects’ questions.It’s the combination of pushing people to your web site from multiple channels, both offline and online, that seems to be working best.
Using the Web and a Web First marketing plan and strategy to gain a competitive edge is crucial to stay on top in a fast changing world.