From the Editor: Your Opportunity: Solve Problems
After a year that saw many publishing companies pulling their publications, brands and employees out of the tar pits, the fourth quarter has brought some of the optimism to a (hopefully temporary) halt. Marketing companies have either already spent their annual budgets or are tightening their purse strings in anticipation of a possible double-dip recession.
Publishers, however, are not standing still awaiting the economic outcome. As you'll see in our cover story, "20 Revenue-Generating Ideas," many publishers are launching new products to boost their bottom lines, from variations on the traditional trade show to research and data services, among many others, with print brands standing strong as the foundation.
Another trend—among both b-to-b and consumer publishers—is the emergence of publisher-driven marketing services solutions, which often includes custom publishing, but has spilled over into all areas of marketing, including social media and other digital areas. These services create long-term commitments (and spending), as marketers look to publishers to solve their personal marketing challenges and those of their companies. To give just a few examples:
• Last year, UBM launched DeusM, a "Marketing-as-a-Service" company targeting social media. It's based on a "Community in a Box" (CiaB), and has been used to build award-winning communities, such as Internet Evolution (sponsored by IBM) and Enterprise Efficiency (sponsored by Dell). There's more to the service, but this should give you the basic idea of what UBM is doing to serve its clients' "pain points."
• Source Interlink Media (SIM) acquired in May the digital marketing studio Mind Over Eye to enable SIM to serve its clients as a full-service creative agency, providing cutting-edge marketing and creative services for TV, Internet, mobile and more.
• In March, Penton acquired online marketing firm EyeTraffic Media, to offer expanded marketing services, including lead-generation. Penton announced the acquisition following an Outsell Advertising and Marketing Study that found 82 percent of b-to-b marketers expected to use publishers for marketing services this year, up from 72 percent in 2010.
• Rodale has a Custom Content and Marketing service, which has served brands such as AstraZeneca, Kraft Foods, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Nissan, among others.
The trend to tap publishers' expertise in their markets, and the ability to reach engaged audiences in those markets, is further exemplified by the launch of Meredith 360 by The Meredith National Media Group. Meredith 360 is "a strategic marketing unit providing clients and their agencies with unparalleled access to the vast portfolio of media products and services Meredith has to offer," according to the company's website. The goal is for the Meredith 360 team to serve as marketing experts, not salespeople, who "deliver innovative solutions across multiple media channels by integrating … insight and content into programs that engage [the] audience around [the marketer's] brand."
Meredith 360 Chief Innovation Officer Jeannine Shao Collins writes in this month's Guest Column that the key to serving today's marketer is not to sell, but to "solve." Find out what your prospects' biggest challenges are and present solutions to solve them. In the column, she gives a great example of "a solution-driven program to help our client achieve their marketing goal."
While some of you may already be taking this approach, many are not even close. Sure, it's nice to get the last-minute ad into an issue because a topic of interest to them is being featured, but overall, is this the best use of your client's marketing dollar? Will the results inspire them to spend more with you? Is the ad solving a marketing challenge for them? Do you even know what their challenges are? If you don't, it's time to find out.
As the year begins to draw to a close, it may be time to evaluate your sales tactics and the services you are offering your clients and prospects. Perhaps, as Shao Collins suggests, "Stop thinking of yourself [or your sales team] as a seller, and start thinking of yourself as a 'solver.'"