You’ve arrived at a blog about transforming the companies that publish newspapers. And it’s a blog with an unorthodox point of view.
Here it is: News will not save you.
Why not? Because the disruption that’s pounding newspaper companies is not about people Read the rest of this entry
In the last several weeks, my whole concept of advertising and marketing has been reframed, and I’m still sorting out what it means. But I know this: It has given me a clearer understanding of the path local media companies must take in sales.
Now I’m going to try to work the same kind of reframing on you.
Reframing is what happens when some new fact, or a new interpretation of old facts, reveals a subject in a very different light. It’s often a breakthrough that clarifies your priorities and shows you new ways to overcome your challenges.
And in advertising and marketing, we have more than our share of challenges. Print and broadcast media have been struggling for years to assimilate a bewildering array of new tactics.
The list includes buzz terms like SEM, SEO, targeting, retargeting, social media, video, reputation management, email, native advertising, content marketing, Big Data, programmatic advertising and more. And new ones show up all the time.
We struggle to figure out which of these we need to learn and sell, and how we can sell them effectively, fulfill them well, and make money on them. It’s tough, and we’re competing with myriad all-digital competitors offering many of the same things.
Reframing doesn’t solve problems, but it shows more clearly what needs to be done. A past boss of mine liked to quote Charles Kettering: “A problem clearly stated is half solved.”
What reframed my understanding of our current challenges in advertising and marketing was taking a deeper dive into lead generation. That’s one of the buzz terms on the list above, but I now realize it’s the “unified field theory” that puts all those other buzz terms in their right places.
At Morris Publishing Group, what prompted us to look harder at lead generation was the struggle our own sales staffs were having.
In the last six months, we’ve tripled the number of digital-only sales reps across our 11 local media companies (formerly known as newspapers). These digital-only reps find they have to make 100 or more phone or in-person calls to get just one or two appointments.
It’s inefficient. It’s expensive. It’s demoralizing. So they’re asking us to figure out how we can generate an incoming stream of pre-qualified leads. This would let them spend more time presenting solutions and closing sales.
Lead generation isn’t new, of course. All along, the purpose of all advertising has been to generate leads. (A lead, of course, is someone who already has some level of interest in buying what you’re selling.)
But lead generation has been radically changed by all the new digital tactics available now, and by the very different ways that people shop in the digital era.
Newspaper companies have been slow to get on the lead-gen bus, because we’ve always relied on our sales people as our main lead-generation strategy.
Okay, how does lead generation reframe our concept of advertising and marketing?
For me, the explanation goes back to “jobs to be done.” That’s a concept I learned while leading the Newspaper Next project from 2005-2009. Our approach to innovation was built on the insights of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen.
Christensen explained that people don’t buy products or services — they have certain jobs to be done, and they look for solutions that will help them.
If we ask ourselves what the main job to be done is for any sales-based business, it’s pretty simple: Get customers.
Historically, we saw our job as selling advertising. Our clients, in contrast, saw our job as providing customers.
Ten years ago, there was a movement in the newspaper industry to get us to stop selling advertising and start selling audiences. The idea was that we were not selling ads, but the people who could be reached by our ads, both print and digital.
That was a step forward, but now we need to take another and bigger step forward. We need to realize that our mission is not selling ads, or audiences, but delivering customers.
Our clients want the best prospects available, at the lowest possible cost. In the drastically changing digital world, we need to use the most effective means available to provide those prospects.
That’s a lead-gen view of our world. The list of buzz terms above is a set of tools we can use to build the right lead-gen program for each customer, at the level that business can afford.
You may be thinking this doesn’t seem like a very revolutionary reframing of our mission. But if you dig into how digital marketing businesses view lead gen, you’ll see how different it really is.
One of the clearest statements of this new-world view we’ve found (actually found by my colleague, Michael Romaner, Morris’s EVP of digital) is a white paper produced by marketing firm Marketo.
In it, they explain why lead gen has to change (adapted):
Today, buyers do their own research online, finding a variety of educational resources through search engines, social media, and other online channels. Through vast available content resources, today’s buyers can learn a great deal about a product or service before ever speaking to a sales person. So each business must make sure that it builds its digital presence.
This has produced a huge change in the traditional buying process. In fact, according to Forrester, buyers may be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they reach out to the vendor. This is happening more and more because buyers have so much access to information that they can delay talking to sales until they are virtually experts themselves.
Now that buyers can draw on thousands or millions of online resources to learn about their next purchases, every business has a new challenge. That is, it must make itself visible to the prospect at key points along the decision funnel.
And the old-fashioned advertising we usually sell, based on self-promotional claims or sale pricing, isn’t nearly enough. That’s why content marketing — one of the buzz terms above — is becoming so incredibly important today.
Businesses need to develop content that helps prospects learn more, or understand more, or enjoy the possibilities more, as they advance down the buying funnel.
This can be in the form of articles, white papers (e.g., the Marketo piece), blogs, social media posts, checklists, videos, contests, questionnaires, puzzles and games. In the physical world, it can include events, contests, in-store giveaways and a host of other live interactive engagement opportunities.
But content is only part of the program. This compelling content needs to be distributed in the channels where the most desirable customers go.
That’s where Big Data comes in, as a means to see which customers to target. And SEM, SEO, website design, social media, email, native advertising and events — among other things — can be understood as the distribution channels through which the content needs to reach the target prospects.
As you can see, lead generation is the Rosetta Stone — the framework within which all those buzz-term solutions can be understood in their proper uses. To deliver prospects, we need to present proposals that combine the best solutions to fit the specific needs and budget of each customer and deliver the leads they need.
Does this sound daunting for our industry? Certainly. It calls on us to rise to a far more sophisticated level in understanding and combining multiple solutions. Some of those are in our arsenals already, many are not.
And, overall, this reframing of advertising shows that our customers need us to bring them much more holistic and complete programs to deliver leads.
The good news is, we can learn to do this, and there are lots of vendors ready to help us.
The bad news is, if we don’t, there are lots of digital marketing competitors eager to provide lead generation in our markets. We need to move fast.
This time, let’s go up 100,000 feet for a look across the globe. As the media industry in the developed world struggles, billions of humans elsewhere are moving from information scarcity to full access to the world’s knowledge.
Some time ago, thinking about this strange dichotomy, I tried to come up with a visual metaphor to reflect what’s happening.
I was picturing the globe and its many nations and peoples, and thinking about their drastically unequal access to information. And I was thinking about the rapid and Read the rest of this entry
Let’s try some thought experiments, in the best tradition of Albert Einstein.
The hypothesis we’ll explore is this: That the large, lucrative revenue stream that newspaper companies have enjoyed from major/national advertisers will decline to something approaching zero.
Our thought experiments will examine what we should do about that. Read the rest of this entry
How do you define the mission and purpose of local reporting?
Cover the news? Hold institutions accountable? Maintain a well-informed citizenry? Hold up a mirror to the community? “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?”
Search around the Web for statements of journalism’s purpose and you’ll find all of the above, and more like them.
And there’s a lot of anxiety these days about the present and future of this mission. With local advertising and circulation revenues spiraling steadily downward, and with newsrooms shrinking along a parallel line, two things are evident. Whatever the mission of local reporting is:
- A lot less of it is happening now.
- Even less will be happening in the future.
In many places in this business, the central question these days is: How can we drive revenue from new sources, so we can keep supporting the functions of journalism that are critical to a free society?
To an extent, I buy that. But there’s also something seriously misguided about it. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve been getting a series of demos from Big Data providers as we at Morris Publishing Group work to figure out how we will offer Big Data services to local advertisers.
Just lately, we’ve been getting down into the details. For me, this brought a profound leap in comprehension.
It was like staring into a crystal ball and seeing a monumental event that’s about to change your life. Read the rest of this entry
What could disrupted legacy media companies possibly have in common with Procter & Gamble — the huge and perennially successful consumer goods manufacturer?
One thing we have in common is that we both need to recognize and plan for the continuous loss of revenue from declining products.
We don’t think of P&G as needing to cope with fading products as an endemic part of its business. But 10 years ago, when I was leading the Newspaper Next project for the American Press Institute, I learned that part of their success lies in the careful planning they do to offset those declines.
We in the media business can take an important lesson from P&G’s approach. Read the rest of this entry
How can we sell more digital? In traditional media, that question has been pounding us for years.
It’s in our heads, in our meetings, in our training, in our budgeting. Few of us are growing our digital revenues at rates anywhere near the growth rate of digital spending.
And one of the toughest challenges has been getting our core sales reps to present digital advertising and marketing solutions effectively to their existing customers.
When your organization needs large-scale change (and what disrupted media organization doesn’t?), how do you get it done?
Terabytes have been written about the strategies and tactics that legacy media organizations need. I’ve written my share, too, here at MediaReset.com. But I’ve seen precious little written about how to lead and manage effective change to carry out these strategies.
For several years, local media companies have been in a nasty predicament.
We’ve worked hard for years to build sizable, high-quality local audiences on our websites. And we’ve worked hard to sell banner advertising on those sites.
But we haven’t been able to sell what savvy digital advertisers now want and expect: highly targeted impressions on our sites reaching only the individuals with the highest propensity to buy their products or services. Read the rest of this entry
What if your local media company had a product that could make local businesses say, “Wow! Can you really do that???”
That’s the Holy Grail of media sales — a solution that meets an urgent need for customers in a way they have never before thought possible.
I saw that kind of solution a couple of weeks ago. I promise you — it will be big. Read the rest of this entry