Plug-ins: audience development

Whatever term one uses to refer to it — circulation marketing, audience development or relationship marketing — or whether it’s performed via digital or direct mail, the need is the same: to maximize ROI and build leads, while producing relevant content that bolsters circulation and revenue. It’s a difficult task and one that is becoming more so as m-commerce and social commerce nudge their way center stage.

It is vital for publishers to produce a potent e-commerce experience for their customers. No longer a matter of “if,” publishers need to embrace digital and weave forward-thinking audience development tactics into their e-commerce strategies if they want to drive traffic to their sites and boost conversion rates.

It’s not just “e” and “m” that can serve as the prefix to commerce these days — social commerce options like Facebook commerce, or f-commerce, may be new, but they’re primed for prominence, says Laura Evans, VP of digital commerce at marketing agency Resource Interactive. Social commerce is free to implement but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, says Evans, who notes that “if you build it, they will come” is not a digital strategy. Planning is required if brands want their forays into the social commerce sphere to be a hit instead of a miss.

In his column, Seth Silverstein, consumer digital marketing director at Condé Nast, explains how the well-known tools in the direct marketing toolkit can be implemented to successfully drive Web hits with relevancy. It’s not about jettisoning traditional tactics, but about rethinking and repositioning them and making sure to have a specific goal firmly in mind.

Though it’s a brave new world out there as Nick Cavnar, VP of circulation at Hanley Wood, points out, a robust and fluid audience database is always also a key tool when it comes to b-to-b marketing.

Infuse e-commerce with marketing tactics:
Seth Silverstein, director of consumer digital marketing, Condé Nast

There are many ways to drive new users to your site, but finding the right ones — and pushing them through the conversion funnel — is harder. Infusing direct marketing tactics within audience development will help produce better, measurable results. Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

1. Start by defining your desired outcomes. Before starting any type of audience development initiative, it’s important to understand what your goals are to make sure the program is driving your business forward. Are you looking to build your unique visitor base? Are you trying to drive Facebook fan acquisitions? Or are you trying to generate sales immediately? Clearly defined goals will help keep your marketing initiatives on track.

2. Make sure your analytics are in order. It can be easy to overlook campaign tracking details when planning an audience development initiative. Ask yourself what questions you want to answer when the campaign ends and take the time to build in the necessary tracking to get to those answers. Installing consistent analytics will allow you to benchmark performance and ROI, view how your users progress towards your desired behaviors and optimize future marketing efforts.

3. Be prepared to segment your users. A visitor who types in your site’s URL will likely behave differently than someone who lands on your site after clicking on a search engine link. Learning how different segments of users navigate your site and through the conversion process will allow you to tailor your messaging to match these different groups and ultimately optimize conversions. For instance, a frequent flyer will likely view an airline’s website differently than an infrequent traveler. Understanding these unique segment behaviors and catering to their specific needs can help drive desired outcomes.

4. Focus. Chances are you have ideas on how to bolster your audience development efforts and lift conversion rates, but due to various constraints — time, resources and other dependencies — you’d be lucky to get the majority of them executed. So make sure you get the right ones done. Put together a rigorous evaluation process for possible initiatives, taking into account the potential impact on the business, and weigh it against factors such as likelihood of success and time to market.

The brave new world of lead generation:
Nick Cavnar, VP of circulation, Hanley Wood

B-to-b media has always been a business of matching buyers with sellers, but in today’s world of one-to-one marketing, sellers are getting more specific about which buyers they want to meet. This can pose particular challenges for audience databases.

Most b-to-b media companies are still working with databases that are designed to support the old, controlled circulation publishing model.

We have collected a great deal of demographics on each subscriber, but all that information is self-reported by the individual and not validated from standardized information.

Finally, our databases are organized around individual subscribers, not around companies. I may have 100 subscribers in Boise who say they work in window replacement, but no way to identify the top 10 companies or how many subscribers work for them.

At Hanley Wood, we’ve just started to grapple with these issues, but certain strategies are helping us make rapid progress.

1. Go local. Many lead generation programs focus on specific local and regional markets rather than national audiences. One of the cheapest and simplest fixes you can make to your database is to code all records to make it easy to identify prospects by market.

2. Go corporate. This one is not quite so quick, but it is still very doable. Starting with standard matches by company name and address, begin to link all those individual subscribers together by company. Depending on the field, you may discover that a relatively small number of larger companies actually cover a high percentage of your total audience.

Then we can overlay the company information that was validated from trusted data sources, ironing out the inconsistencies we’ve found in the self-reported data. We can also overlay company rankings to identify the largest organizations nationally and by market. In the end, this enables us to look at our market and select marketing prospects the same way our clients are doing.

Blend ‘f-commerce’ into your digital plans:
Laura Evans, VP of digital commerce, Resource Interactive

Some argue that Facebook-commerce is a flop because early brand adopters didn’t see significant sales. Yet, Facebook itself isn’t the problem; it was the way in which brands engaged — or didn’t engage — with fans. It could take a while before f-commerce becomes a major revenue channel, but here are techniques to help generate interest and dollars for brands willing to take the plunge:

1. Facebook should not duplicate your e-commerce site. An e-commerce site and Facebook page provide two different digital experiences, yet some brands treat them as if they’re the same. Promote the right products at the right time and avoid featuring too many SKUs.

2. Make posts shareable and shoppable. Facebook’s tremendous growth has actually decreased a brand’s ability to reach a fan base en masse as most posts reach less than 16% of fans. Make it easy for consumers to identify the brand, share engaging content and purchase items without leaving the experience.

3. ‘If you build it, they will come’ is not a strategy. Integrate deep links to the Facebook store into community management. As consumers post inquiries on brand timelines about products, give them the ability to buy immediately without leaving Facebook or having to sift through an entire product catalog.

4. Curate the content and product mix to make the offer unique. Consumers are willing to purchase within Facebook, but require a more compelling and exciting experience. Use Facebook exclusives, new product launches with limited availability, flash sales and open graph tie-ins.

5. Don’t ignore consumer concerns on privacy and security issues. Brands should perform due diligence on all platforms to ensure the experience is secure and provide proper messaging to inform the audience about the level of security in layman’s terms. Prepare the community manager to respond to inquiries from consumers in real time.

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