Thought Leadership drives local media revenue

In an earlier piece “Local media survival depends on Low Cost Sales Models,” I detailed the favorable economics of pursuing a broader base of advertisers if you employed a sales model appropriate to the size of ad budget. McKinsey had done some analysis that echoed the experience we have had setting up low-cost customer acquisition models using telesales-based approaches. A critical facet of developing this lower cost model is having very cost effective lead generation.

Today, most of what I have observed with local media is they are using phone-based sales methods akin to the uninvited and irritating telemarketing methods that can interrupt our evenings. Not surprisingly, these “script readers” have had very low yield. Script readers can be fine for simple things like setting appointments but that’s a far cry from closing meaningful business. The successful alternative is to become invited and to establish a relationship with prospective customers through high quality lead generation.

There are many different tactics for lead generation but the one I’ve seen perform the best has been the organizations that establish thought leadership in their field of expertise. In the earlier piece, I highlighted the thought leadership opportunity available to local publishers.

The disruption caused by what Jeff Jarvis has called The Great Restructuring has created demand on the part of local businesses to accelerate their understanding of Internet-based marketing. Local publishers have an opportunity to fill that void by establishing themselves as thought leaders in digital marketing.

With my publication (, we have combined a series of seminars and a how-to guide to digital marketing to stimulate demand for online marketing that my site fulfills. The seminars and how-to resource are being used both for customer acquisition and retention purposes.

Increasingly, local publishers have found value in inviting in 3rd parties such as Greg Swanson and Mel Taylor to present to current and prospective customers. I have done many of these as a veteran marketer myself. Ironically, I get a stronger response when I’m an “out of town expert” than when I present in my own home market. We also draw better when bringing in a 3rd party. When we had Greg present, it was our best-attended seminar.

These are terrific opportunities to position a publication as the source of great insights regarding digital marketing. While some business is driven immediately, there is a longer-term benefit we are starting to realize. Today, when a customer thinks they need to do some Internet-based marketing, we are top-of-mind. As sellers of media know, this is where you want to be.

I have created a dozen or so different presentations from Search Marketing to Website Conversion to Email Marketing. While they all help establish thought leadership, there is one that is particularly well suited for publishers that they take for granted. That is, what does it take to be a successful online publisher. Businesses of many shapes and sizes should think of themselves as mini-publishers around their field of expertise. A lightweight version of what we do as publishers is germane to them whether it is how to come up with an editorial plan (e.g., they may send out weekly/monthly e-newsletters) to how we use tools like Twitter and Facebook to how we look at analytics to measure our success. One publisher had me keynote a paid-for seminar that allowed them to defray the costs of putting on the event. They used their own customer lists, house ads and a few other tactics to drive attendance. This all keeps down the costs of acquiring new customers.

How-to resource on small business digital marketing
We continue to expand upon this resource we have used with our publication but have begun to make this available to 3rd party publications. The following is a description of the resource that provides the rationale why a publisher would want to offer something like this:

The ways to reach prospective and current customers have radically changed in the last 15 years. Most small businesses have done little to change their ways beyond having a website. They are often overwhelmed at the broad array of tactics available to them. This how-to resource is designed to demystify the digital marketing tools as well as address how their offline efforts can support their increasingly digital marketing endeavors. Each section will provide an overview of the marketing area along with steps, tips, templates, best practices and pointers to additional resources.

One of the ways this resource will be used is by publishers and technology companies targeting this audience as a lead generation tool early in the sales cycle (e.g., requiring registration to get a free chapter). Later in the customer lifecycle, it can be used as a retention vehicle. For example, the publisher may pay for the advertiser’s subscription for as long as the advertiser is an active account. If the advertiser no longer uses the publisher’s marketing tools, they would also lose access to this valuable resource.

I like to say that establishing and maintaining thought leadership is a journey, not a destination. In other words, if you want the accompanying lead generation to be a renewable resource, it takes ongoing effort. The following is how to look at it from a daily, weekly and monthly basis to ensure success if you are a publisher:

  • Daily: Having a library of how-to resources available on demand to customers enables them to draw on your expertise without taking an inordinate amount of your staff time.
  • Weekly: Some publications generate weekly tips and tricks emails that draw from the know-how captured in the how-to resource as well as topic things going on in your community of interest to advertisers (e.g., some community event might lend itself well to a particular marketing tool you offer).
  • Monthly: Regular seminars or webinars can go into more depth on a particular topic and offer face-to-face contact with customers normally dealt with over email or phone. Recording these can make them available upon demand.

Challenging economies are a great time to recalibrate a business. There’s no more impactful area to affect the bottomline than your customer acquisition and retention practices. Is your organization taking advantage of this opportunity?

About Dave Chase

I am the owner/publisher of and co-founder of Avado's mission is empower the healthcare partnership.