I was reflecting on the changes we’ve made at F&W Media International to focus on our vertical markets. While we had a leg up into consumer marketing through our (now closed) book club businesses, we’ve done a tremendous amount in recent years to really tie together our publishing and consumer businesses. The changes we’ve made as publishers are extensive and far reaching, but if I had to focus on three key areas it would be these:
We’ve made audience development, and specifically email name capture, a company wide goal. A small part of this is having an Audience Development Manager position (replacing what we used to call publicity). The bigger part is making it part of our every-day conversation. Each new proposal, new potential partner or new project is viewed with audience development in mind.
SEO and web analytics
We’ve had company wide training on SEO, and at least half our staff can more than competently complete keyword analysis and have an understanding of its importance. Sure we review sales data and Nielsen, but we use web analytics and keyword analysis in the content decision making process. We apply a vigorous SEO process to our online content to drive traffic and audience growth.
Consumer marketing for everyone
Marketing is a company wide responsibility and not a department. Our marketers do great work and run specific campaigns, but an important part of their role is to conduct the wider orchestra. Our editorial and content teams, marketing and audience development work together daily. Our editors write blogs and post online, they encourage and support authors to do the same and they manage social media content.
Maybe all publishers are doing this, but I would group these and our other changes into an overall theme of not thinking as publishers. Certainly what we see is that these changes and more are contributing to our flourishing and fast growing craft business, Stitch Craft Create.
The search for the Holy Grail
So what is the Holy Grail? Much of what we’ve done so far has been about building an audience to sell stuff we have already created, whether it’s books or other products. Now, we’re generating enough data and insight to actually define new products. In part we can ask our customers what they want, but more valuable is that we can see how they behave. We can review the performance of online content, search results, conversion rates and behaviour and use this to identify gaps and opportunities. We can take that data and make, or find, new products that we know we have an audience for.
It’s hugely exciting and has tremendous potential, but the best bit is that we’ve really only scratched the surface.
The advice for publishers on Futurebook is spot on: Get vertical and get going.
Our business is all about serving niche communities, and our focus is on craft and the creative arts. Earlier this year, we defined our ‘why?’ as ‘Inspiring your creative life’ and this is our goal and the mantra by which we want to move forward by.
We want to be a source of inspiration, and we want to support our customers when they are being creative, crafting and making. We took some big steps forward towards doing this recently with some new projects and launches:
Stitch Craft Create (@craftcreateUK) is our new online content and community brand for the community we call the ‘lifestyle maker and baker’, it’s multi-craft and for all skill levels and packed full of projects, advice, ideas and more. From January next year, our existing RUCraft shop will rebrand to be the Stitch Craft Create shop.
Stitch Craft Create Business (@SCCBiz) is a partner brand to Stitch Craft Create and will serve crafters and creatives who are looking to turn their hobby into an income. With advice, ebooks and education initiatives, this is a great place for aspiring craft and creative arts entrepreneurs.
The Creative University (@CreativeUni) is our home for online education. Initially with courses from Stitch Craft Create Business but we have plans to develop much more in future. The Creative University will provide webinars and online courses to suit different skills levels, time frames and budgets. We’re hugely excited about this initiative and breaking into this market.
I Love Cross Stitch and The Pink Whisk Shop are two new eCommerce stores. We were serving all our customers today within one store at RUCraft and wanted to better look after our Cross Stitch and Cake Decorating customers. With exclusive products and a more targeted offer, we’re delighted to be live with both of these sites.
I’m very proud of the talented and passionate team that have made all of these new launches possible and I’m really excited to be improving our ability to serve our communities and Inspire Creative Lives. Please go check them all out!
Who is the target audience for this? is a question that always has an answer, as you’d expect – this is for women over 30, men over 50, young adults, teens, mums etc. It’s good that the question always has an answer, but is that answer enough? Getting to grips with target audience is essential for any new product or campaign but it needs to go further than just basic demographic information. It’s a fundamental driver of your product and strategy.
You can determine target audience in a number of ways – your existing customer profile/profiles, a segment you can see in the market buying a competitive product or visiting a competitor website, a group defined by age or gender, interest or behaviour. Target audience should start with demographic information and you should have a picture of age, gender, interests, what they read and do, where they go, how they behave, how they use the web, where they shop, what holidays they take and similar.
It’s the step beyond this where your understanding of target audience really makes a difference. The psychographics, values and emotional behavior of your audience is where you can really ensure your product, idea, message or campaign can get through.
Ask yourself how do they feel?
What are there emotions and what is the emotional reaction you want?
Are they nostalgic, creative, inspired, sad, intrigued, entertained, proud?
What are their desires, what do they aspire to, how do you fit within that?
For a new product, campaign or idea to achieve success above and beyond competitors it needs to engage emotionally and be in tune with the common emotional values that your target audience shares. So next time you’re defining the target audience profile, think about going beyond gender and age and focus on these emotions. It will make your idea stronger and more compelling to all
Brands for whom the web has allowed them to define a unique business model and reach to customers feature heavily this week. For different reasons, the Dollar Shave Club, Etsy and TED have success born out of the way the web allows them to create a business not tethered to the challenges of bricks and mortar. That, and a helpful reminder to actually do what you say you do!
Second Generation eCommerce
This post on the online-only brand was shared internally at F+W and gives great focus. Primarily this is about the margin potential of ‘second generation’ eCommerce stores that build brands that are enabled by the economies of online selling. Importantly though, it highlights the potential of building a unique character, personality and voice can have in building your audience on the social web. Step forward the Dollar Shave Club – new to me but brilliant.
Product or Customer Focus
In much the same vein as the above, this post asks the question if your business is product or customer focused? I completely agree that you can really see those businesses that are in a “constant state of evolving the product” against those that have customer front of mind.
The power of Etsy
I enjoyed this infographic I picked up on the Mashable site, reminding me of the power and potential of Etsy. The numbers are impressive, 15 million members growing at nearly 700,000 per month, 875,000 shops, 13,000,000 products. For an aspiring handmade entrepreneur, Etsy can be hugely powerful and a way to reach a global audience. What’s more, you can launch your business with an Etsy shop and social media profile for free – allowing you to get out there and start selling, learning and building a community quickly and with little risk.
TED launches ebook store
I’m a big TED fan. I posted only this week on Start with Why, so naturally I downloaded the new TED IOS ebook app, and bought a book. TED is growing a community through making its core content free, and then naturally extends this into generating revenue through the ebook app. It’s a big enough brand, with a big enough following to do this. Smart move.
Just Do it!
This interview with Lisa Barone caught my eye with some good advice, but I was particularly drawn to her answer to the last question: “Don’t forget to actually do what it is you’re trying to be known for.” It’s true. I’m the biggest advocate of having a strategy, a usp and defining your ‘why’ – but ultimately talking about it and thinking about it are nothing without actually doing it!
I’m a big admirer of the TED community for what it represents, the ideas it celebrates and its business model. It was through TED and a recommendation from a friend that I picked up on Simon Sinek and his principle of Start With Why. I’d missed this until now (it dates back to 2009) but after watching this video I immediately went and bought the ebook, which I’m now reading (review to follow).
Once you get your head around this I think it is a truly inspiring concept, summed up in the key phrase “People Don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. How true that is, and yet how few businesses can really turn round and say they apply that thinking. I think this can be such an important concept and for businesses wanting to gain competitive advantage, or struggling to gain or retain market share – embracing the principles of start with why could be the key to unlocking success.
The core principle of Start With Why is the Golden Circle or Cone. Simon explains that most companies start with the what – “we sell televisions, do you want to buy one?” whereas where they should start is with the why? “We’ll bring the cinema into your home”. Even in that one small example, hopefully you get it. How much more powerful is that message as a focus for a business? Simon uses Apple as a case study to bring this to life and I think we can all understand it in that context.
Simon goes on to support this with a concept of The Split (how easy it is to forget the why as day to day business takes over and the Celery Test (how you can test if your why is defining you/your brand).
It’s a great concept, and like most great ideas has been focused on a simple principle. What’s more, it’s scaleable. Your why should be at the very heart of your strategy and as such should inform all your decisions, even the smaller day to day ones.
For competitive advantage, Start With Why.
I recently subjected myself to a high street retail experience (something I confess I do avoid where possible).
I was shopping with my wife and two children and one of our tasks was for my wife to try on some boots that my mother-in-law was hoping to buy her for Christmas. The context and process for this really highlighted to me how far the high street retail business has to go to embrace the multi-channel retail opportunity.
The whole thing went something like this: We arrive in large department store, ask for assistance (this went badly from the start as the assistant simply pointed to a colleague and didn’t offer us any help at all) and eventually we find our way to the right place for womens boots. The young assistant (fearful of our whirlwind of pushchair, noisy children and clearly somewhat stressed parents) helps my wife to find the right boots at the right size. Wife duly tries on, we determine they fit and look the part and promptly leave the store. The whole thing being an elaborate facade.
You see, we couldn’t TELL the assistant we were trying them on for someone else to buy as we had no intention of leaving with the boots purchased that day. But what if we could? What if the assistant had said “Are these for you to buy today or are you trying them on for someone else to buy as a gift?” What if he’d taken my mother-in-laws email from my wife so he could have arranged for an email to be sent confirming the size was correct, the boots in stock and that they could be collected or ordered for home delivery?
I don’t see any reason this whole experience couldn’t have been quite different and directly led to a sale for that department store. Yet it also feels that’s such a long way off.
Image: David Hawgood