Even if you “own” your niche market, there is (or likely will be) competition. And though the other guys can push your content and team to be the best, it can also be a big thorn in your side when budgets are tight and you have a small team. So how do you dominate your niche and increase your revenue in 2019 at the same time?
We consulted Kevin Evans (President, WEB Media Group) a seasoned general in the competition wars, about effective ways for niche publishers to hammer their competition. He says that first you have to change your focus to market position and proactive shifts, rather than reactive sales pushes and cost cuts.
Niche publishers often react to competition vs creating a plan of attack. What are a few proactive steps they can take?
“Most publishers are complacent and become bogged down in day-to-day activities. They forget to continue to manage their strategic advantage and its shifting tides. As a result, a publisher can be caught off guard and not be able to respond quickly to a strategic threat.
At least once a year, preferably semi-annually, publishers should dedicate a solid day to performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis with their department heads, or key personnel. The meeting needs to be held off site with limited distractions, forcing the team to focus on the task at hand. It’s critical to check egos at the door, for folks to be brutally honest and to have a very structured agenda. This is not a time for finger-pointing or defensiveness. The goal is to create an action plan, assign responsibilities, create metrics and establish target timelines.
To determine whether an organization is on target, growing or declining, a publisher should have a solid weekly reporting system in place, which has five to ten key metrics. The data should include weekly contracts, weekly billing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, bank balance and future billing. The report should compare current data to that of the previous year on a week-by-week basis. If used correctly, publishers will be able to identify problematic issues ahead of time and be able to take appropriate corrective action. Reviewing this company snapshot, or scorecard, on a weekly basis is a powerful tool.”
Can you share a real-life example of developing a strategy and then besting the competition?
“When launching the Austin Relocation Guide, we aimed at competing with a large media company who had partnered with the local chamber organization, who paid the chamber a royalty for the right to publish a magazine on their behalf. In order to tackle this long-standing partnership, we needed to have a compelling competitive offer. Our goal was to not just offer a better option for advertisers, but to develop a spectacular return on investment which would, in effect, cripple the existing business model. It was an ambitious undertaking.
Each and every aspect of the competition’s offer and business model was examined, plotted, and tracked. The competitor and chamber organization felt their magazine was invincible and, as a result, ignored us and the potential threat we posed. Our plan was to offer a free annual guide at a lower price point with increased circulation, providing complimentary leads to advertisers using the internet, multiple smaller chambers, and major employers as key distribution points. The path we employed was the exact opposite of the competition’s business model.
In two years, we had become the market leader in Austin. In four years, we launched in Dallas. In seven years, the competing media company pulled out of the niche, five cities in total. We achieved our goal, changed the business model and crippled our competition. They were no longer able to compete.”
What trends do you see coming that may affect the way niche publishers position themselves in the market?
“Publishers should understand that selling in the digital age now requires the ability to supply analytical data and leads to advertisers. This creates several problems. First, publishers need to be able to capture data in a variety of formats for each of their verticals, both individually and collectively. Second, publishers need to understand what this data means and how to train staff in how to use it. Unfortunately, most sales folks are ill prepared to present analytic information to a current or potential client and become stymied when presented with objections.
To compound this issue, advertising agencies are becoming an increasing powerful challenge for publishers. More companies are beginning to rely on ad agencies to either make advertising decisions or recommendations. Many publishers, and most sales representatives, become flustered when forced to work through an agency, both from a sales perspective, and process side. This trend prevents publishers from being able to build relationships directly with clients. Plus, if an agency falls out of favor with the client, a new agency is hired, putting renewal dollars at risk.”
More about Kevin: Kevin Evans is President of WEB Media Group, a niche media company specializing in the relocation / newcomer niche and lifestyle market. Currently, WEB Media Group produces 17 titles and 11 websites across six states, with three new launches in 2017. In 2002, he started with a single employee, single market concept that has grown into a national company employing 20 people. Evans caught the publishing bug early. In college, he served as Editor-in-Chief of his college newspaper, then worked for Auto Trader, traveling the country fixing problem publications and establishing new markets. After leaving Auto Trader, he served as Vice-President of New Business Development with the Los Angeles Times before moving to Austin and launching the Austin Relocation Guide. He has 30+ years of publishing experience.
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