One way for publishers to ensure that existing relationships with customers stay strong is to dust off e-mail and database efforts.
E-mail will continue to grow, particularly because it is so cost-effective. However, Persiani said, e-mail marketing will only continue to be valuable “if we provide relevant messages/editorial to segmented audiences. If the information is relevant, it will be appreciated by the audience and, if not, it will be treated as spam,” he said.
Clothier said e-mail marketing should not be viewed as a separate entity and should be part of a complete marketing strategy. Meanwhile, Sierra pointed out that audience developers tend to worry about frequency of e-mail communication and list fatigue. “I believe that relevant information can be served to subscribers constantly without fatiguing,” she said. “More emphasis needs to be placed on creating e-mail preference options and multiple levels of opting in and out of products.”
But Clothier warned against this. “Because e-mail is so cheap, our audiences are being bombarded with it, not only from us but every other vendor out there,” she said. “We're seeing opt-out rates increase, and I really think people are hitting their "Enough!' level.”
Clothier finds e-mail to be the most effective when a relationship already exists, rendering it a part of an overall strategy.
Many publishers agree that data integration is one of the most important marketing tools because it can provide an analysis of customers' total relationship with publishers. And that creates efficiencies that will cut marketing costs.
Access Intelligence is currently combining its Web analytics and its fulfillment data. “This will give us full information on subscriber behavior along with payment and demographic information,” Sierra said. She also noted that a vendor she works with is partnering with all its best-of-breed analytics providers to make the best information available in one place for all of them.
But, Walsh said, anybody who hasn't done this by now probably isn't going to do it in the current stressful economic environment. “The costs are somewhat prohibitive for smaller publishers,” she said, “even though I honestly believe database integration is what will make the difference between success or failure for b-to-b media publishers during these difficult economic times.”
Any way you slice it, audience marketers are doing everything they can to keep their companies relevant and solvent. And that may be the biggest trend of all. M