Not long ago I was a young sales guy at a company where I shared a lot of unsolicited ideas on how to take advantage of the Internet and other changes impacting the b-to-b media industry. More often than not, my ideas were rejected.
Along the way, I continued to watch customers reallocate marketing dollars to new venues that my company did not offer. As a result, I was faced with a choice: continue to sell something that didn't satisfy my customers' requirements or use my experience as an entrepreneur and media sales guy to chase my own dream.
Fortunately, my dream and vision were shared with another challenged sales guy, Mike Emich. Together, we launched WTWH Media in 2006 with Design World and its companion website, www.designworldonline.com.
In theory, we competed with the major traditional print publishers serving the electrical mechanical OEM design engineer, but in reality we believed the traditional print media companies were serving the information needs of the engineer on their terms, not the engineers'.
Our mindset was to blow up the traditional media model and deliver information to the engineering community the way they wanted it. At the same time, we provided unique ways to reach this community to marketers. A key example from the beginning was enabling marketers to offer CAD drawings of their products on our website for engineers to use in designs.
When we opened WTWH Media, I had one unsuccessful startup under my belt, so I was keenly aware of the pitfalls of starting a business. I knew some basic rules of entrepreneurial startups: I knew to double our expenses and cut our revenue in half to estimate our real cash flow. I understood that which can go wrong will, so be prepared with Plan B. When plan B fails, back it up with Plan C.
We also understood what we think the traditional big media publisher has forgotten: the value of people, ideas and passion, which are the underlying foundation of all successful media companies. At WTWH Media, our success stems from our team's passion and willingness to embrace a fast-changing media landscape.
We also understood that media consumption has changed forever, and marketers are demanding ROI on their investments. These premises have never proved more true.
Keeping those facts in mind, we devised five basic operating principles for our business:
1) We embrace technology.
2) We lead with technology, not “bleed” with technology.
3) We enable our customers to participate without risk.
4) We listen, participate and engage in conversations where relevancy is a premium.
5) We distribute content across all mediums; content is not just regurgitated print material.
These principles guide us through every aspect of our business. We have embraced SEO, RSS, video, social bookmarking, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, text messaging, QR codes, widgets, mobile apps and video. Everywhere you look the media channel is being disrupted, and therein lies a wonderful opportunity.
Our competitors told the marketers in our sector that research validated that our audience didn't engage in social media. We intuitively believed otherwise. For example, LinkedIn didn't set out to be a discussion board but became an unbelievable database of like-minded professional individuals joining groups based on subject or interests.
As an early adopter of LinkedIn groups, we captured significant user engagement, which led to developing our own peer-to-peer network in www.engineeringexchange.com. We didn't look at engagement as a monetization opportunity but rather as a relevancy premium. In turn this relevancy created a revenue opportunity.
The changes to the media landscape have proved to be an entrepreneur's dream. If you adapt quickly, participate, leverage, cross-promote and accept failure as an option, you can beat your competitors to the punch. If you ignore any media channel for fear or for lack of monetization, you can quickly become irrelevant. As a media company, we believe being relevant means that you aggregate and engage with an audience on its terms, not the print date.
We know that we must adapt to the market needs or someone else will. And WTWH is that someone else.
Scott McCafferty is the co-founder and managing director of WTWH Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.