In the whirlwind of our business, it’s so easy to get distracted. When that distraction takes over, I try to reflect on the basics of marketing and see what bubbles up.

One of the recent changes at Cox Media Group is an effort to move even closer to our customers. I am lucky to be surrounded by a very talented team that works across our newspaper markets and is focused on audience engagement, social, and digital marketing strategy. Those team members are full of ideas that bubble up, across, and over to make our results, people, and processes better.

Right now a cross-functional team is tackling the idea of rethinking our go-to-market strategy to acquire customers and subscribers — for print and digital. Instead of relying on former subscribers and the traditional acquisition channels to meet our volume and budget goals, how would we approach lead generation and prospect nurturing if we could start over fresh?

Understanding where customers are in the customer journey helps determine how to approach them and with what messages.
Understanding where customers are in the customer journey helps determine how to approach them and with what messages.

Fortunately, as news media companies, we sit on a treasure trove of data and insights. We run the gambit of purchase history, household information, and satisfaction scores. Add the gold mine of behavioural and content consumption data to the mix and we have the makings to identify the ideal customer and new audiences.

This lead generation effort is enabled by a culmination of several important initiatives:

  • Building a new CRM tool, powered by a re-architected, cloud-based data mart.
  • Calibrating our marketing strategy to deliver customer-centric experiences and messaging.
  • Transitioning to higher digital-only subscription volumes while managing our print business.

The lead generation programme has challenged our thinking and resulted in a lot of healthy debate. Which platforms are the best fit? What tools should we choose? Who are the right partners? How do we best push through resource constraints and align the teams and the strategy?

This is a marathon, and yet we are racing to the goal, trying to redesign our business before another disruptor moves the finish line — again.

The team is currently in the stage of defining our ideal customer and the universal leads. This may sound like revisiting one of those marketing basics, and it is. Except now we have access to a lot of insights we previously couldn’t use in an orchestrated way.

Our “ideal customer profile” (ICP) is a mix of the expected attributes — affluence, news affinity, digital proficiency, community mindedness, and geographical relevance. The details that define the ICP were brokered across the stakeholder team members for alignment — subscription acquisition, data and analytics, and engagement experts.

The more allusive definitions are in the universal lead descriptors. The universal lead is all about the engagement of the known user. Frequency and consumption of paid products, tenure of subscription, newsletter engagement, use of Facebook, and appetite for digital news content.

The next phase of the work is to size the markets and understand the potential of prospects based on these scoring factors. The tightest definitions of the profiles allow us to understand scale, and then we will learn to adjust accordingly.

Foundational to the work is executing iterative testing against the various hypothesis. This is another basic skill used by marketers today. Requiring the self-discipline to be rigorous and thoughtful in the testing approach is important work.

We have to use small samples to expedite our learning and bring the ideas of agile development into our acquisition practices. This takes down the business risk factor and helps to maintain the “normal” acquisition efforts to drive volume, profits, or yield.

The underlying strategy is to meet customers and readers where they are in relationship to our brands and then have a “conversation” that helps them choose how to engage next. Again, this is another basic principle.

Today we as newspaper marketers are very focused on push marketing strategies that help expose our content and drive distribution. But we also need to be as equally invested in the pull side of marketing, establishing a valuable reason and compelling story the reader wants to respond to. 

Readers have to have a reason to respond.
Readers have to have a reason to respond.

The audience engagement team at CMG is very focused on building journeys for customers that deepen engagement and create value. This is yet again another marketing basic. However, we are also on a journey to learn how to be modern-day marketers by meeting our customers where they are.

This is the first chapter. I will be happy to share our experiences and learnings along the way. I’d love to also hear from you about your journey.