Publishers spend most of their time thinking about how to sell advertising, not buy it. However, they should rethink advertising as a promotional tactic. As their sales teams likely say time and again, it can be used to increase brand awareness, viewership, and even paying customers. What follows are a few ideas for thinking about how to work old-fashioned advertising into a publisher’s promotional and audience acquisition strategy. (For more “traditional,” digital-centric tactics for increasing a publication’s audience, see my March 2018 piece, “How to Maximize the Value of Your Digital Publishing Properties”.)
Google Display Network
When campaigns are executed properly, the Google Display Network (GDN) can be a powerful tool for publishers to reach big audience groups, quickly and cost-effectively. The trick is to make sure that campaign settings are precise and strict.
According to some estimates, the GDN reaches as much as 90% of internet users. While Google makes most of its money on high-priced, keyword-based, pay-per-click activity, it also has a robust display advertising network that is global and reaches into the outermost nooks and crannies of the internet. For just pennies a click, savvy publishers can get their content in front of relevant audiences.
Though, by comparison, considerably more expensive than Google (on a per-click basis), Twitter can nevertheless be a valuable tool in a publisher’s promotional bag-of-tricks. It is especially useful when a marquee or evergreen piece of content is at the center of a campaign. Marketers can easily serve up ads to audience categories that are known to be attracted to a particular topic.
(If you’re not on Twitter already, it’s high time you open an account. Then keep an eye out for ads – aka promoted tweets – from the New York Times, which has been particularly aggressive on the social network in recent weeks – along with the usual suspects Fidelity Investments, Starz, and Uber.)
Not typically considered as “advertising”, as apress releases can serve in a variety of roles:
To strengthen a particular content asset’s performance in the search engines (when aligned with a particular keyword(s) strategy)
Expand a content asset’s reach among secondary and tertiary target audience groups – such as other media outlets, which takes their cues from others, and pursue “me-too” stories
To legitimize a topic or subject, vis-a-vis the vetting methodology and reputation of highly regarded wire services
Keys to Success
Regardless of the techniques used to get eyeballs to a content asset or publishing property, a variety of baseline tactics need to be employed in order to maximize ROI on the money you spent to the get them there. These include:
Front-and-center conversions. Make it easy for site visitors to follow your social media properties, sign up for newsletters, and give you permission to engage with them over the long term. The ultimate goal is to gain a new subscriber, of course, but there are lots of interim, nurturing steps that need to be formidable to help convince suspects and prospects of your value.
Accommodate Google’s Best Practices. That means make sure your website downloads fast and secure, and is in line with the Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. These accommodations lead to better search engine result placement, and more traffic. (When in doubt, look at properties like NYTimes.com and BusinessInsider.com for best practice guidance. And remember, we don’t need to respect the content, just the promotional tactics.)
Give Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse. Digitally-enable offers that you’ve been using for years via direct mail or at industry conferences: three months for one dollar, two years for the price of one, etc. Digital advertising, when done correctly, practically guarantees that your ads are being seen by like-minded individuals. Use what’s worked offline to convert passive online audiences into paying subscribers.
When employed strategically, online advertising can play a meaningful role in a publisher’s audience expansion plans. When combined with compelling content and baseline digital marketing best practices, internet advertising can help publishers find new paying audience groups and expand their footprints in a meaningful way.
Think of it like products in a supermarket. Content companies with mobile apps are locked in a fight for two incredibly scarce resources: consumer attention and shelf space. Unfortunately, on the digital shelves of the app store, discovery is the bottleneck. Consumers can’t download apps they don’t know exist in the first place. (And how can they in a market where the number of apps submitted to the Apple App Store in the month of January alone topped 500 submissions daily?)
To rise above the noise, and drive app installs in the process, app owners compete for a top-notch spot in search results. Smart companies are winning the battle with App Store Optimization (ASO) by tweaking keywords, icons and other assets to make sure their app store landing converts. It takes dedication and budget to get ASO right, which is why companies that succeed and boost downloads in one country or store are leaving money on the table if they don’t publish their apps in more places.
But before you go global with your app, double-check that you have mastered more than the ASO basics. The checklist is much longer than it was just a year ago because ASO has evolved, expanding beyond the app store presence and deeper into the funnel. Looking back, the first wave of ASO was a lot like the early days of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Companies could score quick wins by hacking Google algorithms or focusing on “long tail” keywords. Moving forward targeting “killer” keywords is not enough. ASO is morphing into what I call AMO (App Marketing Optimization) and ready for a rethink.
ASO/AMO tops the agenda at every stage of the app lifecycle. But it’s never a case of set-it-and-forget-it. It requires app owners to monitor and manage a laundry list of elements that starts with keywords and ends with compelling video clips. It’s an ongoing effort, but the pay-off is massive organic growth that every app owner can afford to tap for their app. The key is to take the right steps in the right order.
It all starts with testing, refreshing and optimizing all of the moving parts of your app (titles, descriptions, icons, screenshots, videos, and reviews) on a regular basis. Once you have the processes in place to achieve positive results for your app at home, it’s time to take your app abroad.
Mobile Games companies need little convincing. They were pioneers in aligning app elements, visuals and gameplay with the preferences of a global audience. Consider Candy Crush, a blockbuster app with audiences in nearly 200 countries thanks to a look-and-feel that is a match with local tastes and trends. Now other categories of apps, notably those in the Entertainment category, are following a similar blueprint to attract and acquire more users.
Localization differs from internationalization
But before you embark on a strategy to take your app global, know the difference between localization and internationalization. Think of internationalization as table stakes. It encompasses what you need to adapt your app to different languages, regions and cultures to reach a global market. Your focus in this stage is on the basics: changing time, dates, region format, and other aspects of your app to fit with your target markets and audience.
Localization goes deeper. It starts with translating the language of the app and other elements (keywords, description, and even the name of the app) to be a tight fit with your target audience. If you plan to engage in commerce, be sure to adapt your app to local regulations and payment methods to avoid any legal battles further down the line.
Clearly, localization is not a job you want to leave to Google translator. Amateur efforts rarely pay dividends, and literal translations can do your app brand more harm than good. (Case in point: KFC’s famous finger lickin’ good motto for its fried chicken is a notable example of a bad translation. In Chinese, it urged consumers to bite their fingers off.) It’s also important to resist the temptation to localize every aspect of your app from the get-go just because you can. It pays to pace yourself.
If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, or the countries to target, then start with your app name and keywords and localize these assets for popular countries or languages. As a rule, use your organic app installs as a guide. Pinpointing countries where your app is taking off allows you to prioritize your efforts, starting with keywords. Use tools to check traffic volume for specific keywords and bake the best (yet most relevant) keywords into your app assets. If you see a bump up in your app downloads, then take it as a sure sign you can move on to localize other assets, such as the app description, followed by other marketing collateral including screenshots.
Cater to local cultures
From here on, industry literature tells us localization is just a matter of “wash, rinse, repeat” for every additional country or app store on your list. But is it really that simple? In a word: no.
An effective strategy to go global with your content goes beyond the pure “science” of ASO/AMO to the “art” of understanding how addressing individual cultural preferences and nuances. Pay close attention to other aspects of your app—such as colors, images and user interface—to build a loyal audience for your content.
Do your homework and use common sense.
Primary design considerations:
UI: Does your audience read left to right or right to left? Or is it vertical? Make sure you factor in how the text and images are read. And make doubly sure the use of directional icons in your app are logical and genuinely helpful. It impacts engagement and dictates how users will interact with their device, especially as they swipe left—or right—depending on the app and activity.
IMAGES & CONTENT: Brush up on ethnology (or hire someone with those skills). Adapt the ethnicity of your visual elements to local culture and pay special attention to skin, hair, and eye color. It’s a no-brainer that Asians or Indians might be wary of buying into localized content that displays blonde-haired, blue-eyed models, presenters, or families. Rethink the obvious icons and idioms. Sure, using a piggy bank icon as a metaphor for saving money works well in North America and much of Europe, but it’s a miss in most Middle Eastern countries.
COLOR: First impressions count, and different colors resonate with different cultures. For example, Japanese players like subtlety and pale, softer colors and shades. Chinese users, on the other hand, prefer vivid, strong and bright colors like red and orange. The mobile games industry learned this the hard way, so deep-dive into posts and publications (such as Pocketgamer.biz) where they share their tips and tricks.
From images to music, be prepared to adapt every aspect of your app to match your target markets.
Pay attention to the political spectrum
Done properly, localization engages your audience with content that resonates because it respects their local customs and cultures, not just language. Significantly, the same rules apply to your choice in app marketing and advertising messages and ad creatives. Sure, it’s a must when you take your app global. But the surprise success of SmartNews, the news app that delivers the top trending stories downloaded by over 25 million readers in over 100 countries, suggests the same approach can boost results and user loyalty in your home market as well.
In the case of SmartNews, it started with the realization that readers in North America were divided by political parties but united around one goal: the desire to access to real news, not fake news. “The most effective way to show we understood our audience and their concerns was to adapt our marketing to appeal to all sides,” Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Head of Global Growth at SmartNews, told me in a recent podcast interview.
A review of app data and demographics revealed that the SmartNews audience was a mirror of American society. “Our readers are mostly between the ages of 35-65, and they range from liberal to moderate conservative in their politics,” Nicolas explained. An effective campaign would have to be objective and emotive. Nicolas, recently named a Mobile Hero for his user acquisition approach and accomplishments, went to work and immediately rejected flashy images and trendy buzzwords. Instead, he worked with his team to develop a simple creative capable of delivering a powerful message.
The approach worked, boosting usage and earning the app positive reviews. Nicolas says the results are still coming in and a focus group will provide the inside track on audience and brand impact. In the meantime, internal data shows the focus on eliminating the filter bubble has allowed SmartNews to increase app appeal to both genders at all levels of society and across the complete political spectrum.
You’ve invested time and resource to make your app a hit at home, and it makes business sense to take your app to global in order to maximize exposure. Yes, that starts off with mastering the fundamentals of global and local design considerations to adapt your app to your audience. But we all know that designing a terrific app is not enough given the glut of products in the market and the increasing consumer requirement for apps that are aligned with local tastes and trends. Discovery is a critical component of conversion, but apps have to strike a chord. Moving from simple App Store Optimization to an effective global app marketing strategy will help you maximize your investment so that your app will be popular with audiences everywhere.
Peggy Anne Salz is the Content Marketing Strategist and Chief Analyst of Mobile Groove, a top 50 influential technology site providing custom research to the global mobile industry and consulting to tech startups. Full disclosure: She is a frequent contributor to Forbes on the topic of mobile marketing, engagement and apps. Her work also regularly appears in a range of publications from Venture Beat to Harvard Business Review. Peggy is a top 30 Mobile Marketing influencer and a nine-time author based in Europe. Follow her @peggyanne.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and others continue to report increases in subscriptions. Undoubtedly, this is a trend that media organizations of all types would like to get in on. It is helpful, then, to understand who these subscribers are as well as why are they willing to pay for their news. A new study, The 3 types of news subscribers: Why they pay and how to convert them, from The American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs identifies the emotional and behavioral factors that affect consumers’ news subscription decisions. The research methodology included the use of in-depth interviews to uncover the values and motivations key to subscription habits.
Three types of subscribers (and how to attract them):
1. Civically Committed: those individuals supporting goals and initiatives that reflect their personal values. The Civically Committed subscribe to a higher-than-average number of subscriptions.
High willingness to pay for news content.
Views their support of journalism as a moral duty.
Subscription decisions are more emotional than practical.
Subscribes to a higher-than-average number of publications.
Prioritizes organizations whose goals and values align with their own.
High loyalty; likely to pay for subscriptions even if they aren’t using them.
Low price sensitivity.
Likely a news organization member, or donor.
Subscribes and donates to multiple news sources.
Likely donates to other causes and/or volunteers.
Strategies to attract
Publicize the news brand’s mission, values and community role. Ensure the brand’s mission and agenda is public. The Civically Committed support news organization aligned with their thinking.
Partner with civic-minded organizations and brands. Affiliate with causes the Civically Committed are already involved in and become part of their community.
Create events where they can meet journalists and get to know one another.
Reward them with appreciation. The Civically Committed see their subscription as an extension of themselves. Remember to thank them and be personal.
Allow them to donate to a news publication by adding a philanthropic relationship to their subscription. The Civically Committed want to support journalism.
2. Thrifty Transactors: consumers who pay for no-nonsense value and are highly selective in their subscriptions.
Moderate willingness to pay for news content.
News subscriptions are a combination of utility and relevance.
Price sensitive; needs to have high value.
Loyal to a small, highly curated number of publications.
Specific reasons for subscription such as part of a daily ritual.
Subscribers usually have at least one publication related to hobby or special interest.
Fans of coupon clipping.
May rely on a news publication for its coverage of one topic (look for digital users with high engagement in one area).
Strategies to attract
Provide excellence and ensure content stands out as high value and unique. Thrifty Transactors look to dedicated sources for items that really matter to them. Find these subject areas and serve the Thrifty Transactors.
Consider offering subscriptions by verticals or specialty areas. Thrifty Transactors only want to pay for the content they use so make sure they know the details of the publication’s reporting areas.
Think of magazine marketing partnerships to promote subscriptions of like content.
3. Elusive Engagers: generally do not like subscriptions. They see news and information as a commodity that should be free.
Low willingness to pay for news content.
Utility drives subscriptions.
Sees news and information as a commodity.
Not comfortable with transaction and commitment of subscription.
Likes free trials.
Likely to find content through search.
Strategies to attract:
Offer one-time-payment options with no commitment and include easy cancelation policy. It’s important to avoid monthly payment reminders.
Monetize Elusive Engagers outside of subscriptions. Market other products such as books, souvenirs, e-commerce, third-party paid promotions, etc.
The subscriber segments identified in this research are based on behavior, attitudes and beliefs, not demographics. This means an individual’s group will not likely change as they get older. However, further analysis of the segment groups by print and digital usage and demographics are also valuable in establishing marketing and monetization plans. Importantly, pinpoint the key differentiators of the news brand by segments to use in acquisition and renewal strategies.
Once upon a time, the world was a much simpler place for marketers. Not that many years ago, a 30-second television commercial would more-or-less tell consumers exactly what they were going to buy the next morning. The brand would describe a problem and present the immediate solution that consumers would then rush to purchase. Looking back, it was almost like magic. But the age of a short, predictable consumer journey has come to an end.
The Internet has changed everything. Today, the consumer knows almost as much about the product and the brand as the company. They come to purchase prepared with an arsenal of facts and figures to ensure they are making the right decision.
Conquering the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)
Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) Research found that consumers interact with an average of 10.4 items of content throughout their journey to buy. So the question becomes: How many of these pieces of content that will influence the consumer’s decision belong to you?
Brands that aren’t actively doing something to be a part of the online consumer journey and conversation are leaving an opening for their competitors. They also make themselves more vulnerable to the impact of bad reviews, or unflattering articles, that tarnish their brand’s story. The risk of not being a part of this path to purchase is significant. An ad campaign loses much of its effectiveness and becomes exceedingly more expensive if the first time a consumer sees it they have already made up their mind about the brand.
Meet the Consumer at The Right Time and Place
There are three opportunities to grab the consumer’s attention and engage them as part of their online journey.
Search – “I need something, I google it. Whoever answers my needs first wins.”
Social – “I’m on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat. I share, scroll, like. Whoever reaches my friends is also a friend of mine and gets my attention.”
Discovery – “I consume content that is interesting to me on leading premium publishers. Whatever interests me wins my attention.”
Adjusting to the Age of Discovery
The Age of Discovery is upon is. It is an age when everyone gets to choose what they want, when they want it. This is especially true with the younger generation: They aren’t willing to be bombarded with information. They want their content, but aren’t willing to get it in exchange for being interrupted. eMarketer research estimates that more than 25% of internet users this year will have used ad blockers. This figure represents more than 85 million people in the USA, and more than 400 million people worldwide. The age of aggressive advertisements is over. The future is in exploration-based marketing, also known as discovery.
Letting People Discover for Themselves
Understanding that potential customers will consume a number of content pieces before making their purchase decision, provides an opportunity to control as much of these content encounters as possible. Otherwise, a competing brand might do so, effectively control most of your (would-be) consumer’s journey.
What this means is that brands need to collect, organize and, in some cases, create a large assortment of content. This might take the form of customer reviews, a flattering video, funny short clips, an article in a leading content website, a reference in a well-regarded blog or news piece, or a blog post. And in order for more audiences to discover this content, brands need to consider multiple distribution channels — many of them paid.
The consumer’s conversation happens on many levels and a variety of content helps the consumer feel that they have adopted a balanced and objective opinion. The more control you can have over the content they consume, the closer you will come to influencing the consumer’s journey.
Choose Your Path Wisely
Once you’ve decided to prioritize discovery to attract new customers, it is just as important to determine where this discovery will take place. Social networks get a lot of traffic and are an easy platform to reach the masses, but when your content is up against a picture of a colleague’s adorable daughter or a friend’s awesome trip to Barcelona, you may find that you are at a disadvantage.
When people discover your content through a leading and trustworthy website, having already enjoyed or sought out another story, you immediately have the advantage of their attention. Our data suggests that the choices audiences make about what content to engage with is significantly impacted by what channel they are on.
Always Be On
Unlike advertisements, promoting content in this manner works in a way that it is “Always On” and effective throughout the whole year. Content discovery mode ensures that users meet your content at the moment when it is most appropriate for them. When consumers are exploring a leading content website, they are in a mind set to consume more comparable content. And this doesn’t just mean text-based articles, but a wide range of content such as videos, quizzes, and reviews.
Going on the Journey with Your Customers
In order to see the true impact of an investment in discovery, you must make a strategic decision for content to be a substantial part of the consumer journey. The consumer’s journey is constantly expanding—and within it, many decisions are made. All this happens long before the customer sees an advertisement. More opportunities to connect with your customer means more opportunities to for them to discover your brand. It’s time to control of the story and conversations that you truly want them to keep top of mind.
Sophie is the head of marketing APAC & EEMEA at Outbrain. She is a Global Brand Strategist, Co-Founder, and Entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience with a measurable track record of creating successful online and offline strategic branding concepts, product lines and events, each time finding the brand story that inspires action and create a strategy to meet ambitious new growth goals. She shares a passion for innovation, a curious mind, and expertise in defining business initiatives and plans, adapting to a changing business and technological landscape.
Few topics are as pervasive in marketing circles these days as those related to the “customer journey.” According to a new ebook from IBM, nearly 80% of consumers feel the average brand doesn’t understand them as individuals, so it is clear that CMOs are right to be focused on initial engagement.
First introduced by organizational design maestro IDEO in the late 1990s while working on a high-speed rail design project for Acela, the concept was quickly embraced and proselytized by consultants and leading companies around the world. The subsequent explosion of digital technologies had a dramatic effect on customer journey planning – increasing its complexity dramatically, and perhaps even exponentially – and fueled the growth of what is now effectively its own industry category.
What is the Customer Journey? In its simplest form, the (pre-acquisition) customer journey is the sum of the steps that an individual or company takes before becoming a customer. The “customer journey map” is typically a visual representation of that process, and often conveys considerable detail. This example neatly summarizes a customer’s path to purchasing broadband internet service, but the journeys differ dramatically according to the unique dynamics of customer type, product, price, and company (think: purchasing a new pair of jeans at Old Navy versus Bloomingdale’s).
The close cousin to the customer journey is the “customer experience,” which can be generally understood as the post-acquisition activities that place, and are aimed at maximizing client satisfaction and/or cross- and up-selling complementary goods and services.
What You Need to Know Given the myriad variables involved in the customer journey planning and optimization process, it’s easy to get off-track. The new ebook from IBM does a good job of identifying three common barriers, and tips for how to address them. Our take on its recommendations follows.
Stay Focused On What You Can Control. End-to-end customer journeys can involve just about every functional area of an organization – from product managers to IT resources and finance, as well as third party vendors with tightly defined contracts. Successfully implementing behavioral changes in any area you don’t have full management control over can be time-consuming and costly, if not in actually dollars than in political capital. For example, we recommend that marketers focus the bulk of their efforts on optimizing offers, content, on-page creative assets, forms, etc. (Barrier #1). Likewise, technology teams are best served by reworking applications and infrastructure.
Be Realistic About What Can Be Accomplished. Recommendations such as “use a single identity” and “stop doing channel-by-channel marketing” (Barrier #2) are generally agreed-upon industry best practices, but also exceedingly difficult to implement, especially at large companies with sprawling operations. Keeping these goals in the conversation as long-term aspirations makes sense for most companies, but are realistic goals for only a fraction of sizable organizations in the short term.
Employ a ‘Ready, Fire, Aim” Philosophy. Customer journey initiatives go hand-in-hand with digital strategies, and the digital technology landscape continues to mushroom, with hundreds of affordable new solutions introduced each year. High-performing companies understand that frequent missteps are part and parcel of the process, and have learned to ‘fail fast’ by relying on data-based measurement strategies (Barrier #3). With the easy and often free availability of sophisticated tracking tools such as Google Analytics, companies of every size and stripe can confidently rely on performance statistics to drive behavior. While the adoption and learning curve can be steep – many of the free tools are complex – especially for companies overly reliant on old school tactics, the benefits are considerable.