5 additions to your marketing services portfolio

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Publishers are making their case to extend beyond custom publishing into the broader realm of marketing services. Advertisers are starting to listen. In the B2B space, publishers have surpassed agencies as the primary supplier of marketing services for large brands, according to Outsell.

With the right approach, and the right mix of services, publishers have an opportunity to grab a bigger piece of the marketing services pie, which VSS Communications estimates at $215 billion.

More publishers are formalizing their efforts in this space, through acquisition and internal restructuring.  In March, Penton Media acquired marketing services agency EyeTraffic Media, and last month launched a Marketing Services division. Another B2B publisher, Northstar Travel Media, also announced a new marketing services division last month.

Where are the best opportunities for publishers? Here are five products or services you might consider adding to your playbook.

1. Social media marketing

AOL tells us that content is the “connective tissue” for users on the social Web – so who better to manage marketers’ social media initiatives than publishers? Media companies that have aggressively ramped up internal expertise on social media can apply that experience to new marketing services, including Facebook page design and messaging/content development (including blogs, tweets and Facebook posts).

Some publishers are launching their own social media marketing arms. In January, the Washington Post Company launched an agency called SocialCode that is dedicated to Facebook marketing.

Social media monitoring is an emerging subset in the social media space. Tech publisher IDG offers a service called Community Threading as part of its marketing services menu. “We analyze social networks to identify influential commentators and sites based on criteria defined by the marketer,” IDG Director of Communications and Marketing Programs Howard Sholkin said in an email. Once the influencers and sites are known, IDG monitors them and “joins” the conversations with appropriate content – such as research, white papers, or case studies – that is developed by or for the client. The content, Sholkin added, is more informational than promotional. About 30 percent of IDG’s marketing services revenue comes from social media.

2. Multiplatform content

Media companies are getting better at creating content that can be repackaged in many forms across multiple platforms, including print, online, mobile and social. Marketers, meanwhile, tend to still think of content in more narrow terms such as “white papers” or “Web copy.”

There’s an opportunity for publishers to change that thinking and extend custom (aka branded) content beyond magazines, white papers and microsites to include catalogs, brochureware, e-newsletters, corporate web content and ebooks. As brands crave more “authentic” content to connect with consumers or business prospects, many are seeking experienced editorial talent to help them produce it.

Rich media is a bigger part of this trend. Many marketers are looking for high-quality video, webcasts, webinars and podcasts for their websites and social media channels such as YouTube. David Niederkorn, manager of North American marketing communications for John Deere, said at this week’s ABM conference that the company is increasing its spending on video, because “online video is exploding.”

3. Creative development

Helping marketers develop advertising and other marketing collateral puts publishers firmly in the agency space. But we’re seeing more of this work as publishers leverage their audience analytics to help marketers hone their messaging.

Hanley Wood, for example, developed an online sales tool for FedEx (pdf). IDG has developed several ad units for social media and the Web, including its Nanosite unit (right), which can house multiple publisher or marketer assets, including video, real-time content, social media and other interactive elements.

4. Ad networks

Looking to recapture some of the revenue they’re losing to third-party ad networks, several media companies are launching their own vertical networks. In March, New York Media launched its Vulture Network, a collection of blogs and websites serving the entertainment industry. IDG’s TechNetwork, launched in 2008, grew revenues 110 percent in 2010.

Scott Swanson, founder and principal of 47 Media, writes that vertical ad networks “are the rising stars of the online advertising world.” And colleague Prescott Shibles offers some sound advice on launching your own ad network.

5. Audience development/lead generation

John Deere’s Niederkorn told attendees of ABM’s Annual Conference, “You never know enough about your market. You never know enough about your customer,” adding that media companies have an opportunity to leverage their close ties with their audiences to help marketers.

More data and better analytics tools are helping turn audience development and lead generation into quality plays, as marketers seek qualified prospects that are more likely to buy. Penton, for example, offers a service called Lead Lifecycling, which nurtures, qualifies and scores leads.

Colette Hogan, director of product development and marketing engagement with Penton Marketing Services, says the service can help reduce an 18-24-month sales process – common in some of the markets Penton serves – by more than two-thirds.

“We provide our clients with the educational, comparative and ROI information they require to turn a cold prospect into a warmed and sales-ready lead,” Hogan said in an email.

Edgell Communications, a technology and merchandising publisher, has overhauled its lead-generation platform with features such as on-demand access to leads through individualized “lead portals” and customized reporting options. “The end game is to create a deeper engagement with customers and increase the value of the leads we provide,” Robert Keenan, Edgell’s vice president of online media, wrote in a guest column earlier this year.

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