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Developing Online Publications

Todd Smart, President and Founder, BeTuitive Publishing

Online publishing is a great tool for building credibility and growing relationships for your business. But there is more planning and strategy involved than you might think. If you’re considering an online publication, start by asking yourself five questions:

Is the Medium Appropriate for Your Audience?

The choice between online and print publications should be met with careful analysis. An online publication can be distributed via e-mail, blog, Web magazine, streaming audio or video. An offline publication can be a printed newsletter, magazine, mini-book, journal report, or a non-print medium like a podcast or CD.

To choose between these options, consider your audience. If you are targeting doctors who are rarely in front of a computer screen, a print journal would make more sense than an e-mail publication. However, for an audience of financial professionals who regularly check e-mail, an online publication is a good strategy. Your existing list of contacts should also be considered. If you have a long list of e-mail contacts but virtually no mailing addresses, your choice may be clear.

What are Your Objectives?

It’s important to know what you want out of your publication before you get going. Clear objectives not only help you analyze tracking data, they play a significant role in your execution strategy. Some common objectives for online publications are establishing credibility and thought leadership, growing relationships, and generating leads. A business-to-consumer publication may even help drive sales.

What Measurements Will You Use?

Decide how you will measure the success of your publication. Common measurements are deliverability rates, open rates, click-through rates, Web site traffic driven by the publication, and phone calls and emails received in response to the publication.

What are Your Testing Strategies?

The benefit of novelty generates results for most new publications. To continue getting results after the first few issues, you will need strategies to promote continuous improvement of your publication. You may want to experiment with new names on the “from” line, the subject line, headlines, blurbs and design to find what is most effective for increasing your audience.

How Do You Do an Online Publication?

Once you determine whether you should do an online publication, the next step is planning how to do an online publication. Let me begin with a warning: the market is saturated with mediocre online publications, and adding one more mediocre publication to the pile will only be a waste your time and money. If you’re going to do a publication worth your time and money, you have to make it exceptional. And there is no shortcut to doing it right.

Here are three key steps you can follow to develop a strong online publication for your business:

  • Find Out What People Want. The first step is to establish a process for discovering what your customers need. Find out what kinds of tips and tools would be valuable to them. It’s a constant process for companies—talking to their best prospects and customers, understanding the challenges in their careers and in their life, and providing information, services, or things that make life better for those people.
  • Embrace the Competition. Learn to accept and even love the competitive nature of the communications marketplace. To know where you stand, consider the explosion of e-mail. In 2006, the total number of e-mail messages sent daily is expected to exceed 60 billion worldwide, according to IDC, a research firm based in Framingham, Massachusetts. That’s nearly double what it was in 2002. Does that mean you should simply stop sending e-mail? Of course not. That means you must try that much harder to stand out before your reader hits the delete key.
  • Communicate Your Differentiator. If no one knows how you are different, are you really different? If you want customers to consider your products and services on more than just price, you must help them understand how your offering is distinct. You want to target and tailor your communications so that they are directed at the right customers with the right message.

At BeTuitive Publishing, we believe e-publications are a powerful means to reinforce your distinctive message to customers and strengthen relationships with those customers along the way.

© 2006 Todd Smart. All rights reserved.

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