By Ronn Levine • 12/20/2011
Cashing in on the Print-to-Digital Transition
We’re definitely seeing much more of the Web-first, print-second mentality and the success it can bring. The latest example came at the SIPA Marketing Conference in Miami earlier this month where Rob Ransom, CEO of Bongarde Media, presented a case study of his company’s switch from a print-to-digital mindset. Bongarde is a Canadian-based, B-to-B publisher that helps companies in North America keep their workers from getting hurt or ill on the job and comply with occupational health and safety laws. Recently, they’ve expanded into HR.
Originally, they were taking print content and putting it online. “But that didn’t drive a lot of traffic there,” Ransom said. “Now we’re a web-centered information service.” There are three main things that Bongarde did differently:
1. Produced web-first editorial. Once a month they pulled content off the site and put it in the newsletter. “At weekly meetings we looked at what was getting most read,” Ransom said, to see what should go in print. “It was hard for the traditional editors [to accept at first].”
2. Delivered the information in different formats, varied the content, used downloadable tools, and created videos and info-graphics. “We redesigned the video page and in 3 months it became the most trafficked section of the site,” Ransom said. “If you have a choice of watching a video or reading an article, most people will watch video.”
3. Bongarde is now a membership service and not a newsletter. “It’s much more compelling for your subscribers,” Ransom said. “We structured the product so it’s simple—with two membership levels [regular and premium]. The newsletter is a feature of both membership levels. We fooled around with [offering] print only [to certain membership levels] or online for this one and not that. But we just decided, ‘Let’s just give both to everyone’; it’s too confusing.”
Here are the lessons Ransom said they learned from the experience:
1. Keep it simple—it’s amazing “how we can overcomplicate things,” he said. “You need someone to strip out the complexity.”
2. Think of your online offering as a new product, not an enhanced version of your old one. “You need to understand what your customers need and want,” Ransom said. “Do a survey.”
3. Don’t worry too much about the connection to legacy products. Instead focus on what your target customers need.
4. Be aggressive with your online capabilities. Bongarde now has a downloadable form for a checklist instead of an item in the newsletter.
5. You need an online mentality that leverages the technology; embrace the quick turnaround of information. All the tools are out there. Make sure there is a consistency of follow-up.
6. Implementation is a company-wide process. Someone needs to take the role of educating customers, telling them that this is better. Ransom showed a cartoon that said 0% will sell without promoting it.
7. Old dogs can learn new tricks but make sure there is a new dog in the mix.
As for their premium level, Ransom said they were able to double the price and increase renewal rates. The first-year conversion was close to 80%. The premium level of membership gets unlimited webinars and more tools, among other things, he said. About half of their members take the premium level. Someone asked if he considered just having one level, but Ransom said having the two options seems to work best.
L:ook for an online discussion on this in the new year.
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