Before hiring subscription website publishing experts, take this advice straight to the bank.
If you’re looking to grow the most beautiful rose garden on the block, would you prefer to go to your local gardening center and rifle through the rose section to see what’s brightest, or would you head straight to specialty rose nursery, with employed experts in growing roses?
So then why is it that so often we hear of publishers who hire web development companies that have no experience developing subscription websites for publishers? A magazine or newsletter website requires an expertise in search engine optimization, conversion architecture, subscription management, and content management, in addition to an array of other specialties.
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So if you’re in the market for a subscription website consultant or development company, your provider should have three major agenda items: creating a strategic plan to spread your brand out across platforms, training your team to implement everything in your strategic plan, and giving you the tools necessary for your business and your team so you can see the plan through.
Most companies we know provide one out of those three services (we provide all three, by the way.)
What all subscription website publishing experts should know (or, how to tell if you should walk away)
1. More opportunities for new revenue sources are available for multiplatform publishers. Your magazine consultant should identify how to create new products, explain the different ways to use online advertising, and forecast the costs and risks of investment.
2. Your magazine consultant should define and work to build a content and marketing management system and be accountable for the results through detailed analytics. As you’ve probably noticed, there are many moving parts to multiplatform publishing. You need an advanced CXMS to manage these tasks and keep everything in working order. At Mequoda, we’ve customized our own Haven Nexus System, equipped with a central database that informs your marketing decisions and helps maximize the lifetime value of each subscriber. No matter what system provider you choose, they should be managing all the infrastructure, including those tech providers listed above, so you can focus on other tasks.
3. Your subscription website publishing expert should train your organization for success. To attain digital publishing success there needs to be a transparent relationship between you and the consultant. In a perfect situation, they will offer a comprehensive training program covering the foundational changes necessary for a successful transition. This may include organizational changes and restructuring to accommodate an online publishing business model.
Another important thing to note is that when some magazines transition into multiplatform, they make the crucial mistake of hiring too many service providers. Keeping track of each one is stressful, time-consuming, and costly. A smart subscription website publishing expert will advise you on the hiring of email, CMS, analytics, and social system providers. They will also outline a system that will ensure proper communication and integration between each.
Generally, for most consultants, this is where the services stop. Many consultants will set you up for success, and then send you on your merry way. And sometimes that merry way isn’t so merry.
Some red flags when hiring a subscription website publishing expert
1. They don’t understand content and content recycling. Not only should a subscription website publishing expert be able to build a custom content management system that supports content, but they should be able to guide you on the strategy for using it. One of the key steps to becoming a multiplatform publisher is understanding the process and benefits of recycling content that already exists. All those back issues you’ve piled in the stockroom for years? Those old PDFs that were only sent to a printer? A savvy expert knows that every past issue can be put to good use. They should create an in-depth content plan for you that includes publishing recycled and new content over various platforms, like newsletters, blog posts, videos, etc.
2. They don’t perform or offer an audience audit. Being in the business of publishing, you already know your target audience. Or you think you do, anyway. A true expert will create an audience profile through the use of search data, and build a business plan around that information and data, not around intuition and mission statements.
3. They don’t offer best practices. As a business that specializes in subscription websites, an expert should be able to easily provide you with business case studies of their success stories. They should be logging benchmark data on existing sites under their roof, and be able to provide you with guidance on design and implementation strategy that has a proven track record of success.
Are you looking for subscription website experts? Here at Mequoda, we offer custom subscription website development, including one-on-one training with your production team, and we also offer a larger group training with the Digital Revenue Summit. It’s a rigorous two-day seminar, and one we encourage all publishing executives to take.