Have Publishers Lost the Capacity for Long-Term Planning?
If you want to save your company, think beyond the next quarter or loan payment.
Just a few years ago, all the talk was about implementing the three-legged stool strategy. Dubbed “the holy grail,” a publisher that offered advertisers a robust print, online and in-person solution, packaged together, would win.
The three legs of the stool…the answer to our problems. Publishers with the necessary resources developed the three-legged stool. Others tried new launches.
And now, after many publishers have struggled to make the stool model work, customers are spending their money elsewhere. Who knew there were plenty of other stool legs?
And then there was lead generation. Webinars. Podcasts. Virtual Trade Shows. And now social media. As Ted Bahr so eloquently stated at the Niche Magazine Conference just last April, “beware the fad of the year.”
The Next Big Idea
In FOLIO:’s “Big Idea” article in August, the lead paragraph states, “We all know that the top strategic priority this year isn’t really ‘online,’ or ‘lead gen’ or ‘events,’ it’s flat-out survival. Planning for the future now means the next fiscal quarter, not the next five years.”
This is exactly the problem. We are focused on short-term tactics, not strategy. We are focused on next month’s financials, not how to sustain and build the business for the long-term. A business does not prosper and grow because it can make the next quarter’s financial goals. It survives because it has a long-term vision, plan and strategy that engages all of its employees and resources in building great companies…in winning.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term
Peter Drucker, the great management guru, saw this coming when organizations started to focus less on the customer and more on where the CFO was looking. Corporations (publishers) were now to be managed exclusively to “maximize shareholder’s value.”
“This will not work,” Drucker said. “It forces the corporation to be managed for the shortest term. But that means damaging, if not destroying, the wealth-producing capacity of the business. It means decline, and fairly swift decline. Long-term results cannot be achieved by piling short-term results on short-term results. They should be achieved by balancing short-term and long-term needs and objectives.”
And boy, have we seen decline. And the spiral continues. The more revenue decline, the more focus on short term thinking (exclusively).
Correcting the Course
Changing from a short-term to a balanced short/long-term focus is really hard to do. Here are a few areas that will help you get there.
1. Sales Training. Yes, sales training. This is one of the reasons why publishers like Watt seem to be a step ahead. They have a passion for educating their salespeople, not so they understand how to pitch a product (which is important), but what questions to ask so that they can be better consultants, and form better relationships with their customers. The “advertising space rep” of the past is simply not equipped to succeed in this new, highly complex and varied communication world.
2. Expand the T&E budget. Now, more than ever, we need to see our customers face-to-face. It’s almost impossible to develop a relationship with customers as publishers without seeing them in person. If we want to understand where customers are going, and thus where business is heading, get face time with customers on their turf. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper now than it was at this time last year. When was the last time any of us heard of a publishing CEO visiting his key customers and asking how they were planning for the future?
3. Marketing. What, publishers actually marketing outside their own products? Unheard of in most media companies, but more important than ever, especially when there’s more competition than ever. If your customers are going to see you as their trusted marketing provider you need to be communicating with more than your sales rep. An easy start is a consistent (at least monthly) e-newsletter from your reps to your customers. Tell them how to grow their business, how to market smarter…and they’ll reward you with more business. Practice what you are preaching to your customers.