|Camilla Braithwaite: strategic marketing is key|
Strategic marketing is how a company can position itself within the competitor environment and is the business end of marketing (not promotional) which focuses on who customers are, what their needs and problems are, and what products and services you can develop to meet these requirements.
Smaller publishers face a number of challenges including (a lack of) market share and limited resources. They have to tackle the needs of a younger generation and find a way to negotiate open access mandates and new technology. In addition, competition for resources and building brand awareness can also be tricky.
Understanding your environment is the first step
Consider competitors' activities - who are they and what are they doing? Think in terms of your customer's workflow - who competes for your attention (it's not just other publishers, non-traditional competitors need to be considered). Author awareness is key - be aware of their rights. With many new entrants volume of content has a major impact on businesses large or small so discoverability and awareness are as important as ever. As there is continuing dissatisfaction with big profits from both librarians and researchers, this presents an opportunity for smaller organisations.
SMEs have a number of key strengths
These include proximity to community base, niche knowledge, understanding, being viewed as the 'good' in publishing, and flexibility. A small publisher's greatest asset is the connection to your community. Use your grass roots approach for advocacy, use your customer connections. Many smaller publishers will have Facebook, Twitter, a blog or forums they can use and you can encourage, reward and debate with customers through these channels. A lot of publishers are taking an advocacy approach using social media (e.g. British Ecological Society and SAGE Social Science) where you can position yourself at the heart of the community.
What else does your brand represent for your customers? Is it seen as relevant and useful? Can you improve its profile among a new generation of researchers? Use the external perspective of key stakeholder groups to build up your brand values - then identify gaps to work on building something stronger and more relevant for them.
Be agile and innovative
Because you are smaller you can respond to changes around you and harness creative ideas within your organisation. Innovative doesn't have to mean expensive or be about bells and whistles. Jason Hoyt, co-founder of ALPSP Publishing Innovation Award winner PeerJ, recently said that rather than being content driven, publishers need to be more technology driven. What about being customer driven? Innovation workshops are a way to help you leapfrog barriers to meet a need that customers don't know they need yet.
Good sales and marketing strategies focus on strong territories and partnerships
This will enable you to build on areas with the most potential and is a good way to get global representation. Set targets and use a dashboard to monitor, control and understand your sales pipeline. Assess where you have market penetration which can be increased with some work and use targeted sales support to help achieve that (e.g. telephone).
Think about introducing clever pricing
Model it around the size of institution and adopt tiered pricing models. Analyse current sales and model different subscribers to identify four different tiers. This works for customers, is manageable for subscription agents and can improve your sales. A key part of keeping attrition low with tiered pricing is the communications with institutions when you introduce it. Keep as transparent as possible.