Inbound marketing is an established practice for industries like ecommerce, software, financial services, and and travel. The idea is simple: attract leads and customers, and use technology to nurture those relationships at scale. Inbound has been shown to save $14 for every new customer acquired and double conversion rates from 6% to 12%.

Digital publishers and advertisers are in a great position to see similar results.

You already have great content and large audiences. With inbound, you can reposition your audience platform into a scalable, predictable, and repeatable customer acquisition and retention process.

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Are You and Your Advertisers a Good Fit For Inbound?

The following questions will direct you to an answer.

1) Are Your Advertisers Measuring Success Through Leads?

Inbound, as a methodology, creates an optimization point between lead quality and quantity. Publishers are in a unique position to help the lead generation and nurturing process. Why? Because media companies attract eyeballs at scale. 

The challenge, however, is that most publishers stop at the top of the funnel and leave the rest of the marketing process to their advertisers. Why not disrupt the mold? Advertisers are in a strong position to provide a full end-to-end experience. Consider AdAge as an example. The company hosts sponsored webinars in which advertisers can provide a lead magnet or special offer. In addition to helping advertisers build awareness, these webinars help audiences and brands build lasting, valuable relationships with one another.

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Publishers are in a great position to help their advertisers find buyers. Inbound can help by providing the tools and infrastructure to enhance lead quality, at scale. 

2) What Determines the Value of a Lead for Advertisers?

Here’s where publishers can connect the dots between inbound and new monetization opportunities. 

Costs-per-lead (CPL) targets vary between industries and businesses. That’s why publishers are in a strong position to control their monetization models. While programmatic ad models force media companies into standardized display ad rates, publishers can control the price points they’re setting for lead generation. One of the biggest challenges of working with a CPL model is knowing where to get started. Industry data from HubSpot’s 2015 Demand Gen Benchmarks Report can help. In media & publishing, for instance, the average CPL is $11-$25. 

Know what your advertisers care about, and package solutions accordingly. Use industry data to ballpark ideal CPLs, and work with your advertiser to define that target. Expect to see some variation by vertical.

3) Can You Offer New Campaign Structures to Current Advertisers? 

It’s common for publishers to work with their best advertisers for years. You get to know your contacts, their business models, and monetization goals. What you’ve probably learned is that you, as a publisher, fit into a much larger marketing picture. More bluntly, you can offer more to your advertisers by introducing new product lines.

HubSpot’s Publishing Benchmarks Report points out that media industry is undergoing extreme change. That’s a good thing, and here’s a stat that you should know: 54.8% of the survey’s respondents expect new revenue sources like sponsored content and native ads to increase within the next six months.

In response, publishers are making big changes to their business models. If you’re not part of the race, your advertisers may take their budgets to greener pastures. Stay ahead of the curve by working closely with your advertisers. In an ideal world, what marketing products would they like to see? What is your digital media company best-suited to build? In addition to offering content takeovers, sponsored articles, and sponsored webinars, for instance, media leader ClickZ also works with brands to create and distribute custom whitepapers.

You already have an engaged audience. Get closer to your advertisers’ needs by asking them what products they’d like to see. Build around your unique strengths and value adds, as you help your advertisers nurture relationships for the long-haul. Unlike banner ads, inbound marketing is versatile and can take many shapes and forms. It’s a powerful way to connect with audiences in an authentic way.

4) Are You a Relationship Builder?

Relationships are the heart of inbound.

This marketing methodology, in addition to driving top-of-funnel brand awareness, helps brands forge stronger bonds with their audiences. Digital publishers are already taking steps to facilitate this process: your social media presence, email lists, and engaging articles are all valuable assets that you bring to your advertisers. 

There’s an opportunity to stretch your value-add even further. Give your audiences a reason to come back to your website. For most publishers this process is as simple as creating trustworthy, entertaining, and engaging content. There’s an opportunity to plug your advertisers into this formula too. For instance, you could work with your advertisers to create an ebook, sponsored post, or email program.

Financial education platform Investopedia, for instance, has a rolodex of long-form tutorials. Why not work with advertisers to create custom, in-depth courses?

The Bottom Line

Inbound is a perfect fit for most media companies. At first, the investment seems tough to justify because display ad profits are so slim. The key to succeeding with inbound is to look at your marketing from the perspective of your two biggest stakeholders: your advertisers and your readers. You’re a connector between the two, and inbound can help you increase the value of the relationships that you build. 

  free guide: why publishers need to think like marketers

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