As December winds down, it’s time to make your resolutions—new year, new business plan. (Isn’t that how the phrase goes?)
But in an ever-changing digital landscape, with dozens upon dozens of trends to watch, it can be overwhelming to know where and how to pivot your business model so you can grow your revenues year over year.
Have no fear! Our gift to you this holiday season is a little boost in the planning department. These seven strategy questions can help you refresh your business tactics for even more growth in 2018.
1. What’s Your “Breakthrough Experiment” for Next Year?
88 percent of Fortune 500 companies have gone out of business over the past 50 years—if you aren’t innovating with new products, you’re dying.
Trying new things breathes life into your company. In fact, you should try at least one new initiative at your company each year. If you haven’t already set aside room in your budget for innovation, this is the year to start.
Don’t expect every attempt to be your prize-winning racehorse. Your investment in something fresh is an experiment. You will learn how to make it into a success once you try it, measure the results, and pivot accordingly.
2. How Much of Your Revenue Comes From Digital Sources?
Digital media guru and CEO Clark Gilbert explains that if you aren’t getting at least one-third of your revenues from digital — and moving toward the 50% mark — you’re at risk of getting disrupted by your competition and going out of business.
Do you have a plan to get more than half of your revenue from digital over the next 3-5 years?
3. Have You Diversified Your Digital Revenue Streams?
Is at least half of your digital revenue from sources other than programmatic advertising? Half may seem like a lot, but the truth is: the digital ad market is challenged. Rates continue to decline, and ad blockers threaten mobile revenue models. And while it may seem like ad spending is on the rise, odds are your publication won’t see the benefit.
The key is to supplement ad revenues with consumer revenue streams (think: subscription models and paywalls). Your readers should be paying to access your premium digital content. Fellow big publishers like Medium have already started to move away from advertising and towards membership models to build profits. Your business shouldn’t be far behind.
Ready to get started? Here are four ways to monetize your digital content.
4. Do You Have a Marketing Plan With Specific Goals for Each of Your Consumer Segments?
One-size-fits-all marketing no longer works. Have you segmented your consumers into three to five different groups? For example, a finance-oriented magazine might want to segment their readers based on the size of the company, role (CFO vs. staff accountant), and/or technical sophistication.
Develop unique marketing strategies for each consumer type. Attention spans are decreasing – so it’s more important than ever to reach your audiences on a highly-personalized, individual level. Don’t clutter your marketing message with materials that are not relevant to a given segment.
5. Do You Have a Robust Account Management Strategy?
Understand the business objectives of your key partners, and develop a list of projects to work on together. This way, everyone succeeds. Distributor hoping to get into a new market? Position one of your products to help them enter. Advertiser looking to target a certain psychographic? Work with them on a custom advertising campaign to drive leads to their website.
Care for your most important advertisers and distributors so you can go head-to-head with advertising giants like Google and Facebook. They might have the numbers—but you can offer a personalized approach.
6. What Initiatives Will Improve Your EBITDA Margins by at Least 1 Point?
Your earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) is a measure of your company’s operating performance. You should always look for ways to improve your EBITDA margin by at least a point—but remember: you don’t want to cut so deep you hit bone.
- Can you renegotiate a major contract?
- Are there tools you don’t need? Opt out of a software license you rarely use.
- Find ways to motivate your sales and marketing team to promote higher gross margin products.
- How can you take advantage of lower-cost marketing and distribution channels?
Warning: Do NOT use cost-cutting as an excuse to underinvest in new products and services.
7. Have You Set Goals for the New Year?
Have you distilled your company objectives into five or so goals that you can broadly communicate to the company at large? A fresh calendar year is a perfect time to get everyone on the same page. Summarize your strategy into five easy-to-remember goals and communicate them broadly. Update the company on progress against your targets at least quarterly. If everyone understands the why behind your business decisions and feels like progress is being made against lofty ambitions, you’ll nurture a much more engaged and effective team.
If you can develop solid answers to these questions before the chaos of Q4 and the holidays, you will set your company up for a wildly successful 2018 and beyond.
How Sterling Woods Can Help
The Sterling Woods Group teaches clients our five forces to methodically make more money online. The goal: make sure you lock in double-digit growth year after year using the power of digital media. Many companies have experienced over 50% growth using our system. Beyond the financial benefits, clients tell us that – for the first time in years – they feel truly focused.
We offer workshops, coaching, and keynote speeches. Sterling Woods is also an agency that launches new digital initiatives, so clients don’t have to add overhead. Our agency business model is unique in that most of our fees are based on performance.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of Sterling Woods, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. Ristagno holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method for Making More Money Online, set to be published in 2018. He regularly speaks at key media conferences, including at Niche Media events, Specialized Information Publishers Association meetings, and the Business Information and Media Summit.