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Recognizing the customers’ ultimate objective isn’t buying pots and pans but becoming better cooks, Williams-Sonoma elevated the role of customer media and content, making it a part of the brand’s core mission. 

hover finger william sonoma customer media

To find these features on Williams-Sonoma.com, hover your cursor over the Recipes tab.

In the current issue of The Idea Email (subscribe, view current issue), we explain why we’re inspired by how the retailer Williams-Sonoma has made the creation and use of customer media and content a part of their mission statement.

Here are three of our favorite ways they display their commitment to “helping customers become great cooks” in a way that adds value to the cookware they sell. (We could have added lots more.)

sous-chef series logoThe Sous-Chef-Series: Williams-Sonoma has partnered with The Tasting Table for a free weekly email and website series featuring the stories of up-and-coming chefs from around the U.S. Why we like it: Great stories and recipes are coupled with Williams-Sonoma cookware that’s related to the dish being shared. A great example of “content-enabled commerce.”

Earlier this year, Hammock began working with 20|20 Research on a project designed to help boost their organic search results and generate leads for its suite of online research products.
Long known for its physical research facilities, the company now boasts impressive online products with a fast-growing user base of research professionals in the United States and Europe. As these new products ramp up, they want to make sure their expanded capabilities and unique online products are receiving the recognition they deserve.
When they reached out to us they were already savvy content marketers and a step ahead of most companies. Not only did they have a well-written and authoritative CEO blog, they also had a strong presence on LinkedIn and Twitter.
However, like many companies, the full plate of duties already being handled by everyone on staff made it difficult for the company to find the time and focus needed to reach the objectives they had for their online efforts.

This year Hammock once again hit the events trail for our client, the Marine Corps League, making 2010 a record year in event-related advertising and expo sales.
The old saying “you can’t tell the players without a program” holds for trade shows where strapped-for-time attendees want to know what’s on display and where.
Since 2006, in addition to relaunching its member magazine, Semper Fi, Hammock has produced directories for each of the three annual Marine Military Expos sponsored by our client, The Marine Corps League. In that time, both Semper Fi and the Expo directories have experienced significant growth in advertising sales and print quantity.
Managed by Nielsen Expositions, a part of the Nielsen Company, these shows bring defense industry suppliers together with the Marines for frank discussions and critiques of the products and services.
The Expos are held at the Marine Corps bases at Camp Pendleton, CA, Camp Lejeune, NC, and Quantico, VA, outside Washington, DC. The latter is by far the biggest, drawing as many as 450 vendors and thousands of attendees.
In 2006, the guide for the Quantico event was 24 pages long, contained only two paid ads and was printed as part of the magazine. Since then it has doubled in size to 48 pages this year, with more than 19 pages of paid advertising that generated significant revenue for our client. The other two guides have seen similar growth.
Robust ad sales efforts and opportunities for vendor listings to be highlighted have helped fuel this growth, but advertisers say a redesign of both magazine and guides in 2006 plus a strong—and very Marine—content strategy make them increasingly desirable media buys.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an outfit more devoted to tradition than the United States Marine Corps, but on the other hand, they didn’t get through almost 235 years of existence by failing to innovate.
In that spirit, the 87-year-old Marine Corps League, the nation’s only federally chartered Marine Corps-related veterans organization, came to Hammock Inc. four years ago seeking to reinvigorate their member magazine as part of a campaign to increase recruitment and retention.
As we reported a couple years ago, Semper Fi, the magazine of the Marine Corps League™, has been an essential tool for that campaign. It’s also proved to be a versatile tool for Marine Corps League programs, and a casebook example of objective-based content. Here is how we’ve done it:

Hammock created and hosts
this pre-conference community for the
Society of National Association Publications.

For most associations, events are an integral part of their annual calendar. Despite the effect of the current economic situation on many events, the good news is that events provide associations a perfect opportunity to leverage the power and excitement of social media. There are so many ways an association can engage its members before, during and after an event with social media tools. Providing this type of new and exciting value to attendees is a smart way to provide additional member benefit and reverse shrinking attendee numbers for future events.
Here are five tips for associations looking to engage their members before an event through a social networking community site:

Hammock Inc. Case Study
The challenges:

  • Make an event come
    alive for members
    who can’t attend
  • Market the event back
    to all members to
    increase future attendance

The solution:
Hammock’s custom-designed,
social-media based
event coverage

Hammock has enjoyed working with the National Federation of Independent Business since the early 1990s. NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with offices in Washington, D.C, and all 50 state capitals. We work with them to create MyBusiness, their member magazine, and manage NFIB.com, their website.
Every two years, NFIB hosts a National Small Business Summit, a biannual event to explore important policy, business and economic issues facing small business. In the past, we worked with NFIB to create an event website for the Summit, which included news stories from the event. Good, but we wanted to do something more dynamic in 2008.

This year Hammock worked with NFIB to develop a site where small business owners who couldn’t come to Washington, D.C., for the Summit could still participate in the action online. We built and managed a social media site for the Summit with video posting and photo sharing, blogging and knowledge sharing from sessions. We continued the effort post-Summit by developing a digital magazine that is focused on building attendance for the next Summit.
While tools like Flickr, YouTube and Twitter each serve a unique purpose, we’ve found that pulling them together into one interface can often serve your audience best, particularly when you’re sharing information about a single event. While each individual feed is still available, if someone only wants to see the photo updates, for instance, but the event-focused website shows a complete picture of the event — photos, video and all. For many associations, online marketing is still website and email focused. Hammock’s approach is different. We take unique advantage of social media but still provide a central home for all event-related content. If you can’t attend, it’s the next best thing to being there.

Hammock creates innovative multimedia
post-event supplement with video

Every two years the National Federation of Independent Business holds its National Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. The event brings together America’s most politically active entrepreneurs as well as key congressional and business leaders.

In 2008, NFIB turned to Hammock to help solve two of their post-Summit needs: 1) Provide members who did not attend the Summit highlights of the event beyond the traditional few pages of coverage in MyBusiness, NFIB’s member magazine, and 2.) Generate additional advertising revenue. To meet these goals, Hammock worked with NFIB to create and distribute a special, multimedia, digital edition supplement of MyBusiness covering the highlights of the Small Business Summit.

Hammock’s work with the Marine Corps League is featured in the latest issue of the Custom Publishing Council’s magazine Content. The article “Across a Crowded Room, ” focuses on how marketers and custom publishers are finding new ways to target specific audiences with custom content. In the case of our client the Marine Corps League, the association wanted to reposition its magazine for a number of reasons—one of which was to recruit younger Marines.
Read the article from Content here to learn how we redesigned, refocused and repositioned Marine Corps League magazine (newly named Semper Fi) to accomplish the goals of the League. “In the two and a half years since the redesign,” says MCL executive director Mike Blum, “membership in the Marine Corps league has increased 25 percent. Between 15 and 20 percent of that increase can be attributed to the magazine.”

We decided about 18 months ago to create a new kind of website here at Hammock.com. As individuals, we were using lots of new online media approaches and technology — and were incorporating them into work we were doing for clients. Our site, while attractive, was not a reflection of where we are — as a company or as individuals. So we headed into a new direction.
[After the jump, read more about how Hammock.com is evolving.]