Recognizing the customers’ ultimate objective isn’t to buy pots and pans but to become better cooks, Williams-Sonoma elevated the role of customer media and content, making it a part of the brand’s core mission.
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:
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 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.
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.]
Okay, everyone knows about Wikipedia, the user-edited encyclopedia (actually, ecyclopedias as there are different versions around the world) with information on just about everything.
However, Wikipedia is not the only website — nor was it the first — to utilize the approach of allowing users to both read and edit the content of a web page. That style of website, nicknamed “wiki” after the Hawaiian word for fast (wikiwiki), was developed (and named) by Ward Cunningham in 1994. According to Wikipedia (we thought it only appropriate to cite the source), Cunningham was inspired by software we at Hammock loved back then, as well: Apple’s HyperCard.
At Hammock, we love wikis. That’s not surprising as we’ve been creating and managing wiki-like, online sharing communities for clients since the early 1990s. We were even forum sysops on CompuServe, for any of you who can recall that far back.
In 1999, we began the development of what turned into a massive knowledge-sharing user community called SmallBusiness.com. The site was way ahead of its time in what folks now call “social media.” While SmallBusiness.com was extremely popular with its nearly 100,000 registered users, the dot-com bust of 2001 nonetheless put our plans for SmallBusiness.com on hold. The overhead necessary to continue developing the proprietary platform on which the site ran proved too challenging during the early 2000s.
However, in 2005, we began to take note of what was happening at Wikipedia and determined that it employed the main principle on which we developed the first iteration of SmallBusiness.com: sharing knowledge at the grassroots level. Better yet, we observed that the site was running on open-source software using the kind of scrappy, low-overhead approach we were looking for to revive the popular service.
And so, in late 2005, we began work on launching a new wiki-powered SmallBusiness.com. We discovered that many of the lessons learned in our earlier experiences with online communities — or, as we like to call it, “conversational media” — worked well in the context of a wiki. The dynamics of community-building (motivations, identity, networking) seemed to translate well.
SmallBusiness.com — in addition to once more becoming the leading online sharing community of content contributed by small business owners and managers — is an incredible laboratory for the Hammock Team to experiment with ways that wikis can be used in the marketing, customer-care and membership-building efforts of our clients.
For example, in 2007, we created a wiki for the American Watercraft Association that serves as the hub of a wide range of information sharing among their members, owners of personal watercrafts. There’s even a part of that wiki that allows their members to share maps of their favorite places to use their PWCs.
While we still love publishing magazines and helping clients build traditional websites, our experience in creating and growing wikis and in helping clients develop engaging, valuable conversational media programs and platforms are also a part of our legacy — and future.