By Rex Hammock

Perhaps you’ve heard the big news of the week. No, not the midterm elections. I’m referring to Amazon sending out a 70-page catalog promoting Christmas toys this year. A real catalog. The kind printed on paper pages, not displayed on web pages. The kind of catalog I used to look forward to every year about this time.

By Rex Hammock

The first time I wrote about podcasting was 14 years ago, on September 29, 2005, on RexBlog.com. The day before, a Google search for the word “podcasts” turned up only 24 results. “I can see magazines, associations, churches, schools and companies utilizing podcasting to distribute regular audio content to their audiences,” I wrote. In other words, I was enthusiastic about the future of podcasting. And, despite a constant stream of predictions from “experts” that “podcasting is dead” (not to be confused with podcasts about death), I still believe the golden age of customer-focused podcasting is before us.

By Rex Hammock

On October 8, Alphabet, the parent company of Google, announced it was pulling the plug on Google+. It was at least the company’s fourth attempt at creating a social network that would compete with Facebook.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was a big deal backed by nearly a billion dollars and all the great minds they could round up.

By Rex Hammock

Last week, Mathew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review‘s chief digital writer, wrote an essay titled, “Is the Podcast Bubble Bursting?” A couple of years ago, I wrote an Idea Email essay with an opposite title, “Why Podcasting Is, Once Again, The Next Big Thing.

Podcasting, which has been declared dead or revived more than any category of web content I can think of, has managed to stay alive for 14 years. However, web-based content tools and strategies are known for their extreme love-hate cycles.

By Rex Hammock

For the first few years after college, I worked in public relations. One of my earliest lessons was taught by a client who expected to be mentioned in every newspaper article even remotely connected to his industry.

“But what about last Sunday’s newspaper feature about you on the front page of the business section?” I’d ask. The answer would always be a version of the question, “But what have you done for me lately?” I quickly learned how to use clipping services and press releases to small-town newspapers to supply a steady stream of client-centric news to his inbox.

By Rex Hammock

In 1957, unemployed magazine editor Vance Packard spent two months writing a book about advertising titled The Hidden Persuaders. He was not an expert in advertising, and much of the content of the book came from interviews and the writings of others.

By Rex Hammock

I’ve been asked hundreds of times over the past three decades: “What does Hammock do?”

As a professional content creator, you would think I’d have an instant answer. Indeed, if you look at our website, you can see that we try constantly to answer that question in different ways—from case studies to portfolios to 1,000-plus blog posts. However, every time someone asks me the question, “What does Hammock do?” I hesitate before responding.

Content that makes a customer happy. The Park Tool website homepage has two choices: “Tools” and “Fix It.” Translation: (1) You know the tool you want and just need a catalog, or (2) You know the problem and want to know how to fix it.

By Rex Hammock

When asked for good examples of marketers that use content and media for building long-term, loyal customer relationships, my top two answers used to be Williams-Sonoma and Orvis. Williams-Sonoma decided a long time ago it wasn’t in the pots and pans business—instead, it helped its clients be better cooks and entertainers by providing engaging content centered on great products. And Orvis is as famous for its fly-fishing schools and educational content as it is for its fly-fishing equipment. Both companies can teach us a lot about using customer media to build relationships.

But now, I have a new best example. For those who know my passion for bicycling (I bike-commute to work most days), it won’t come as a surprise that it’s bicycle-related: A company called Park Tool, the king of fix-it gizmos for bikes.

You may have never heard of this 55-year-old company, but anyone who loves a bicycle has. But Park Tool doesn’t just sell tools—they also teach customers how to fix their bikes with step-by-step processes. When a cyclist has a flat tire and watches a Park Tool education video to help him fix it, that individual’s relationship with his bike—and with Park Tool—changes forever. The person feels more empowered. Less intimidated.

After an hour or two of watching the company’s free tutorials, a cyclist can conquer her fear of having a chain break or getting a flat tire and being stranded on the road or trail.

How savvy is ParkTool’s use of customer media? Take a look at the Park Tool YouTube channel composed of how-to videos. Note how little hype there is. The content is all about educating and enlightening customers.

And what’s more amazing? ParkTool’s print ads have evolved from messaging about the quality of its tools to promoting its free online video tutorials, which have become the go-to source for those willing to take on do-it-yourself bicycle maintenance tasks.

To learn what masterful customer content is, take a look at the Park Tool full-page ad currently running in bicycle magazines.

“Learn how your bike works, how to fix a flat or do a complete overhaul. Park Tool’s website and YouTube Channel offer a comprehensive lineup of maintenance and repair help support.”

Is Park Tool’s education first-and-foremost strategy working?

Its YouTube channel has 151,756 subscribers and hundreds of comments that are more like love notes. Spend a few moments watching a video, and you’ll want to go out to your garage and break down your bike. Search Google or YouTube for any bike-related “how-to” and you’ll discover the SEO power of helpful content.

Lesson for marketing with content: Long-term loyalty comes from helping customers use your products, not just own your products. Customers don’t buy products; they buy solutions that often require hand-holding and support. And by hand-holding and support, we mean great customer content and media.



About Hammock Healthcare Idea Email |
This post is part of Hammock’s award-winning Idea Email series. Idea Emails are sent every other week and share one insightful marketing idea. Idea Email comes in two flavors: Original and Healthcare. To subscribe to the original Idea Email (general marketing ideas), click here . To subscribe to the Healthcare Idea Email (healthcare marketing ideas), click here.

By Rex Hammock

Your new mousetrap is obviously better than your competitor’s. And you’ve done all the things a great marketer should do to explain to potential customers why they should change to your revolutionary new mousetrap.

By Rex Hammock

In the United Kingdom and Northern Europe, Facebook is launching a customer marketing program called Grow. Targeting business leaders, the ongoing program will include a quarterly print magazine and access to a special invitation-only event.

Wait! Did I just say “print magazine”? Yes, but Grow isn’t a magazine, according to Facebook; it’s a marketing program. But because Facebook didn’t include a print magazine in its initial announcement, reporters have made that the focus of their coverage.

I think Facebook is correct in describing Grow as the brand of a marketing program, and not just a magazine. Five years ago, in a longform post on the Hammock Idea Blog, I explored the roles magazines play as (1) a business model limited to ads and subscription revenue and (2) a medium that deepens relationships with customers or members and supports a business model such as an association or university.

What Facebook is doing is savvy. It demonstrates how to use the power of a direct-to-customer magazine within the context of a broader marketing strategy. It’s more than a magazine, but it probably wouldn’t work without the magazine component.

Bottomline | Facebook will be using multiple media channels to reach an audience critical to its long-term success. Selling ads in a niche magazine is not Facebook’s reason for developing Grow. Facebook’s goal is to position the company as the dominant thought leader among an audience of corporate executives or government leaders. It’s not a program playing a magazine business model. It’s a magazine supporting and protecting the core business model of Facebook.

Image: Getty Images



About Hammock Healthcare Idea Email |
This post is part of Hammock’s award-winning Idea Email series. Idea Emails are sent every other week and share one insightful marketing idea. Idea Email comes in two flavors: Original and Healthcare. To subscribe to the original Idea Email (general marketing ideas), click here . To subscribe to the Healthcare Idea Email (healthcare marketing ideas), click here.