Hammock CEO Rex Hammock spoke today on the topic of “How to Go to Market with a Marketing Services Business” at an American Business Media’s Marketing Services Council meeting in New York. Earlier this week, ABM’s Scott Fried interviewed Rex with some questions about being a provider of marketing services and what trends he’s seen in the industry during his career.
ABM: What does it mean to you to be a marketing services provider? How does that differ from being a traditional media company?
Rex Hammock: Here is a simplistic way I describe the difference: a traditional media company creates and manages media and content that support a traditional media business model (advertising, circulations, events, data, etc.). We create the same types of media and content but they support our clients’ various business models: the association business model, the healthcare business model or retailing business models.
As for our company, the types of media and content we create, and the skills and processes we have, are very similar to what you’d find in a traditional media company (or a non-traditional digital media company, for that matter), but our company’s business model is a classic fee-based, outsourced-services model.
While that’s a simple description, in practice it can be extremely different than a traditional media company. It can also be extremely different than traditional marketing services companies, for that matter, as they so often are focused on relationships that are one-and-done, while ours tend to be focused on recurring media and long-term relationships.
ABM: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in recent years in the custom content business? What are you asked for today that you weren’t asked for three to five years ago?
RH: The biggest change in the past three to five years is the introduction of the term “content marketing,” with which I have an odd relationship. I’m sometimes described as a “pioneer” in that field, but I personally am not a fan of terms that mean everything, as I believe terms that can mean anything typically end up meaning nothing – Web 2.0 being a good example.
People who described themselves as social media gurus or SEO ninjas a year ago are now calling themselves content marketing experts. When you probe into what they do as content marketing experts, it tends to be a mixture of maintaining blogs and Twitter accounts, with a bit of direct marketing or lead generation thrown in. What we do for clients is more encompassing and can include anything from a custom magazine to employee training videos.
On the upside, all of the talk about content marketing has raised the awareness of C-Level executives that marketing opportunities exist beyond the boundaries of what was traditionally considered “marketing.” It has also given us the opportunity to explain what we do as being a solution to many marketing challenges that aren’t easily solved by traditional approaches like advertising or public relations.
ABM: Can you offer an examples of successes that you’ve had with clients?
RH: We speak of success in terms of the success our clients have. As we tie our work to specific goals and metrics related to their business objectives (not web metrics, but strategic ones), nearly all of our clients can point to examples of programs we’ve helped them develop and implement that have resulted in solving a specific problem or accomplishing a specific goal. We’ve helped clients transform activities they considered promotional into events and material their customers value enough to purchase or pay to attend. We’ve helped clients launch successful products and have assisted clients to completely reposition century-old brands.
ABM: To which marketing techniques do you attribute Hammock Inc.’s own success?
RH: We practice a marketing approach we encourage our clients to consider, which we call “help, not hype.” We host or participate in a lot of professional training and “how-to” events for marketers in the Nashville healthcare industry, our major client niche.
Another example of “help, not hype” marketing is an “un-newsletter” we send every other Thursday called Idea-Email. (Hammock.com/idea-email). It has grown to around 3,000 subscribers since we started it a little over a year ago, and most of the subscribers are senior marketing people and their bosses. I call it an “un-newsletter” because it has just one essay that is designed to make the reader think about marketing in a different way.
There’s rarely even a mention of our company in it and we aren’t offended if people opt out. Indeed, we encourage people to opt out, as it’s written for a very specific type of reader that’s based on the profile of the type of client who will get the most value from the types of services we provide. On its surface, it’s the most underwhelming thing we do – no great design or web tricks – yet it has opened several doors for us, and led to some significant opportunities.