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Why IMPACT Is Becoming a Media Company (And Why You Should Too)

Kathleen Booth

VP of Marketing, Speaker, Host of ‘The Inbound Success' Podcast, Leader of the Annapolis HubSpot User Group

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Why IMPACT Is Becoming a Media Company (And Why You Should Too) Blog Feature

Published on October 2nd, 2018

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The business media is littered with articles about pivoting --69,400,000 of them to be exact.

We hear all about pivots and the message is generally that our organizations are supposed to evolve, but how does that work?

How does it happen? What does a pivot look like? How do you know it’s time for a change?

Business Pivot

Knowing when and how to pivot can mean the difference between dying like Blockbuster, or thriving like Netflix.

The fact is, often times, our major business decisions aren’t based on the one thing that makes ALL the difference.

That one thing, for us at IMPACT and I would argue for any business, is our customers and what they are saying to us.

We, as businesses, spend a lot of time strategizing, thinking about our next move, and creating plans for the future.

But every so often, the best plans are not about what WE want our businesses to become - they are about what our customers want and need.

So, how do you know what your customers want?

Well, in many cases, they are already telling you.

The Origins of IMPACT’s Pivot

I joined IMPACT a year ago after exiting my own digital marketing agency.

At the time, I had many options of where to go next.

The reason I came to IMPACT, however, was because I loved Bob Ruffolo’s vision for where he wanted to take the company and our community.

At the time, most of the work IMPACT did centered around marketing retainers and website redesign projects, and our ideal client needed to be prepared to spend $5000+ per month for marketing or $20,000+ for a new website.

Not everyone who reached out and wanted to work with us could afford this, so, as a member of the sales team at the time, I often found myself turning away potential clients instead of finding ways to work with them.

Around this same time, IMPACT was building a thriving online community in the form of IMPACT Elite, our Facebook Group, and our list of 20,000+ blog subscribers.

The members of these two groups include some of our most ardent supporters, many of whom are not and may never be clients of IMPACT -- and we couldn't ignore that

IMPACT’s mission has always been to help people and their organizations succeed, and when you think about it, saying “no” doesn’t fit very well with this mission.

Bob saw these things - the prospective clients we couldn’t serve and the strong and growing community of marketing and sales leaders - and recognized an opportunity for IMPACT to deliver value to all of them, regardless of whether they were in a position to hire IMPACT for marketing services or a website redesign.

This opportunity was transforming IMPACT into a publisher.

It all started because he saw we were saying “no” when we could be saying “yes.”

This might sound simple, but saying yes to these things represented a fundamental and significant change to IMPACT’s business model.

It meant transforming IMPACT from an agency that happened to publish a lot, to a publisher than happens to have an agency inside of it.

That is the evolution that we have been undertaking over the course of the past year.

IMPACT as a Publisher

Publishers live or die based on the size of their audience and the health of their relationship with them. In our case, that is YOU.

You literally ARE our business, whether you are reading this article, attending IMPACT Live, or have chosen to subscribe to receive our content, listen to our podcasts, or hire us to provide your marketing services.

Each and every one of you IS our business, and to be successful, we MUST deliver exceptional value in every interaction we have with you.

Our subscribers and the members of our community are located all over the world, so at the heart of our interactions with you and other members of our audience is our website.

To fulfill our promise of delivering unparalleled value, our website needs to put your needs front and center -- not ours.

Over the course of the past year, we have made a number of changes to our site that are designed to do just that.

What you see below was our homepage a year ago, when I joined the company.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 6.34.19 PM

It was very much a marketing agency website designed around selling our services and primary offers, marketing retainers and website redesign projects

One of the first big changes we made was to fundamentally change this focus to shine the spotlight on our visitors.

So, we pivoted.

We got the team together and decided to undertake a complete website redesign project.

The new site emphasized free content resources and showcased the blog on the homepage.

We built an education business by joining forces with The Sales Lion and created a new user journey around “teach me, guide me, do it for me.”

We did all of this in an effort to be able to say “yes” and help more people and businesses.

IMPACT Homepage v2

It was a huge risk.

As an agency, we went against everything agencies are supposed to do and removed most of the information about our services from the homepage.

Imagine telling your CEO you’re going to do the same.

Believe me, I had my doubts, but everything I was seeing and reading underscored that this was the right move for us at the right time - and really it was the ONLY direction we could go if we truly wanted to embrace Bob’s publisher vision.

Last November, we debuted the homepage you see above, which features a picture from IMPACT Live 2017 and was very much the bridge between IMPACT the agency and IMPACT the publisher.

However, we realized that the vision could be even larger than this and today, we are building a full fledged media company that encompasses publishing, events, a thriving online community, educational resources, and yes, an agency.

In August, we released a new homepage that reflects these changes, and information about our agency has been moved into a subdomain that is almost like its own separate, unique website experience.

IMPACT Media Co Homepage

A year ago we had marketing retainers and website projects.

Today, we’re working to offer value to you that doesn’t cost a thing like great educational content and webinars, affordable software tools like Vidyard, Lucky Orange, Sigstr, Databox and Accelo that help you do your job better and faster, support services to help you use them, and conferences and other in person events that deliver a helluva lot of bang for the buck.

And this is just the start.

Over the course of the next year, and the year after, and the year after that, expect to see more changes, because we’re listening.

Why Brands Need to Think (and Act) Like Media Companies

We’ve taken a set of actions to evolve into a publisher.

If you’re a regular reader of our content, or attend our webinars or live events, odds are you’ve heard us talk about why brands need to think like a media company/publisher too.

People don't want to be marketed to, but they DO want content.

People can easily spot and avoid marketing in today's world, but they actively seek out content that is helpful and educational, addressing their questions, problems, and challenges. 

By thinking like a publisher and doubling down on the creation of high-quality, thought provoking, and educational content, not only will brands like yours naturally attract an audience, but that audience will be more likely to stick around and share that content with others like them.

In his book, Content Inc., Joe Pulizzi says it best:

"The absolute best way to start a business today is not by launching a product, but by creating a system to attract and build an audience. Once a loyal audience is built, on that loves you and the information you send, you can, most likely, sell your audience anything you want."

The truth is, we’re all on a journey going from doing just regular inbound and producing marketing content to something dramatically different, something of greater value, even outside of marketing. 

Although this journey is unique, we have to be open to where we’re supposed to be versus staying stagnant and doing it like everybody else.

In IMPACT’s case, we’re doing things and going places that other agencies don’t do and wouldn’t do.

People have told us we can’t be a publisher AND be an agency, but our focus is YOU, and what YOU really want.

So, now I ask you…

What does YOUR customer really want? If you’re really listening, you will know when it's time to pivot, and you will know what that pivot should look like.

Does YOUR company have that same philosophy and mindset right now? Because this is the journey we’re all on.

If we’re truly obsessed with our customers and listening to them, they are going to show us what our next business model or offering is and how its supposed to evolve.

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