Marketers seeking to maximize return from a given communications channel, for example, a particular social media platform, can find themselves behind the eight-ball when that channel decides to change the rules. For example, many marketers felt both blindsided and betrayed when Facebook began throttling organic reach in late 2013. Rightly or wrongly, these marketers felt that their past efforts to build loyal followings on Facebook entitled them to be able to cheaply reach these people in the future (it didn’t). Similar bad feelings have been generated in paid search when click prices go up or data that once flowed freely is restricted due to a change in engine policy.
Because any given channel that’s profitable today may be unprofitable tomorrow, it’s important for marketers to develop risk mitigation strategies to limit downside exposure. One useful strategy is to use the hub-and-spoke model. This is a very simple model that’s laid out like a bicycle wheel with radiating spokes. The “spokes” in this wheel represent the communications channels you currently use to market your products and services.
A typical B2B firm will typically use a number of such spokes that can be divided into “unpaid” (earned) and “paid” (rented) categories.
“Unpaid” spokes typically include:
- Traffic organically acquired through search engines
- Traffic originating from editorial links to content placed on reputable sites
- Organic social traffic from social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
- Brand-term related traffic (otherwise known as “direct” traffic arising when a user directly enters the marketer’s domain name into the browser address bar)
- Traffic from email messages sent to a subscriber/opted-in list
“Paid” spokes typically include:
- PPC ads on search engines or search networks
- Promoted social media posts
- Banner ads
- Other paid media such as TV/radio spots, newspaper ads, etc.
- Press releases syndicated through paid services
- Branded apps
The “hub” represents the unique intellectual property your firm owns or licenses. This is the “content” that remains “king” because it offers your firm’s special gift to the world. Such content usually exists in the form of original articles, whitepapers, presentations, sales collateral, blog posts, and perhaps product documentation. If this content is good, it can serve as an honest, powerful lure to attract visitors to draw closer to your firms’ offerings. If it’s not good — and let’s be frank: most B2B content isn’t very good — even the best “spokes” won’t help it. This “hub” content is typically located on a single website on a unique domain somewhere on the World Wide Web. All links, regardless of which “spoke” they originate from, point toward unique the unique URLs of each content element on such a site.
A hub-and-spoke approach is effective for three reasons:
1. By concentrating all your crucial assets on your site, instead of distributing them across disparate networks, you make the task of monitoring your content’s performance much easier. At any given moment in time, you can clearly see traffic resulting from efforts made to promote it on each “spoke” and “double down” if results from a given spoke are resulting in improved conversions.
2. By creating a diversified portfolio of traffic-generating sources, and balancing marketing efforts among each of them, one can “keep the lights on” when marketing activity on a single spoke becomes unsustainable.
3. By using a model encouraging you to investigate and become fluent with emergent channels before they reach critical mass, your firm will be ready to achieve first-mover advantage when “the next hot marketing channel” appears over the horizon.
No two marketers will have an identical profile in respect to the amount of budget allocated to any given spoke. The smart ones, however, will realize that “putting too many eggs in one basket” is a bad mistake in an environment in which consumers are constantly moving from channel to channel and the terms of service on any marketing channel are entirely fluid. By having “more than one iron in the fire,” you’ll never feel burned when a given social media channel, search engine, or other traffic provider changes its rules on the fly.
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