May 13, 2009 // Franchising.com // Mississauga, Canada, In 2008, 525 magazines folded in the United States and this trend shows no signs of slowing in 2009 with approximately 90 additional magazines shuttering in the first quarter alone. What do these closures mean? Aside from the thousands of jobs that have been eliminated, it means advertising revenues are decreasing as well - Myers Publishing reports a 9-percent drop - forcing these companies that once relied solely on print to shift toward other avenues to remain solvent.
According to eMarketer, print ad spending will show a 16.2 percent drop from $14 billion in 2009 to $10.9 billion this year. While these numbers are staggering, companies are shifting their media budgets to ensure the most effective exposure and initiatives as possible. And they're turning to internet marketing leader WSI to achieve these much-needed results.
With a network of more than 1,500 franchisees in 87 countries, WSI is the world's largest Internet consulting firm and has been ranked as the No. 1 Internet business franchise by Entrepreneur magazine for nine consecutive years. And in a recession that has many businesses seeing red, WSI is drawing its numbers with a big, black marker: The company expects to award 225 franchises in 2009, an increase of almost 30 percent over both 2007 and 2008 when it awarded 174 and 175 franchises, respectively. Fueling this growth is the rapid shift in focus from traditional advertising media outlets such as TV, radio and print to online marketing. It's not a one-time sale, either, as WSI franchisees build long-term business relationships and become trusted business partners of their clients and afford multiple revenue streams and incremental recurring revenue from such services as web site hosting, visitor traffic monitoring and reporting, consulting fees and Internet marketing campaign management.
"It's all about understanding the power of the relationship," said WSI president Ron McArthur. "Our Internet Marketing Consultants understand that the relationships they build with their clients are the key to their success. It's not about getting into the nitty-gritty of building a web site for a client and never talking to them again."
These relationships - and an unparalleled understanding of the marketing needs of small- and medium-sized businesses around the world, of course - have played an integral role in the demand for WSI's services and the willingness of its franchisees to evolve with the times; those franchisees who do not adapt to the trends and drive value will no longer be a part of the WSI network. Take Doug Schust - a perfect example: Armed with an extensive printing and marketing background, Schust joined the WSI network in 1997 and recognizing how WSI introduced various changes to their model from time to time and kept its franchisees abreast with changing market demands to make them successful, Schust also altered his business to remain on the leading edge and today continues to provide value to his customers and remain successful. This transition has been seamless for him and, as the Internet has evolved, so has his business.
"When I started, people were excited just to have e-mail addresses and basic websites but their needs have certainly changed since then. For any business to withstand the test of time, however, they have to constantly be listening to their clients' needs and finding new ways to accommodate them," said Ontario-based Schust, who works with Fortune 500 companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota, ESPN24 and SONY "Companies that used to advertise strictly in print have realized their advertising dollars are much better spent online in a variety of different arenas ranging from e-mail marketing to social media depending on their individual goals. They turn to WSI because they know we will put their message in front of the right people, drive more value and get them the results they desire."
Like Schust, Francisco Hernandez came to WSI with an understanding of the industry and capitalized on the changing marketplace by changing his Panama-based business from strictly website development into a one-stop shop for clients including Copa Airlines, SONY Ericsson, BMW Latin America, the Panama Tourism Authority, Citibank and MillerCoors. To increase his footprint, Hernandez partnered with digital advertising giant Wunderman in January and has embraced social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter to give his clients greater exposure to new audiences.
"Social media has proved incredibly effective for my clients because it creates a true experience and connects not only the client with their customers but the customers with other customers as well," said Hernandez. "We're even working with several presidential candidates and implementing strategies we learned from observing [President] Obama's use of social media. By bringing these people with shared interests and ideals together across several mediums, we're leveraging the power of communication with the brand."
WSI is not only a leader to its clients but also to its franchisees by consistently educating them through focused webinars and monthly white papers. Ronnie Adelman from Missouri, one of WSI's top-earning franchisees over the past nine years, utilized this training at a recent IFA convention when he spoke to a crowd of over 200 franchisors about the importance of Internet marketing and the increasing shift toward digital initiatives.
"If someone is looking to make a major purchase or investment, the first place they look for information is on the Internet, not their daily paper's classifieds or the Yellow Pages. WSI prominently positions our clients in all relevant searches as well as monitors what is being said about their product across the web," said Adelman. "People put a lot of credibility into what their peers say so we've increased our focus on social media portals to ensure the most factual, beneficial information is available at all times. No one else has feet on the street like WSI does and that's what makes us a very special company and a true industry leader."
McArthur concurs, stating, "Increasingly, the Internet for many businesses is becoming a core part of not just their marketing strategy, but also their entire business strategy. WSI identified the shift from traditional advertising venues to Internet marketing more than two years ago. Now we are eating, sleeping and breathing it as it happens in reality. WSI has always been ahead of the game, but now we are in the middle of a very exciting time."