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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Customer Engagement Strategy for Independent Publishers in the Digital Age


There are countless scenarios that require Customer Strategy. Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Customer Strategy to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. Let us analyze the following scenario.

Reading time: 10 minutes

Consider this scenario: An independent publishing house is struggling to maintain relevance and profitability in a rapidly evolving digital landscape, with a pressing need for an effective Customer Strategy.

The organization is facing a 20% decline in traditional book sales, exacerbated by a 35% increase in digital content consumption among its target audience over the past two years. Additionally, there is internal resistance to digital transformation, resulting in missed opportunities for digital engagement and revenue generation. The primary strategic objective is to pivot towards a digital-first customer engagement model to increase audience reach, enhance customer loyalty, and open new revenue streams.



This independent publishing house finds itself at a critical juncture, grappling with the dual challenges of declining traditional sales and the digital market's demands. It appears that the core issues stem from an underdeveloped digital presence and an organizational culture resistant to change, which are hindering its ability to adapt to market shifts and consumer behavior changes. The leadership is concerned that without a strategic pivot, the organization might continue to lose its market position to more digitally savvy competitors.

Competitive Market Analysis

The publishing industry is experiencing significant disruption due to the rise of digital media, altering how content is consumed, distributed, and monetized. This shift has intensified competition and fragmented the market, making it challenging for traditional publishers to sustain growth.

Understanding the competitive forces at play reveals:

  • Internal Rivalry: Competition among independent publishers is intensifying, with many players vying for a share of the shrinking traditional market while also attempting to transition to digital platforms.
  • Supplier Power: The power of authors as suppliers has increased, as they now have more platforms and tools to self-publish or switch publishers based on royalty rates and digital capabilities.
  • Buyer Power: Readers have more power than ever, with a plethora of choices ranging from traditional books to e-books, audiobooks, and digital content platforms.
  • Threat of New Entrants: The lower barriers to entry in digital publishing have seen a surge of new competitors, including tech startups and self-publishing platforms.
  • Threat of Substitutes: The proliferation of free digital content and alternative entertainment forms like streaming services poses a significant threat to traditional publishing revenue models.

Emerging trends indicate a continued shift towards digital content consumption, personalized reading experiences, and subscription-based models. This evolution presents both opportunities and risks:

  • Adaptation to digital platforms offers the opportunity to reach a global audience and explore new revenue models like subscriptions and content licensing.
  • Investing in digital marketing and engagement strategies can significantly enhance reader loyalty and brand visibility.
  • However, the risk of further revenue decline is real if the transition to digital is slow or poorly executed, compounded by the threat of new, digitally-native entrants capturing market share.

For effective implementation, take a look at these Customer Strategy best practices:

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Internal Assessment

The organization boasts a rich catalog of literary works and a dedicated reader base but struggles with digital adoption and innovation.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths include a strong brand and a loyal customer base. Opportunities lie in expanding into e-books and digital content, leveraging the brand's reputation. Weaknesses are evident in digital infrastructure and organizational resistance to change. Threats encompass the rapidly changing industry landscape and the rise of digital platforms.

VRIO Analysis

The publisher's brand reputation and content catalog are valuable and rare but not fully utilized in the digital domain, indicating a missed opportunity for competitive advantage. Improvements in digital capabilities could transform these resources into a sustainable competitive edge.

Capability Analysis

Success in the digital age requires expertise in digital content creation, online distribution, and digital marketing. The organization is strong in content creation but needs to significantly enhance its capabilities in digital distribution and marketing to succeed.

Learn more about Competitive Advantage

Strategic Initiatives

Based on the insights gained, the management has decided to pursue the following strategic initiatives over the next 18 months :

  • Digital Transformation and Platform Development: Launch a comprehensive digital platform offering e-books, audiobooks, and interactive content. This initiative aims to modernize the organization's content distribution, improving accessibility and engagement with the digital audience. The value lies in tapping into the growing digital market and opening new revenue streams. This will require investment in technology infrastructure and digital talent.
  • Content Strategy Revamp: Refocus the content strategy to include digital-first publications and explore genres and formats popular among online audiences. The intended impact is to attract a younger demographic and adapt to changing reader preferences. The value creation comes from aligning the content offering with market demand, expected to drive audience growth and retention. Resources needed include market research and content development teams.
  • Customer Engagement and Loyalty Program: Implement a data-driven customer engagement strategy, including personalized recommendations and a loyalty program. The goal is to increase customer lifetime value by enhancing reader satisfaction and loyalty. The source of value comes from deepening relationships with readers and encouraging repeat purchases. This initiative requires technology for data analytics and customer relationship management.

Learn more about Market Research Value Creation Customer Relationship Management

Customer Strategy Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.


What you measure is what you get. Senior executives understand that their organization's measurement system strongly affects the behavior of managers and employees.
     – Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton (creators of the Balanced Scorecard)

  • Digital Platform User Growth: Tracks the increase in registered users on the digital platform, indicating the effectiveness of the platform and content strategy.
  • Content Engagement Metrics: Measures reader interaction with digital content, providing insights into content relevance and quality.
  • Customer Retention Rate: Key indicator of the success of customer engagement and loyalty initiatives.

These KPIs will offer valuable insights into the strategic plan's performance, highlighting areas of success and identifying opportunities for further improvement. Monitoring these metrics closely will ensure the organization remains agile and responsive to market and customer needs.

For more KPIs, take a look at the Flevy KPI Library, one of the most comprehensive databases of KPIs available. Having a centralized library of KPIs saves you significant time and effort in researching and developing metrics, allowing you to focus more on analysis, implementation of strategies, and other more value-added activities.

Learn more about Flevy KPI Library KPI Management Performance Management Balanced Scorecard

Customer Strategy Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Customer Strategy. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Customer Strategy subject matter experts.

Customer Strategy Deliverables

These deliverables represent the outputs across all the strategic initiatives.
  • Digital Transformation Roadmap (PPT)
  • Content Strategy Framework (PPT)
  • Customer Engagement Plan (PPT)
  • Digital Platform Performance Dashboard (Excel)

Explore more Customer Strategy deliverables

Digital Transformation and Platform Development

The team employed the Blue Ocean Strategy framework to guide the development of the digital platform. The Blue Ocean Strategy, formulated by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, is designed to create new market space or "Blue Ocean" that makes the competition irrelevant. This framework was pivotal in identifying untapped digital opportunities that could differentiate the publishing house in the competitive landscape. The process involved:

  • Conducting a market analysis to identify underserved customer segments and unmet needs within the digital publishing space.
  • Developing a value innovation strategy that focused on offering unique digital content formats that were not available from competitors.
  • Implementing a rapid prototyping approach to test and refine digital platform features with real users, ensuring the final product effectively met the identified market gaps.

Additionally, the Lean Startup methodology was applied to streamline the development process of the digital platform. This approach, created by Eric Ries, emphasizes the importance of building a minimum viable product (MVP) and using customer feedback to iteratively improve the product. The implementation steps included:

  • Building an MVP of the digital platform with core functionalities to quickly go to market and gather user feedback.
  • Establishing a feedback loop with early adopters to collect insights on user experience, content preferences, and additional features desired.
  • Iteratively refining the platform based on user feedback, focusing on features and content that delivered the highest value to users.

The implementation of the Blue Ocean Strategy and Lean Startup methodology led to the successful launch of a distinctive digital platform. This platform not only captured a new segment of digital-first readers but also established a competitive advantage by offering unique content formats and a superior user experience. The iterative development approach ensured the platform evolved in alignment with user needs, driving higher engagement and loyalty.

Learn more about User Experience Market Analysis Value Innovation

Content Strategy Revamp

For the content strategy revamp, the team utilized the Content Marketing Framework. This framework, which focuses on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience, was instrumental in redefining the publishing house's approach to digital content. The implementation process included:

  • Identifying target audience personas based on market research to understand their content preferences and consumption habits.
  • Developing a content calendar that aligned with these personas, focusing on topics and formats that were most likely to engage and retain the target audience.
  • Measuring and analyzing content performance regularly to refine the content strategy and ensure it remained aligned with audience needs and preferences.

The Ansoff Matrix was another framework that guided the content strategy revamp. By analyzing market penetration, product development, market development, and diversification strategies, the publishing house could identify new content opportunities and markets. The steps taken were:

  • Evaluating existing content offerings and identifying opportunities for repurposing or expanding content to appeal to new audience segments.
  • Exploring new genres and digital formats that could attract a broader or different audience than the current reader base.
  • Assessing potential new markets for content distribution, including international markets and non-traditional publishing platforms.

The deployment of the Content Marketing Framework and the Ansoff Matrix resulted in a diversified and engaging content strategy that significantly increased reader engagement and market reach. By focusing on content that resonated with the target audience and exploring new content avenues, the publishing house was able to attract a wider audience and foster stronger reader loyalty.

Customer Engagement and Loyalty Program

The Customer Journey Mapping framework was pivotal in designing the customer engagement and loyalty program. This framework, which visualizes the process customers go through to engage with a company, helped in understanding the touchpoints where engagement could be enhanced. The team meticulously:

  • Mapped the customer journey from discovery to purchase and post-purchase, identifying key touchpoints that influenced customer decisions and loyalty.
  • Designed targeted interventions at these touchpoints to improve the customer experience, such as personalized content recommendations and exclusive loyalty rewards.
  • Implemented feedback mechanisms at various stages of the customer journey to gather insights and continuously improve the engagement strategy.

Furthermore, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology was utilized to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction. This single-question survey provided a clear metric to gauge the effectiveness of the engagement and loyalty initiatives. The process included:

  • Regularly surveying customers using the NPS question to assess their likelihood of recommending the digital platform to others.
  • Analyzing NPS results to identify areas for improvement in customer experience and engagement.
  • Implementing changes based on feedback and measuring the impact on NPS scores over time to ensure continuous improvement in customer satisfaction.

The implementation of Customer Journey Mapping and the NPS methodology significantly enhanced the customer engagement and loyalty program. By understanding and improving key touchpoints in the customer journey, the publishing house was able to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. The NPS scores provided a clear metric to track the success of these initiatives, showing a marked improvement in customer advocacy and retention.

Learn more about Customer Experience Continuous Improvement Customer Loyalty

Additional Resources Relevant to Customer Strategy

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Launched a distinctive digital platform capturing a new segment of digital-first readers, establishing a competitive advantage with unique content formats.
  • Diversified content strategy increased reader engagement and market reach, attracting a wider audience and fostering stronger reader loyalty.
  • Implemented targeted interventions at key customer journey touchpoints, significantly enhancing customer experience and loyalty.
  • NPS scores showed marked improvement in customer advocacy and retention, indicating successful customer engagement and loyalty initiatives.
  • Iterative refinement of the digital platform based on user feedback ensured alignment with user needs, driving higher engagement.

The strategic initiatives undertaken by the publishing house have yielded significant results, demonstrating the effectiveness of a comprehensive digital transformation strategy. The launch of a unique digital platform has not only allowed the company to tap into the growing digital market but has also established a competitive edge by offering content formats not available from competitors. This, coupled with a diversified content strategy, has successfully attracted a wider audience and enhanced reader loyalty. The implementation of customer engagement and loyalty programs, informed by Customer Journey Mapping and NPS methodology, has significantly improved customer satisfaction and retention. However, the results were not without challenges. The initial resistance to digital transformation within the organization underscores the importance of managing change effectively. Additionally, while the iterative development approach of the digital platform has been beneficial, it suggests that initial offerings might not have fully met market needs or expectations, highlighting the importance of ongoing market and user feedback analysis.

For next steps, it is recommended that the publishing house continues to refine its digital offerings based on user feedback and market trends. Expanding the digital platform's features and content offerings to include emerging technologies such as AR/VR could further differentiate the company in the market. Additionally, investing in change management and digital literacy programs for employees could mitigate resistance to future digital initiatives. Finally, exploring partnerships with educational institutions and content creators could open new revenue streams and further expand the audience reach.

Source: Customer Engagement Strategy for Independent Publishers in the Digital Age, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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