New Revenue Ideas Align Well With SIPA 2014 Sessions

Here are 4 successful ideas I’ve come across lately.

1. Humor and video. “Hi, I’m Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France,” says Armstrong in a new Outside video, echoing the words we see on the screen. Then we hear a ding and an asterisk pops up after “Tour de France.” “Hey, I didn’t write the script,” he says. The video has him showing us how to fix a flat so he’s dressed like a bike mechanic. He finishes the relatively easy job and says with a little frustration, “Broke a sweat doing that.” Very clever.

The takeaway. Video can move mountains, or at least cyclists who had help getting up them. This would not have worked in any other medium. Also, humor is tough but when you can pull it off, the rewards are ample. Check out the session Leveraging Video at the SIPA 2014 Conference.

2. Sponsorships. The Chattanooga Times Free Press brought McDonald’s on board as a sponsor through their Kid’s Expo, and that “opened up other doors to new marketing budget revenue from McDonald’s,” according to an article on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. The Expo proved so successful that the paper launched a new kids magazine, with a 45,000 monthly press run, leveraging new readership and advertisers. Another side benefit Chattanooga is learning: “strengthen underperforming audiences.”

The takeaway. Be open and flexible for sponsorships. Mike Grebb of CableFax told me that they will accept a sponsorship for a special section or report—and even a suggestion from that sponsor for the topic—as long as that sponsor has no say in editorial. Donna Jefferson of Jefferson Communications and Cindy Mironovich of Family Magazine will present Finding and Expanding Your Ad and Sponsorships Program at SIPA 2014.

3. Free to build paid. Digiday recently reported on The New Yorker magazine’s strategy to sell more print subscriptions by bringing more people to the website. Said editor Nicholas Thompson: “What makes us money is taking someone who’s never read The New Yorker, showing them what it is, and convincing them that it’s such a great thing that they have to subscribe and read everything” The site now features the “Daily Cartoon,” a fun blog called “Page-Turner,” a more serious “Daily Comment” by a top staff writer, and a business column called “Currency.” The strategy has worked. “Unique visitors to averaged 3 million in 2013, thanks in large part to the site’s increased metabolism.”

The takeaway. Free content can lead to increased sales if it’s good and timely. Test with original snippets—on a daily basis—of what you do best. Season Crawford of Modern Markets Intelligence told me that their free strategy—informative headlines and well-written opening sentences leading to a paywall—has been quite successful. SIPA 2014 has a great speaker for From Free to Paid and Everything in Between: Helmut Graf, CEO of one of Germany’s largest publishing companies.

4. Data and digital. Rafat Ali, founder of Paid Content and more recently SIIA member Skift—a pioneering site for travel industry news—was recently featured in the popular Reflections of a Newsosaur blog. At SIIA’s Breakthrough, he showed his propensity to think big. By not using industry jargon, they “can syndicate for larger audiences” and speak “in a larger voice.” He spoke of new “mega trends” that have helped guide Skift. One is the blurring of our personal and professional lives. Ali called it the rise of “bleasure” travel—adding time to a business trip. A second is millennials being raised on open web services. They are demanding better usability for their business travel. And a third is the rise of the “prosumer” or “fan boy,” consumers who come to a vertical quite well-informed. “We speak to them in the lingo they know,” he said.

The takaeaway: Think 2014 and beyond. Skift has a data product they sell for $99 a month called SkiftIQ. They grade travel companies on their social marketing. They publish two premium research reports each month in a $99 package. And they sell high-CPM advertising. Two great data sessions are set for SIPA 2014—Informing Decisions With Data and Strategies to Grow Your Data Business.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009

New Member Spotlight:

The diversity of SIIA’s members reflects the diverse nature of the industry. As new members join, a company profile is an excellent way of of introducing and giving potential candidates more information about their company. In January of this year, joined SIIA as a member and Founder, Mike Kratz, provided us with a look into the company.

Tell me about your company, what you do? is a privately held technology and information company that targets service provider costs for consumer services. Lowerfees provides cost analysis and comparative shopping around many components of localized consumer services.

Our database system and products operate as an end-to-end B2B2C marketplace for localized consumer related services. The approximately 30 different service types or categories within the Lowerfees platform include accounting, dry cleaning, senior care, veterinarians, real estate, hair salons, storage, electricians, plumbing, moving companies, etc. Our goal is to provide consumers with the most accurate cost data information for localized services within their local neighborhood service area.

Who does your company sell to?

LowerFees uses its technology to help consumers gain control of local pricing and data for consumer services. Lowerfees has a series of web-based analytic and information tools. These tools help consumers  identify specific, appropriate local service providers in order to compare the fees and pricing in their local marketplace. In addition to its database, Lowerfees provides:

1) A web portal designed to allow consumers to search the database for service providers of various types within a specific zip code based on distance and price.

2) Lead-generation tools allowing service providers to identify and contact prospective consumers wanting specific services in both the Lowerfees lead forum and the “Name Your Fees” tool.

3) Highly targeted web-advertising tools that allow service providers to place themselves in front of prospective consumers. Featured member ads that can be based upon geo-targeting or specific services offered.

What is unique about what you do?

Lowerfees has a robust proprietary database of local service providers. These service providers provide their individual pricing for specific services allowing consumers to shop and compare. This allows consumers to make smarter financial decisions. Lowerfees understands that reviews and star ratings are important but Lowerfees strongly believes consumers ultimately want to know price. The aspect of providing a cost lowest to highest based upon distance or geo-targeting is what differentiates Lowerfees.

Tell me about some unique challenges you have in your business and how you go about solving them.

One of the main challenges to our business is maintaining accurate and pertinent data. The small to medium size business represents a large portion of the economy. Lowerfees provides a solution for those businesses to grow and expand their market share. Our services help get in front of their local customers through the Lowerfees database. Maintaining and updating our database is a key factor to overcoming any obstacles that Lowerfees may encounter.

Any new or recent news you would like to announce?

We will be announcing some upcoming national media reports and interviews about the company and the data we provide. Lowerfees will be comparing the cost for consumer services for California and New York that will provide some unique data metrics.   I will provide those dates and media outlets once they are finalized.

What do you hope to get out of your SIIA membership?

SIIA has been very good for me. I was able to participate and present Lowerfees in 2007 and the company was acquired shortly after presenting to SIIA members and companies attending the 2007 conference. I use SIIA as a great resource for myself. SIIA affords entrepreneur’s a great opportunity and resource to get their company’s launched and exposed to multiple industries and recognizable strategic partners. SIIA provides amazing tools and information to assist anyone in an array of industries.

One thing the industry doesn’t know about you?

I try to do my part in making the world a better place. Entrepreneurs can always provide a positive impact.

Company URL?

Ways to contact you?

Iyana Moore is the Marketing and Membership Content Intern at SIIA. She is a recent graduate of Stevenson University, where she studied Business Communication.

How The Intimacy of Social Has Changed the Marketing Game

I reach my 30ish nephew Glen, a PR pro, by texting. So I texted Irma, a friend a little older. She didn’t like that. (Note to self, Irma email only.) Former work colleagues John and Michelle post on Facebook, so I tried them there. But then I became part of conversations on airport food in Atlanta and a cat funeral and now get alerted when someone new chimes in. Twitter expert Nora responds best to LinkedIn. My graphics-friend Jim prefers the phone. Now that’s weird—I mean just the two of us, no conferencing—no little beeps announcing someone has joined or left. Who does that anymore?

Greg Krehbiel from Kiplinger called it digital fragmentation on the Listserv last week. His solution? The Social-matic. “Enter your message once, and the Social-matic will convert it to the proper form, format, etiquette and color, add graphics, typos and urban legends as necessary, to fit every social media option,” he wrote. “…It’s not enough to have contact information for people. You have to know where they’re active. It’s a level of segmentation that is becoming impossible to manage.”

I did run this by a digitally-hip friend last weekend—in person—and she said, “Oh, that’s hootsuite.” That does seem to be the case for, say, a blog post. Automate in hootsuite and it will automatically post the blog to your different social media accounts. That led me to an impressive blog post by Ryan Holmes, hootsuite CEO, about marketing automation, which some of this fragmentation clearly calls out for.

Answering his own question on why marketing automation has become hot now, he writes, “Social media ushered in a new era of intimate, personalized marketing. Not surprisingly, consumers have grown less receptive to traditional ‘spray and pray’ mass marketing approaches. (Case in point: When 61,000 people were surveyed earlier this year by Forrester, fewer than a quarter said they trust email from companies.)

“To this end, the latest generation of marketing automation software is finding creative ways to bridge the gap: applying the intimacy, personalization and insights gained from social media on a mass scale.”

So really, the idea is to reach Glen, Irma, Nora and Jim—okay, maybe not Jim and his phone hang-up—the way they want to be reached. One message translated into 17 or so platforms. What’s impressive about Holmes’ post is that he doesn’t push hootsuite. He just includes it among the companies buying further into this market. They bought uberVU, IBM got Silverpop, Salesforce bought ExactTarget, Oracle got Eloqua and so on.

So what does this mean at the small-business level? Forrester reports that the information people trust the most is what’s on your website (32%) and in search engine results (30%). (The exact figure for email from companies is 20%.) That would make SEO, marketing automation and choosing the right technology vendors all very important subjects. (Guess what three of the sessions at SIPA 2014 are about?)

“Doing social media right requires time and personnel to understand audience, assess who the true influencers are, execute complex campaigns across multiple platforms, know where to allocate resources and–in short–treat individuals like individuals,” writes Holmes. That’s not a surprise considering my opening opus. But at least there are affordable programs like hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Seesmic and SocialOomph that can help. (The name “Socialmatic” has been claimed by Polaroid for an instant digital camera. Sorry.)

Greg’s right though about the importance and difficulty of reaching out on your customer’s terms/turf. Again, here’s Holmes: “Companies that find ways to integrate social media and marketing automation effectively will be able to reach more customers and strengthen ties with existing ones in the years ahead. Companies that fail to do so risk being left behind as ‘mass’ marketing takes its place on history’s scrap heap.”

Well-put but I need to get back to deleting those Atlanta airport food and cat funeral alerts. Things are not nearly as pretty-sounding in real-time.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009

SIPA 2014 Speakers Offer Tips and Preview June Sessions

The beauty of conferences – like SIPA 2014, Strategies for Growth, June 4-6 here in Washington, D.C. – is that you hear from experts who have seen both sides and emerged better from it. They’ve done the hard work, perhaps changed, perhaps came back to an idea; now it’s our privilege to hear what worked. Take a look at the schedule posted online. Meanwhile, here are 3 sessions and 1 keynote where the speakers offer a tip and a preview:

Lead Generation: The Art and Science of Finding, Nurturing and Selling to New NamesRobin Crumby (pictured), founder and director of Melcrum, will lead this session. Direct online marketing channels work well for subscriptions up to a certain amount, but for higher B2B subs, the role of online marketing shifts to lead generation.
His tip: Crumby uses web content, SEO, pay per click and social to create a large pool of prospects, then captures emails via webinars, e-letters and report downloads. Then those who complete a form are followed up by sales people. Analytics will allow you to track back to see which traffic-driving activities ultimately deliver quality leads. It helps to provide prospects with documents to help them convince the boss. On the corporate level, sell to your champions; find out what they need to convince others.

New Rules for Product Development and Time to Market – Consultant Molly Lindblom (pictured) delivered an excellent webinar for us last year on Lean Start-up, and David Foster, CEO of BVR, delivered an equally actionable webinar on growing new products. Their teaming up makes it highly anticipated.
Her tip: Asked about concern for competition and giving away ideas (through Lean Start-up), Lindblom replied: “The goal is to learn about your customers. Your competition is just as smart, so the key here is speed. This is a quick way to vet your ideas so you can get [a new product] to market earlier.”
His tip: “The sales and marketing resources needed to succeed should be clear, identifiable and sensible to an objective outsider,” Foster said. “i.e. ‘We’ll just give these 1000 leads to our best sales person and they can add them to their daily call list’ is not a successful strategy.”
(Members can check here for the audio of those webinars.)

Pricing Strategies to Increase RevenueChristine Durman, partner, Abbey Road Associates, will discuss how to maximize your revenue by thinking differently about your customer’s value drivers, and your price positioning.
Her tip: “Sometimes, you need to change the conversation. [On one particular product], the problem wasn’t that the price was too high, it was that the product was too bloated—too much packaging. The key thing here is don’t jump straight to your pricing; think about your presentation, your packaging, your structure. Thinking through those elements will give you more confidence in your pricing.”

From Print to Provider: The Nexzuspub and Home Depot Story – Keynote speaker Andrew Waite, president and publisher, NEXZUS Publishing Group, will share his story of how he partnered with Home Depot to create a fully integrated app for the contracting industry that is delivering double digit returns for his business as well as for his partners.
His tip (from an interview on “What you find with technology…most people are brought up in just one niche. When you say to them, and this is what happened at Home Depot, ‘Okay, we want you to interface with the mainframe which, oh by the way, is running on a 30 year old BMS, A.G. Edwards technology or databases.’ They go, ‘We don’t do that. We don’t understand it.’ …what we’ve found is that there’s a huge opportunity for going back into system integration. That’s what we’re doing with some of this mobile technology. If you’re a national account for Home Depot, like Homevestors is, you’ve got those technologies coming to you at no charge because they want to capture the revenue.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009

‘Usage Scorecard’ Helps Member Increase Renewal Rates

SIPA member Chartwell calls theirs a “usage scorecard.” For now, we’re calling ours here at SIPA a “member activity project.” It’s a chart that you create to track your subscribers’/members’ engagement with everything you do. And the tracking should start as soon as a member company joins or renews, not a month before they expire.

Like Chartwell, many publishers are going the membership route to build stronger relationships—a la trade associations—and to increase revenue. The catch is that your “members” will expect a bit more from you this way. Subscribers are okay hearing from you once in a while. Members want more.

Nancy Brand, Chartwell’s director of operations, led a standing-room-only session at last year’s SIPA Conference titled Selling Website Subscriptions. That was so well-received that she’s coming back for SIPA 2014, in Washington, D.C., June 4-6, to co-present Onboarding and Retention: Find Them, Keep Them, Make Them Love You! Presenting with her will be Torry Burdick, vice president, Vantage Production, LLC, a UCG company.

“Once a membership sale is closed, we work with the gatekeeper of that company to schedule a new member orientation within 1 or 2 weeks,” Brand said. The goal is to get as many of the employees at the member company involved from the start—in Chartwell’s case, we’re talking utilities. “We’ll solicit research questions in advance and incorporate them into a general industry trends overview delivered during orientation. The attendees are introduced to the research team at this time.”

As the year goes on, Chartwell will “reach out to them with industry survey requests and speaking spots for conferences and webinars. We’ll even offer to register the gatekeeper for all [60] webinars,” said Brand. “The key is to try to make it as seamless as possible for them. There’s a better chance of renewal if we engage members in these events.”

On a quarterly basis, the account managers review member participation in webinars, meetings, awards, conferences and other features Chartwell offers like Ask the Analyst. Quarterly usage reports are then sent to those gatekeepers—scorecards with an overview of attendance and listings of website users. “Internally, it lets us know not only who is using the membership, but also who isn’t that should be,” Brand said. “If usage is low, that sends up a red flag.”

They’ll then ask that the gatekeepers send a message internally as a reminder of the services they receive and encouraging employees to participate in addition to other measures that Brand will discuss more at the June 6 session. “Most of the time, gatekeepers are very responsive,” she added, insisting that your company encourage others to participate in events and leverage other facets of the membership.

“If the main person leaves, you don’t want to be left without a champion,” Brand said. Chartwell averages 16-times more contacts per member account than non-member accounts. They collect about 130 new contacts a month.

SIPA’s member activity chart lists categories such as conferences, webinars, awards entry and judging, publishers roundtables, Listserv, INFO locals, committee participation and events within other divisions at SIIA. “The idea is to identify those members who are not engaged with us, as they are a much greater risk of not renewing their membership,” said Luis Hernandez, SIPA’s vice president. “This way we can reach out to them during their membership year, not at the end of it.”

Chartwell has seen renewal rates above 90% since adopting their strategy. Philip Dunklin, the president, recalled the old days of selling newsletters and one-off reports. “We would have a hit once and then the next one would not be so good—like the movie studios.”

They also consider it a company-wide effort to build their contacts. “We have 25 key topic areas and should have a contact for each area,” Brand said. “It’s a collective effort for everyone to grow this database. It might be speakers you see presenting or cards that you acquire networking at other events. It’s everyone’s responsibility.”

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

This Type of Engagement Takes More Than a Ring

“Why don’t you post it on Facebook?” a member asked me yesterday when I cited an idea she hadn’t seen from Monday’s column—creating a LinkedIn group from a webinar series. “I just get bombarded with emails and sometimes don’t pay attention.”

I probably should. Or at least post a link there. If one member likes Facebook then a few others do as well. There just isn’t a one-size-fits-all anymore, which means more work for the publisher. But we write so people will read, so friend, tweet and link we must. Here are four other tested email paths to better engagement.

Be “social” to support email. I just saw this in a blog post from Moosa Hemani on SE talks: “If you are looking for a better [email] response rate, it is important to get connected with your recipient on social media platforms. Send an email and then confirm them via social media accounts. (Twitter is best in that case.)” They say that’s preferable to a follow-up email, which makes sense. The member I referred to above researched her subscribers to see their social platform of choice, so that she could best reach out to them. One other interesting idea Hemani floated. Because Tuesday and Thursday have the most email volume, “if you have a catchy email with something different, it is worth trying Monday or Friday!”

The 5 subject line formats to test. From a Real Magnet blog post…For your subject lines, a great way to find the winning formula is to simply test different options. Try alternative formulas to see which subject lines garner the most engagement:
1. Try testing the “Reason Why” Subject line: “5 Reasons Why You Should A/B Test Your Marketing Messages.”
2. Or the “Personalization” Subject line: “Jane, Improve Your Open Rates with this Simple Trick”
3. Try the “Benefit” Subject line: “Garner More Opens and Clicks by A/B Testing Your Marketing Messages.”
4. Or the “Question” Subject line: “Wondering How to Improve Your Open and Click-Through Rates?”
5. There’s always the “How To” Subject line: “How To Improve the Open and Click Through Rates for Your Marketing Messages.”

Email on nights and weekends. According to an Experian study posted by eMarketer, email sent between 8 pm and midnight receive the best open, click-through and revenue-per-email rates. Saturday and Sunday emails also do well. Of course, the volume of emails sent at night and on weekends is much less. If you’re not doing it already, it’s something to try. It makes sense. Going through emails is a good way to ease into the day. Similarly on Mondays, it’s usually not too overwhelming to go through weekend business email. Conversely, checking email after lunch can be daunting. Also when you look at your Outlook folder, Saturday and Sunday email stand out because of their relative paucity.

“Click Here” is best conversion button. Dan Zarrella from HubSpot did research on click buttons for conversion rates. He found that Click Here worked 32% best, followed by Go (24%), Submit (20%), Download (15%) and Register (9%). In a parallel study, he found that Calls to Action did better without the word “Submit” than with.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

SIPA 2014 Speakers Offer Diverse Areas of Knowledge

The SIPA 2014 session schedule highlights prominent speakers who work for or have started innovative companies. Here is key information from 5 of those speakers/companies and the topic they will address June 4-6 in Washington, D.C.

1. On the excellent Newstex blog a couple days ago, Susan Gunelius wrote about comScore research that analyzed the top eight social media platforms in the U.S. Only two are accessed more on the desktop than mobile devices:
LinkedIn: 74% desktop vs. 26% mobile
Tumblr: 54% desktop vs. 46% mobile
Facebook: 32% desktop vs. 68% mobile
Twitter: 14% desktop vs. 86% mobile
Pinterest: 8% desktop vs. 92% mobile
Instagram: 2% desktop vs. 98% mobile
Vine: 1% desktop vs. 99% mobile
Snapchat: 0% desktop vs. 100% mobile
Larry Schwartz, president of Newstex, will speak at SIPA 2014 on licensing and distributing content.

2. Season Crawford, associate publisher and vice president of marketing for Modern Markets Intelligence, spoke to me today on a range of subjects. Here is her take on managing remotely for a small company. “What makes it work for us is having the right technology to communicate with each other—Google Sites, Google Hangouts, Basecamp—and having immediate access to one another. Even though we don’t see each other all day, we are comfortable communicating 9-5 and even outside of that when necessary. Also important is that everybody knows their role and what’s expected from them. To make it clear we have policies and procedures on our Google site. If there’s a new idea about the way things should run, then that is added. So it evolves. Another really important element—and I’m still learning on this—is communicating clearly and concisely, always taking into consideration the technology you’re using. If there’s a problem, I jump on the phone. It helps to hear the inflection in your voice.”
Crawford will speak on managing remotely at SIPA 2014.

3. Pro Farmer marketing director Joe May mentioned something to me last year that made an impact, farmers on tablets. “We use email quite extensively, tying it together with the call center, which is a big driver for sales. As for the time to send, we look at analytics and know our opens spike from 6 -7:30 in the morning, lunch, and then early evening. We’ve also found more and more farmers using tablets, taking their iPads with them on their tractors and combines, as our tablet web traffic has grown exponentially this year.”
May will speak on mobile strategies at the SIPA 2014 Conference.

4. When I first talked to Robin Crumby a few years ago, he presented two concepts that helped him succeed: “First, keep it simple: Information businesses get complicated very quickly, so stick to the formats that work best. Second, squeeze the lemon: It is always tempting to diversify into other topic areas, but focusing on your core market yields the best returns.”
Crumby, managing director of Melcrum, will give a session at SIPA 2014 on lead generation.

5. On the infocommerce blog recently, Russell Perkins wrote eloquently about good enough and very good data. “There still seems to be a large and active value segment of the market, those who will be happy with “good enough” data in exchange for a reasonable price. At the same time, there are customers who will pay remarkably high prices for data they can depend on, because it’s driving some critical business activity. And to the extent you differentiate your data through your user interface and data manipulation tools, you can often define still another market that wants to powerfully interact with your data. My take-away is that the data business is increasingly not about winners and losers. Multiple companies with largely similar data can exist and succeed by having differing price points, levels of coverage and degrees of accuracy. The front-end you provide to your data can be customized to appeal to specific market segments as well.”
Perkins, founder and managing director of infocommerce, will speak on your data business at SIPA 2014.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline