SIPAlert Daily – Are you giving time its proper due?

 “Regret for wasted time is more wasted time.”
—Mason Cooley

Do you know what your customers value? From a Stanford Graduate School of Business study a few years ago…

Three signs for a lemonade stand, each displayed at different times:
—”Spend a little time and enjoy C&D’s lemonade”
—”Spend a little money, and enjoy C&D’s lemonade”
—”Enjoy C&D’s lemonade”

Customers were told they could pay between $1 and $3 for a cup of lemonade; the exact amount was up to them. After they made their purchase, they were surveyed to determine their attitude toward the lemonade. Which won? The sign stressing time attracted twice as many passersby—who were willing to pay almost twice as much—than when the money sign was displayed.

“Because a person’s experience with a product tends to foster feelings of personal connection with it, referring to time typically leads to more favorable attitudes—and to more purchases,” a professor said at the time.

Even when people who attended a free concert were asked about the low cost of their day versus the time spent, “asking specifically about time increased participants’ favorable attitudes toward the concert.” Even more strikingly, those who stood in line longer—who actually incurred a higher cost in terms of time spent—rated their satisfaction with the concert higher.

We value our time. And yes, if I’m involved in something, or using a product, that I believe is a good use of my time, it makes me quite happy. It validates the decision I made to do that activity or buy that subscription, webinar or ticket. “Marketers have a lot to learn about how they can positively influence the ways that their products improve the lives and happiness of their customers,” the architect of the Stanford study said. Even the now-common phrase—“getting in the workflow of your customers”—means that you are fitting in the timing of their day.

So how should this translate to publishers’ marketing efforts? It would appear that focusing on saving people time might be just as valuable as saving—or making—them money. Just this morning, I saw “1-Minute Strategies” on the Business Management Daily site, so I’m not breaking new ground. It’s just one more thing to keep in mind.

BUT TO UNDERSTAND what they value, you’d better know who your customers are. I read a column last week by Andrew Beyer, longtime horse racing columnist for The Washington Post. He wrote about Christopher Kay, the new head of the New York Racing Association who is determined to “provide [horseplayers] an enhanced guest experience.” (Attendance is way down.) Previously, he was COO for Toys ‘R’ Us and an exec at Universal Parks and Resorts, “two businesses in which taking care of customers is paramount,” wrote Beyer.

The problem with Kay’s plan? Bettors don’t come to the track anymore—only 7.6% of the money bet at Belmont this fall has come from on-site attendance. Yet the money being bet is far more than when crowds were big. People are betting from home where “they don’t have to pay for admissions, parking or overpriced food” and “they don’t have to take a slow-moving train to Belmont Park or crawl along the Capital Beltway to Laurel Park.” Even bettors want to save time.

“Does it make sense to obsess about taking proper care of on-track customers while taking for granted the other 92.4%?” Beyer wrote. “Tracks should focus on improving their websites” and “look for ways to communicate important information.”

Who are your paying customers and are your marketing efforts designed to make them feel at home or are you too worried about those who are just browsing?

One other question from that Stanford study measured iPod use. Again what do you think drew a more favorable response?

—”How much time do you spend on it or how much money did you spend on it?

Of course, time. If the content of what we are buying is satisfying and helpful, then we consider it time well-spent. Think about that in your next sales pitch.

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 a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

SIPAlert Daily – The importance of talking meaningfully with your customers

To create new norms, you have to understand people’s existing norms and barriers to change. You have to understand what’s getting in their way.

Atul Gawande in his July 29 New Yorker magazine article on innovation

Last week I spoke with Joe May, the marketing director for SIPA member Pro Farmer. They are currently in the middle of their biggest week of the year: Crop Tour. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters all cover it. He told me that more and more farmers are using mobile devices, and that tablets are “exploding” for his audience. “The commercials you see probably don’t show that,” he said. iPads on a tractor? Who knew?

Pro Farmer does. They are helping to create new norms for farmers by talking to them, meeting with them and understanding their situations. Out of that understanding comes:

• Pro Farmer Text Quotes sent three times daily to cell phones;

• voice alerts with market advice and breaking news;

• Pro Farmer Today, seven profit-building reports, easy to read on any device; and

• an audio Monday Morning wake up call.

In the first webinar of SIIA’s new Mobile Essentials series held last week, Andy Swindler, president of Astek Consulting, presented a case study they did for SIPA member EB Medicine. (If you are a member and missed this, let us know and we will send you the link. It was an amazing session.) The goals were to get in touch with EB Medicine’s readers, understand what the true value proposition of mobile would be for them, and finally separate the mobile buzz from reader reality.

“Overall, they showed good growth in mobile traffic,” Swindler said. But he questioned if that was enough to justify a huge financial outlay. “Don’t let fear guide a critical decision. Anecdotes, buzz, a couple survey responses, is that enough to say this is a direction? They had done quantitative research.” But Swindler decided that they needed some qualitative research as well.

Astek spoke in-depth with five emergency room physicians—the EB Medicine audience—to truly understand what they needed, “rather than just get answers to survey questions.” They wanted to know “how they think, how they are using this technology. How are they using their iPhone in the emergency room? Would they look up some medical fact? Would a quick reference guide help them do their jobs better?”

The findings were critical in guiding EB Medicine’s next steps. It made them think about their content differently. It helped them understand that they had more than one kind of reader. “It’s not enough to just say this is our readers,” Swindler said. “We needed a deeper understanding of that core value of EB Medicine.”

In the article that Gawande wrote for The New Yorker, he tried to figure out why certain worthwhile innovations don’t spread, and how they can be spread. He quotes the scholar Everett Rogers: “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation.” And his “talking” does not mean through social media.

The Pro Farmer Crop Tour is basically about touching the people with information. More than 100 volunteer crop scouts are going out every day this week to take corn and soybean measurements with reports given each night in meetings across the Midwest. Can you imagine how much Pro Farmer gains from a week like this? They are gathering key information and meeting many of their members—their word, not mine. “This is followed closely by the farmers we serve,” May said. “…There’s a video crew embedded in the tour and it blew up on Twitter.” (Pro Farmer actually has a video studio in their Cedar Falls, Iowa, offices.)

Gawande tells a story that he says “salespeople understand well.” He asked a pharmaceutical rep how he persuaded typically stubborn doctors to “adopt a new medicine. Evidence is not remotely enough, [the rep] said, however strong a case you may have. You must also apply ‘the seven rules of touches.’ Personally ‘touch’ the doctors seven times, and they will come to know you; if they know you, they might trust you; and, if they trust you, they will change.”

It’s hard for publishers to touch all of their customers in the way that this pharmaceutical rep started stocking doctors’ closets with free samples and then asking how their daughter’s soccer game went. But you can duplicate that human interaction in other meaningful ways, either through live events, in-depth interviews or maybe some kind of Twitter Chat or webinar Q&A.

Regardless, publishers, like any other business, need to reach out to their own markets in a meaningful way before making the big decisions that affect the bottom line.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, create or update your SIIA User profile and select “SIPA interest.”


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 a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

SIPAlert Daily-Think differently to attract younger customers

We keep some of our print products so we don’t lose that old line of customers. That makes sense; we live long lives now. But that also costs money. Are we spending that same kind of money or making the needed effort to attract and sell to young people?

Some entities are trying and succeeding in bringing Millennials into their respective fold. But it won’t happen magically. Last night I attended a $2 Tuesday showing of Star Trek at the Cinema & Drafthouse in Arlington, Va. The idea is to get people in the door, and then they will spend money on food and drinks. It’s working—waitresses were flying by me all night. Then the Washington Post reported this week that Forum Theater Company in Silver Spring, Md., will allow patrons to set their own price for a set number of tickets at all shows. The article also said that a theater company in Minneapolis tried this two years ago—they called it “Radical Hospitality”—giving away 100 tickets and selling 100 at $20 each. The company has broken even and reports that 60% of the “Hospitality” patrons are under 30.

All three of these entities are making the effort to attract young people, the hope being that they will spend later, or—perhaps just as importantly—spread the good word on social media. If a 28 year-old enjoys a play—or let’s say a webinar, one-day conference or ezine—the odds are pretty high he or she will be announcing satisfaction via social media.

There was a good article in Inc. a short time ago by Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of Hubspot. He focused more on attracting and retaining Millennials on your staff—also very important—rather than selling to them. Although I do believe lessons can be learned for both.

While we stayed at a company for a few years and hoped to work our way up—indeed my initial job spans consisted of 6, 7 and 12 years—Millennials work “diligently in hopes of learning as much as possible and moving on to the next challenging project,” Halligan wrote. “They typically stay at a company for 1.5 years. If they had a collective psychological condition, it would be ADD.”

What to do? “Lean into the ADD by creating formal rotation programs, innovative leading-edge training programs like the one at Zappos, and work environments that leverage social media interactions instead of discouraging them, and you’ll see these Millennials become just as loyal as we were ‘back in the day.’” He also wrote that young people have different goals now. “They want to transform a broken industry, save the planet, feed the starving, etc.” What to do? “If your mission this year is to improve earnings by 5% by either gouging your customers or gouging the planet, that’s just not going to get it done with the Millennials. Think again.”

I disagree with the word “gouging,” but his point does resonate. There has to be an acknowledgement on your end that Millennials may be looking for different information. Is there a global-warming, hybrid-car or eat-green slant to your niche that you can cover in some way? To just say, “I’m going to do what I’ve always done” and think you can attract a group of people raised in such a different world is, at best, short-sighted.

That brings us to mobile delivery, so important in this equation. Tomorrow’s don’t-miss webinar, Mobile Essentials, Making the Business Case, begins a six-part series on The Guide to Creating a Mobile Business. It is a joint venture between SIPA, SIIA’s Content Division and American Business Media. The speakers are highly experienced in mobile: Jeffrey S. Litvack, senior vice president & chief digital officer, ALM, Andy Swindler, president of Astek, and Greg Krehbiel, director of marketing operations for Kiplinger.

If you are a member of one of these groups, the webinars are free for you and your staff. We think it’s that important. You should know how to best deliver your content to smartphones and tablets. It’s almost as if you will be learning a new language. And while that does not come easy, it can be very worthwhile.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, create or update your SIIA User profile and select “SIPA interest.”


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 a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

Why bad news is good

Written by Frank Catalano, Principal, Intrinsic Strategy
Submitted by Intrinsic Strategy

It’s inevitable that, during the slow crawl up through economic recovery, companies will have good patches and bad patches. What they shouldn’t do is succumb to the natural corporate temptation to share only good news.

This might seem counter intuitive to traditionalists: Share bad news with customers? But that will hurt our image, our customers’ trust in us and maybe our business. But what these traditionalists forget is we live in a century with customers who both distrust typical marketing messages … and aren’t afraid to use Twitter.

I think of this as my fifth and final myth of marketing coming out of a downturn: Communicate only good news. And it’s one I discussed with The Bellevue CollectionMerchants last month.

Let’s be realistic, for two reasons. First: As firms get back on their feet there will be missteps. Customers know this, and expect more transparency. People expect to hear bad news when coming out of bad times, especially if they know an individual industry sector has been troubled. If all they hear instead is happy-fluffy-bunny marketing speak, they will either be suspicious and wonder what you’re hiding, or they may wonder if you’re clueless about the true state of affairs. That’s not a good either-or to be in the middle of.

Second: Twitter, blogs and online discussion boards make it impossible to control or “manage” bad news in the old mass media sense when it comes to developments that affect large numbers of customers directly. Once it’s out there, it’s out there — and it spreads fast. It’s better to be slightly ahead of it than sweeping up from behind.

Read the rest at: Intrinsic Strategy