“We’re trying to bring a much friendlier tone to what we do at Penton,” said David Kieselstein, that company’s CEO, in an opening keynote that worked well to set a customer-focused tone to this week’s inaugural SIIA Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Miami Beach.
“We’re making heavy use of photo galleries and targeting users, giving them exactly what they want.” Penton’s new tagline is “inform engage advance. …You have to understand the habits of your consumers,” he said. “What are they doing at what times of day? Where can we reach you on what device? It’s getting into the rhythm of your user.”
Almost 400 content, data and publishing peers took root in Miami for three days to talk about what will make their companies prosper in this digital and beyond age. Keynotes, sessions, roundtables and networking events spoke to just how much we know about our customers today, and how that should mean better decision-making for our products and services.
Above all, growth stood front and center.
Kieselstein showed a picture of an escalator with a dominant “40%” over it. That represented the Penton employees who are new in the last 3 years—about 1000 people. The escalator spoke to the onboarding process that he said was crucial—”how [do] they all interact with other roles. How do you make the people who are there already feel that the new people aren’t taking over their world?”
He said getting them in was just a quarter of the process—a belief that membership organizations also need to take stock of. “It’s not just getting them but how are we going to make them successful?”
In an excellent Q&A that followed with ABM’s content head, Matt Kinsman, Kieselstein spoke of the benefit of having multiple sectors—Penton has 5—and the wrong—in his mind—idea of limiting a company to just one line of business. “Why not extend it” he asked. “If you have a strong content business, why not extend people one time a year at events? You have to make choices; it’s not easy. But once you’ve gone to all that effort of [establishing a] user relationship, why not play it out?”
In his session on online testing, Matt Bailey, founder of Site Logic,also spoke of the value of onboarding—but with your customers. He found that they weren’t using all the features so Bailey helped to develop an onboarding process to educate them about the value of the product. Incenting those people to do an onboard workbook increased the retention rate from 12% to 46%. He also instituted a quarterly contest to keep them involved. In another instance, he found that the wording on the website didn’t match the perceived benefits of their loyalists. “Give your promoters a simpler message to make word of mouth easier,” he said. “They don’t want all the jargon.”
Bailey wants you involved in thinking in simpler terms about your business. “When we don’t know our narrative—who we are—we present a fractured view to the market,” he said in his social media boot camp. He gave an example of an airport parking company that asks, in a big box on their email, to be followed on Instagram. Yet, when you get there, only 4 followers await and no information. “What good does this do for me? What value is it? I just want a parking spot near the airport.”
‘Now we have a technology that predicts…’
Adam Singolda, founder and CEO of click-here giant Taboola, has played it out to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars worth of business last year. In an enlightening chat with SIIA president Ken Wasch, Singolda said their initial goal was “trying to predict what video people wanted to watch.” Simple. Of course that took about 5 years of building a tech team and then coding, but still it was interesting to hear him put it in that way.
“I was home trying to relax [in his native Israel] one day and couldn’t find anything interesting to watch on TV. I just thought, ‘people shouldn’t look for TV shows; they should look for people…Now we have a technology that can predict what [videos, articles, slide shows] people will want to see next.”
Their monetary formula is pay-per-click, though those clicks have different price points depending on where they come from. Two years ago 7% of their traffic came from mobile. Last year it was 22%; now it’s 40%. Like Kieselstein he spoke about building relationships with customers and the importance of good storytelling.
It was clear where Singolda impacted the audience the most. It happened when he revealed that Taboola now has a way to eliminate a topic—Kim Kardashian was his example—from your web browsing. “If you don’t like that cookie, she will be gone,” he said to applause. “1.3 million people have used that x button. Mark Zuckerberg said he knew Facebook was a success when so many people used the dislike button. So we’re excited people are that involved.”
In Tuesday’s keynote Brent Reilly, president, Randall-Reilly,spoke about his company’s transformation from a b2b publishing company to a b2b, data, meeting and publishing company. “You’re never going to stop transforming.” he said. He added that centralizing their ad sales paid immediate dividends. “Customers had been begging for centralized sales reps.” With fast turnover, customers were getting besieged by too many reps. “It was a step in the right direction that clients appreciated.” Reilly also said that he tells clients to “please let us know when we’re falling short. Call me if you ever feel that someone is pitching you.”
Patricia Arundel, head of media & high tech for Google for Work, spoke about companies gaining competitive advantages using technology. “Media needs to embrace digital” to an even greater extent, she said. “Sixty-four percent of the companies on the Fortune 500 list 10 years ago are no longer there now. Change has been exponential and media needs to adapt to it. [Everyone] needs to embrace change and disruption.”
Google at Work is the new name for Google Enterprise, rebranded to fit in better with the current times. “We want to bring tools to people to make their work easier,” she said, “to come together in ways they haven’t done before. …Digital companies must think differently; they don’t have traditional silos. In collaboration, we need to find people with common aspirations and projects.”
Arundel gave examples of companies that have adapted well to change. Netflix, she said, had a successful model but looked at the market and knew they “needed to disrupt themselves.” It was the age of video streaming and that meant time to change the distribution model. Now they’re creating their own content. “Why not disrupt yourselves?” Arundel asked.
Digital First Media and The Weather Company are two other businesses that Arundel pointed to as doing it right. Digital First revamped their entire organization, giving reporters the tools to record interviews and be at their digital best. Now 50% of their revenues comes from digital.
Lastly, some love should be sent to this year’s SIIA Previews winners. SIIA has been spotlighting the most innovative young companies for many years now, and Newstex president Larry Schwartz has been a big supporter (and hosted the presentation on Monday). Social 3, Flat World Education, LowerFees.com and EduTone Corporation were this year’s finalists with LowerFees winning. As an indication of good things to come for those four, previous Previews finalists include Cranium Softworks, iCopyright, Courtroom Connect, InsideView, Verisma Systems and PublishThis.