Small-Group Customer Feedback Can Pay Off in Big Way

John Edeson, product manager for Dow Jones (Factiva) in London, runs focus groups of users to ensure that the enhancements they make to their programs are customer-driven. “That makes it special for us,” he said.

Jeff Grizzel, conference director for FDAnews and a speaker at the Marketing Events Boot Camp at next month’s Business Information & Media Summit in Miami Beach, has developed a group of people in the industry that he says is “kind enough to take emails over the years” on a variety of topics to help him decide if those topics are in-person-event- or webinar-worthy.

Ed Keating, chief content officer for BLR, during a session a couple years ago on new products, emphasized the need to get away from asking work colleagues what they think, instead suggesting customer advisory boards.

We hear a lot today about data and getting an amazing amount of it from your subscribers, members and prospects. And that’s only becoming more important. But there remains a sizable place for getting data on a more intimate scale. On Monday, I wrote that the Washington Nationals chief marketing and revenue officer said the key was getting fans face-to-face with her salesmen. Even if you don’t sell something, you get valuable information.

“We have been very pleased with the recent focus groups that we’ve had in different parts of the globe,” Edeson told me. “I’ve been to the ones in London and Frankfurt. We’ll get maybe a dozen users in the same room, and I take a backseat. We’ll talk about the recent enhancements we’re working on, what they like, and the challenges involved in the various information landscapes.

“The attendees come in person to ensure that the enhancements are customer-driven…I do get daily feedback from customer service or on social media, but to have users of our product sitting in front of you talking functionality and efficiency, there’s nothing better.”

Grizzel must come up with the topics for events and then see them through with the help of staff. To achieve this, he will sometimes “fire off an email to 6-8 people”—especially on a subject he’s not entirely familiar with—saying something like, “The FDA just released this; is it pretty straightforward or am I missing something here?”

These may be high profile lawyers and/or industry people, so their feedback can be essential in selecting topics. “No, that’s pretty basic,” they may respond, or “We don’t think the industry will like how firm this new rule is—we will have a hard time complying.” With that, he knows it’s a topic of value.

I also like that Grizzel still gathers feedback at his in-person events manually. “From the very first mention at the podium, what I like to do is take a hard copy of our evaluation form, hold it up and say: ‘In your folders you have this blue sheet; carry it around, take notes on what you like, don’t like, speakers who are good…’” He will then constantly remind people and have staff standing at exits with wired baskets. (And he doesn’t have a big staff.) Sometimes [attendees] are really great; they’ll be very specific about what they want to see.”

Jason Shrensky, entrepreneur-in-residence, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, advises running a focus group with your clients and prospects at your next live event. “Invite 6 to 10 of them to a group dinner. Ask the group what they perceive to be the value proposition [of your company]. Ask them what you could do better to communicate the value [your] different offerings to others and/or within their organizations. …you will be surprised (especially after a few drinks) how helpful and frank your focus group will be.”

Even when it comes to social media, the best thing you can do is get information from your audience, consultant Rachel Yeomans told me late last year. What platform(s) are they on? What do they look to get out of social media? How do they use it? Do a survey, poll the group on your forum, put a link on page one of your publication, ask them at conferences.

“It’s a much better way to be confident about your decisions,” she said. “That will then define who you are as a company and the audience you’re trying to reach.”

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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Adobe to Shut China R&D as Sour Business Climate Bites (Reuters)
Computer software maker Adobe Systems Inc. will shut its Chinese research and development arm, as U.S. technology firms face an increasingly hostile government in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Google Fires Back at News Corp; Defends Search, Piracy Practices (Reuters)
Google defended itself against News Corp’s statement calling Google a platform for piracy and an “unaccountable bureaucracy.”

Judge Rules Against Grooveshark in Copyright Infringement Case (The New York Times)
A federal judge in New York ruled that Grooveshark, an online music service long vilified by the major record companies, infringed on thousands of their copyrights by hosting music files without permission and making millions of songs available for streaming.

Pirate Bay Goes to College: Free Textbook Torrent Downloads Soar Amid Rising Costs (International Business Times)
American college students struggling to afford textbooks are sharing copies of their books illegally on TextbookNova, the Pirate Bay and some of the same torrent sites that crippled the music industry. Many of the most popular books are available for free, with a correlation between the number of downloaders and the price of the book.

Parody Copyright Laws in UK Set to Come Into Effect (BBC)
Changes to UK legislation are to come into force this week allowing the parody of copyrighted works, as long as it is fair and does not compete with the original version.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

The evolution of the editorial superbeing: the changing role of the B2B editor

As revenues in B2B media become more elusive, and B2B advertisers up their content marketing programmes, the organisations formerly known as business publishers are quickly diversifying into new services, and asking much more of their editorial teams.

David Shepherd

David Shepherd

So B2B editors have to evolve into editorial “superbeings”, combining the roles of talk show host, community manager, video producer, conference producer, awards MC, data analyst, radio DJ, twitter pundit, marketing copywriter, consultant, trainer, agency copywriter and even helpline advisor.

But how is this working in practice? What new skills do editors need to recruit into their team and how can they organise and prioritise this multiplicity of activities? And what new challenges are they facing?

I’ll be exploring these issues in depth with B2B editorial pioneers Phil Clark, latterly of UBM and now independent; David Shepherd, Editorial Director of RBI’s XpertHR, and Joel Harrison, Editor in Chief of indie publisher B2B Marketing – on Wed 22 October at Business Media Insights 2014, a one-day conference in London, for the B2B media industry, organised by the Information Industry Network.

Phil Clark_UBM

Phil Clark


Here’s a sneak preview of just some of the examples we’ll be discussing…

Job description: community manager/ radio DJ

At UBM, the audiences for EE Times and Information Week are tech professionals who are more confident in communicating via social media, so editors devote plenty of time to building online engagement by pushing topical issues, and starting discussions around live events. Once momentum is built, this can draw in senior industry figures, who can then be approached to contribute more content. Audio based discussions – in the style of radio programmes – seem to prompt more engagement than video, and are less complex to create.

Job description: consultant

XpertHR are increasingly developing bespoke content with their largest subscribers, involving highly tailored consultancy projects where editorial teams run workshops in client offices and charge a premium rate for their time. As this business scales, they will need to bring in additional people to manage the projects, although the challenge is that it is the expertise of the editorial team that the client really values.

Job description: agency copywriter

Joel Harrison

Joel Harrison

As B2B advertisers move towards content marketing, commercial deals now include more custom content, and editorial teams need to get involved to maintain the delicate balance between brand integrity and commercial gain.

Job description: trainer

B2B Marketing’s proposition, in common with many similar B2B media businesses, is built around best practice. So moving into training and professional development is a natural – and lucrative – step. Joel Harrison, Editor in Chief, gets involved in developing new training courses which are delivered by the editorial team.

Of course, there’s a limit on how far the individual editor can stretch their time and talent – and many publishers are developing a range of specialists within the editorial team, bringing in specific skills but always aware that the core value is the market knowledge and broad journalistic skills of their editorial team.

We will discuss the challenges of the evolving editorial superbeing, and how different editorial teams are solving them at greater length at Business Media Insights 2014 on 22 October in London. I hope you’ll be able to join us.

If your editorial teams are having to take on new roles in your media organisation, I’d be interested to hear more about your experiences.

[Article reproduced with kind permission of Carolyn Morgan - originally published on LinkedIn]


Carolyn Morgan has launched, grown, acquired and sold media businesses across print, digital and events. She has programmed conferences on digital publishing and advises publishers on their digital strategy.

Read Carolyn’s Penmaen Media blog for more tips on innovating in publishing and media.

Follow Carolyn on twitter @carolynrmorgan 

ABM Announces Call for Entries for 61st Annual Neal Awards, the Premier Recognition for B-to-B Media

ABM, a division of the SIIA, today announced that it is now accepting entries for the 61st annual Jesse H. Neal Awards competition. The 2015 Neal Awards will feature the debut of “Best News Story” category, two expanded categories and one new special award.

The Jesse H. Neal Awards, known as the Neal Awards, were created by ABM in 1955 to recognize and reward editorial excellence in business publications. They are named after ABM’s first managing director, who remained active in promoting the b-to-b industry throughout his life. With 22 categories that reflect the entire multi-platform suite of products used by b-to-b editors today, the Neal Awards both represent and recognize the changing face of business media.

For more information about the awards, including how to enter, click here. The final deadline to submit entries is December 12, 2014. Award finalists will be announced in February, and all winners will be announced at the 61st Annual Neal Awards ceremony on March 27, 2015, in New York City.

“Past Neal Award winners have exposed corruption, launched major trends, and innovated new technologies that set the pace for the b-to-b media industry,” said ABM Managing Director Mike Marchesano. “As media and information companies continue to blaze new trails, the Neal Awards have also grown to honor excellence in online-only media and blogs, social media, mobile, and more. We invite you to join in this celebrated tradition and enter the Neal Awards today.”

“The Neal Awards have recognized excellence in business journalism for more than 60 years,” said Glenn Coleman, Neal Awards Committee Chair and editor of Crain’s New York Business. “We are committed to reflecting the industry’s continued evolution by constantly improving the competition to benefit b-to-b media outlets of all sizes.”

This year’s awards will debut a new category, Best News Story. Two categories have been expanded, Best Media Brand and Best Work by a Single Author, to three revenue classes from one single revenue class.

Also new this year is a special award – the Marianne Dekker Mattera Award, which has been established in honor of the long-time chief editor of RN Magazine and Medical Economics and managing editor of MedPage Today. In the course of her more than 40-year career in business media, Marianne won 18 Jesse H. Neal Awards, more than any other individual editor in b-to-b media, and was honored for this accomplishment at the 60th Annual Neal Awards ceremony. Marianne passed away during summer 2014. Nominations for this award are open to editors and other journalists who work for ABM member companies.

The Grand Neal Award, which honors the most outstanding entry from among the winners in all categories, will also be awarded on March 27. Previous Grand Neal Award winners include Randall-Reilly Publishing Company, IEEE Spectrum, Architectural Record, Farm Journal, Heavy Duty Trucking, CSO, Baseline, CIO, Pharmaceutical Executive, RoadStar, and PC World.

Baseball Team’s Successful Sales Pitches May Be Hit for Publishers

For a while, selling subscriptions seemed like enough. It’s a good product, your content is unique, and the price point reasonable. And then the Internet exploded, free content abounded, and subscriptions got tougher to sell. And publishers added stuff.

For the Washington Nationals baseball team—the top seed in the upcoming National League playoffs and coming off the first no-hitter in franchise history yesterday—they reached this point last year. For them, the “Internet” equates to the explosion of so many things to do in the Washington, D.C. area. The “free content” that now abounds is all the games that are televised—theirs and others. And because of this—and cost—their season ticket subscriptions went down last year.

So what did they do? What would any good “publisher” do? Marketed. Here are ideas as chronicled by Thomas Heath’s Value Added column in today’s Washington Post.

- The Nationals created a membership club called Nats Plus. “People were saying, ‘Why do I need a plan? There’s StubHub,’” said Valerie Camillo, the team’s chief marketing and revenue officer. Now fans can get on-field photos, autographs, batting practice passes, tickets to exhibition games. Would publisher equivalents be special access to writers and bloggers, and “gold” passes to one or more of your events?

- “[Camillo] knew the key was getting fans face-to-face with Nationals salesmen,” writes Heath. So the team invited fans to certain games this year to upsell them on season ticket plans, using conference rooms in the stadium. For the Nationals, a ticket to a game does not cost much, and the potential upsell can be great. Given the cost of most publishers’ live events, it’s hard to give that away for a possible upsell. But still, the value of that “face-to-face” should not be underestimated. Maybe there are lower-cost, in-person events that you can put on to get new people out.

- The Nationals didn’t offer the shorter ticket plans (5, 10 and 20 games) until later in the year so fans would not be tempted to buy those instead of a full or half season.

- Camillo “boosted bonuses for her sales staff if they sold Nats Plus plans.”

- The sales staff was taught better public speaking and given the option to call on the general manager (their publisher?) to close the deal. The sales staff connected the dollars fans spent to the ability to get better players. Publishing equivalent might be to find a very specific interest of a potential subscriber and say that their subscription/membership would enable further work into that microsite.

- Season ticket holders now have cards that they use to get into the stadium, buy food, buy a cap, etc. (And special lines to get in, and then buy food.) Those cards allow the team to amass loads of data on them and then market to similar people. “We have data that shows new buyers for 2015 are getting younger, more diverse and more family-oriented,” Camillo said. The publisher equivalent might be awards programs—those can draw lots of data—surveys, and other “benefits”-for-info programs.

- There are also special areas at the stadium where certain season ticket holders can go that regular ticket holders can’t. You feel like you’re missing out. Similarly, you might try levels on your website or with your benefits that can only be accessed by your biggest supporters. SIPA member Pro Farmer offers a Classic Membership, a Preferred Membership and a VIP Membership. VIP members get the “most comprehensive news, analysis and advice package available.”

- Looking at the comments, one season ticket holder points to how nice all the staff is at the game. That never hurts. And another writes that he is happy that giveaways are at all gates now. So those things do seem to matter.

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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Test Your Knowledge With This BIMS Quiz

Test your publishing expertise with this quiz. Each question involves a speaker at SIIA’s upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Miami Beach, Nov. 10-12. Answers are below.

1. Which is not one of Jim Sinkinson’s 11 commandments for direct response copy that moves people?
a. Must be a message from one person to another.
b. Start with “you”—use twice as many second persons as first persons.
c. Tell a story about the reader (not the product).
d. Be clever: use lots of jokes and puns.
Sinkinson, publisher, Infocom Group, will present How to Write Killer Promo Copy, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 4 pm

2. True or False? Matt Bailey believes that young people just out of school and/or interns should always be in charge of your social media “because they’re young and they know the stuff.”
Bailey, author of the new book Wired to Be Wowed: Great Marketing Isn’t an Accident, will present Online Testing Techniques, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. and a Social Media Boot Camp, Monday, Nov. 10, 9 a.m.

3. “Information companies are extending more deeply into their customer bases, offering ___________ rather than standalone products and services,” writes Denzil Rankine, executive chairman of AMR International.
a. free subscriptions
b. solutions
c. coupons
d. lemonade

Rankine will moderate the session, Valuations and Your Company, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2:30 p.m..

4. Jodi Grizzel, operations director for FDAnews, says, “Always remember that B2B is still P2P.” What does her P2P stand for?
a. publisher to publisher
b. person to person
c. practitioner to practitioner
d. parent to parent
Grizzel and Helen Hoart, president of Yikes! Media, will present Segmenting and Targeting for Better Marketing, Monday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m.

5. Which is not one of David Foster’s 9 essential steps for growing new products?
a. The growth increases your range of price points.
b. The growth improves your technological “nimbleness.”
c. The growth allows you to accelerate content creation by integrating customer content.
d. The growth increases your average time from conception to first revenues.
Foster, CEO of Business Valuation Resources, will moderate A CEOs Guide to Technology Strategy & Investment, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m.

6. True or False? In a recent blog post, Andy Swindler, president of Astek, said, “I don’t think the iPhone 6 will radically change the way we design websites any time soon. After all, the beauty of responsive design is that it adapts to new screen sizes for those of us who plan ahead since the design is done independently of specific physical devices.”
Swindler will lead Search Engine Marketing Update, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 1:30 p.m.

7. Which is not one of the 3 Laws for Building Effective Landing Pages, according to the blog of Randall-Reilly, a publisher in the construction and trucking business?
a. Get rid of the clutter. There is such a thing as information overload.
b. Create a clear call-to-action.
c. Make sure you include lots of ads.
d. Think like the customer. People buy from other people; therefore, you should write like a human to humans.

Brent Reilly, president of Randall-Reilly, will present a keynote, Radically Transforming an Organization: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 8:40 a.m. A session titled Design and Optimize Your Landing Pages will take place Wednesday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m.

ANSWERS: 1d; 2. False. Bailey believes it is just as important to know how to identify target markets and that takes “experience to get the most out of it.” 3b; 4b - She said lead gen is not about technology. It’s about offering prospects something of value, so they will give you that value—their details—in return. 5d – it should decrease it; 6. True. He also predicts that “web designers may tip toward adding another responsive break point in their designs as a general accommodation of the phablet devices, if they’re inclined to change at all.” 7c – the design should be simple.

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 , and then SIIA in 2013.

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