SIPA December Member News

A Clever insideARM Take


On insideARMMike Bevel, their director of education, lists some of the things that he is thankful for—after some fun Thanksgiving banter. It’s a nice way to speak to your audience. His first thankful burst is: “Everyone who reads our newsletter. Everyone who takes time to trust us, and our insights and opinions. Even you. Even the person who once wrote to me to tell me I had half a brain. I’m a brain half-full kinda guy anyway.” Well done.


Fantini Research Celebrates 20 Years


What started as a single emailed newsletter with six subscribers in January 2000 has blossomed into a multi-title publishing and research enterprise with global customers. “We are proud of our accomplishments in building our suite of products and services, and we are even more excited about the future as the gaming industry continues to grow and evolve,” says Fantini Research founder and CEO Frank Fantini.


On their Meet the Team page, you can watch a wonderful video interview with Fantini and associate publisher and executive editor Ashley Diem (pictured above). “Historically, our main product has been a daily newsletter that covers the gaming industry comprehensively… It’s become a must-read for a lot of people,” he says proudly. “We have that slogan, ‘More important than your morning coffee,’ because for some people it is.”


In response to the pandemic, they created Fantini’s Gaming Show: A Virtual Trade Show and Newsroom. “There is now a way for gaming industry suppliers to exhibit their products to decision-makers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”


Africa Confidential, Plain-English Media Offer Glimpses


We’re all playing with different paywall ideas this year. Africa Confidential features timely daily stories from many of the African countries. Usually there’s one paragraph and then it says this: “End of preview – This article contains approximately 1642 words.” They do choose about three free stories for visitors to read, highlighted with a red box. Good color choice.


Plain-English Media’s Community Association Management Insider—which they acquired from The Habitat Group—gives a headline and an opening paragraph before putting in big type: “The resource you requested is available only to current members.” Speaking about the acquisition, Matt Humphrey, president and founder of Plain-English Media, said at the time: “It helps us serve community associations in a new way that complements our flagship real estate publication,”


Ace Infoway, Money-Media Show They Are Good Places to Work


Ace Infoway has a section on their homepage titled Life @ Ace. “Hop on to see our activities because no amount of creative copy can justify our employee (ec)centricity!”


Of course, most of the ideas were pre-COVID though I’m sure most will continue at some point. They did a ThanksGiving day with people writing notes on hand cutouts of what they are thankful for. There’s also Yoga Day, Environment Day and Women’s Day.


And there’s still that moving and emotional, two-minute video of a desolate Broadway, an empty San Marco Square in Venice, a “Sorry We’re Closed” sign, and then a tribute to the “Heroes fighting the Coronavirus.” “For Ace Infoway, things are not the same as before. We really miss working together… We take this moment to thank our Ace Internal Heroes. Our dedication to our clients is the only motivation we thrive on.”


Money-Media uses a video to show why it’s a good place to work called, “Why should you work for Money-Media?” and it appears prominently on their homepage. We hear from employees about the career-growing opportunities, trust and camaraderie. Then we see pre-COVID laughter and food at staff gatherings, a softball title and comfortable meetings. “We are seeing video usage rise, especially as we test new formats,” said Money-Media managing director Dan Fink.


Utility Dive, Waste Dive & Smart Cities Dive Join Forces to Cover the Cost of Climate Change


“It seems like another lifetime, but it was just shy of a year ago when Industry Dive’s energy and environment teams gathered in our main conference room to start brainstorming and planning major projects we wanted to dive into in 2020.”


So starts a story on the Industry Dive site announcing how three of their verticals will partner to cover one of the biggest stories of the day—climate change. Waste Dive launched a tool to monitor the climate targets of major companies in the waste and recycling industry. Utility Dive unveiled an interactive tool that will allow readers to quickly learn critical information about the physical risks climate change poses to utilities.


‘Effect Change and Influence People’; With Thought, Virtual Events Can Do More

Events were certainly top of fold on the first day of BIMS 2020 yesterday, with a very popular Connections and Cocktails. Frank Salatto of Government Executive Media Group spoke of the success they’ve had pivoting to virtual. “There are new opportunities in the data you can collect and the leads you’re able to deliver,” he said. Here are some of the virtues of virtual events as we look to 2021.

Opening day keynote, Bob Bejan, corporate vice president of global events, studios and marketing community for Microsoft (pictured here in his studio), told us about a conference—Microsoft Ignite—that they staged this year, virtually, of course. Last year’s attendance in Orlando over 5 days was 24,700.


“This year we had 266,000,” he said. “Just the idea of the inclusion of that and what that means in terms of the audience and who you can reach, not just by scale but to effect change and influence people” is huge, he said. “What does that mean in moving forward?”


Most of us are much more micro than Microsoft, so forget about those sheer numbers. But exponentially, getting 10 times your audience—or even 5 times—could be realistic moving forward. Here are some successful takeaways. (A few are from an excellent blog post by Omeda.)


Be innovative. Wine tastings at virtual events aren’t really new anymore, but they still work. We just had a sommelier talk to about 40 of us for BIMS 2020 about holiday wines and much more, and good vibes bubbled up. The National Speakers Association held a series of “digital dine-arounds,” virtual dinners where members could get together with a top official from the association. It was a part of NSA’s INFLUENCE 2020 conference—and just one way that organizations can excel in a virtual format. Another group here, Association Media & Publishing, did something similar with the second-day morning of their conference. You could make scones with a Board member, take a scenic walk with the President and other feel-good activities.


The event isn’t over until we say so. “Your virtual events do not have to be a singular point in time… Make the event a launch point for engagement and interest from your audience.” There’s no reason anymore that your event has to be just 2-3 consecutive days. Do a special hour of content every Monday afternoon and call it your Magic Monday conference. BVR’s Divorce Conference scheduled sessions weeks before and after. Instead of their annual conference, the United Fresh Produce Association created United Fresh LIVE! 365, a year-round online platform featuring a permanent expo, social gatherings, on-demand education, webinars, conference programming, and networking opportunities for the global produce industry. “We basically built a year-round convention center,” John Toner, VP of convention and industry collaboration, said.


Invest in lighting and tech for your presenters at home. We actually did see a couple speakers this morning whose lighting could have been much better. It makes a difference. It’s hard to work out though. One of the speakers was presenting from his parents’ basement. Maybe just best to touch base a couple days before and have them see the light. Writes Omeda: “The speaker will feel more in the moment during the presentation and the video production afterwards will be a better quality.” Bejan also wants speakers to be more cinematic than theatrical. “It’s like you’re having a one-on one conversation with each person in that audience.”


Use polls and other interactive features available to drive engagement. “We have watched polls keep the audience engaged throughout the virtual sessions,” writes Omeda. “Polling the audience is a great way to get the pulse on the audience and to keep them engaged in real-time. It helps to foster the sense of the audience coming together.”


Less might be more. This may be the hardest concept to accept. We’re all taught that the more value you can convey the better. But Zoom fatigue is real. “Instead of packing in many sessions and multiple panels, take into account exactly what your attendees are looking to learn and hear about,” Omeda writes. “Identify what will benefit them in order to make the event most valuable.”


Go global. There should be no barrier besides time difference why you can’t have a bigger global audience, if that works for your niche. For Pro Farmer’s first virtual Crop Tour in August, four online, 90-minute broadcasts brought in more than 18,000 total viewers coming from all 50 states and 12 countries. (Historically, the typical audience across the four days and seven Midwest locations has ranged between 2,000 and 3,000.) “You can’t get that kind of reach in person,” said Joe May, marketing and sales director, indicating that Pro Farmer will most likely keep some of that digital component in future Crop Tours.


“If you think how early we are in the medium, the signs are very encouraging about what’s coming out of this,” said Bejan. But this is definitely a practice-makes-perfect affair. Asked about Microsoft’s upcoming partnership with CES on their huge 2021 show, Bejan said, “Everything we’re doing in CES is the sum total of every mistake we’ve made the last eight months.”


Send Welcomes, Go Global and Use These Key Words to Get Best Email Results

According to the company’s analysis of 4 billion emails between January and June 2019, the most successful emails often tell exactly what the email includes, such as “newsletter” (31.43% click-to-open rate), “PDF” (30.31%), and “ebook” (27.84%).


Other words that do well in subject lines are “infographic” (35.14% on a very small sample), “free” (22.54%) and “video” (18.76%). Free gets debated but there’s obviously still a time for it, especially in our COVID era. “If you’re promoting a piece of content or a valuable resource, you’re probably better off if you mention it in the subject line,” writes Michal Leszczynski, content marketing manager for GetResponse.


Here are more key takeaways from the report, which you can see in full here:


Less is more. Open and click rates surged when just one message was sent per week. A sharp decline occurred when the number of weekly emails went from one to two. Marketers that send one newsletter have an average open rate of 33.4%, whereas the rate falls to 26.9% when a second email is added, and falling to below 20% after the fifth email. Now 20% still isn’t bad, if it’s the right 20%—the ones who perhaps convert more, especially if you’re selling high-value offerings.


Send welcome emails. Their average open rate is over 82% and average click-through rate around 27%. So welcome people to as many things as you can. Also make sure to add something click-worthy to your welcome messages, “a discount code, personalized video, or exclusive content available only to the new subscribers.”


Go global. We’ve talked before that one advantage of webinars and virtual events is global reach. While the average email is opened by 19% of North Americans, Europeans opened 26.9%, Oceania 25.6% and South America 23.1%. Not quite sure why, but Germany has an average open rate of 40.7% and a click-through rate of around 7%, both double or more of other major countries, including the U.S., Canada, India and the UK. France, Spain and Italy are also high.


‘Quality over quantity.’ The GDPR era is helping to increase the use of double opt-in approvals, which both decrease the potential of spam issues and increase overall engagement. Nonprofits were the most likely industry to use double opt-in and, at 21.3%, the only industry with more than a fifth of senders relying on the additional layer of approval. “What’s interesting—but not surprising—is that the industries with a bigger share of confirmed lists also observed the highest average results in terms of opens and clicks,” Mateusz Ruzik, GetResponse product manager said in the survey. “This once again proves that email list quality trumps quantity.”


Add video. Emails with video still generate the highest engagement rates. “The problem is not all email clients support it, which is why only around 8% of the emails our customers send contain links to videos,” said Ruzik. “For now, the best workaround is to use an image (maybe even a GIF) that looks like a video player and links to your page. That way, you’ll boost your click-throughs and enhance your contacts’ experience as they’ll watch the content in their default browser or video player.”


Don’t exclude weekends. The two best send times are around 10 am and 1 pm. They are also seeing an increase in click-through rates later in the afternoon, around 6 pm—though this was pre-pandemic. While Monday and Tuesday continue to lead both in terms of average opens and clicks, the click-to-open ratio of Saturday and Sunday were the top two choices. “This may be due to the fact that weekends are much less competitive,” writes Leszczynski. “Combined, Saturday and Sunday account for 18% of all email campaigns sent, while Tuesday on its own, accounts for 17%.”


Try an emoji in your subject line. In most cases, it’s not about the length of the subject line but rather conveying the message—and sometimes an emoji can do that. The average open rates for emails that contained an emoji in the subject line were 25.02%, almost 3 points higher than the average. But just 3.9% of marketers use them, down from 6.7%. Don’t go overboard and run an A/B test, they recommend.


You’ll know quickly who to retarget. The timing of a message matters significantly, in part because the message loses its exposure after a while. About a fifth (19%) of email opens happen within the first hour it hits an inbox, and 73% within the first day. With each hour, your chances of getting more opens decrease. After 6 hours, over half of your emails have already been opened. They suggest a flash sale perhaps to those who don’t respond within six hours.


Use your preheader. The preheader is the first snippet of text in your email that appears next to your subject line. People see it before they even open the email. While only 11% use them, emails with a preheader get much higher average open rates—27.82% vs 21.46%. They also have much more impact than personalized subject lines. A preheader should complement your subject line.


‘A Framework for Us All’; Dorsey Uses Her Data Learning to Bring Growth and Change

“Data’s greatest promise is becoming a roadmap of actions that, when completed, result in the actions we want to see,” Stephanie Lievano wrote on INMA this week. For a 2021 roadmap, it will be worth your time to hear Sherrell Dorsey’s keynote, Audience Data: Creating Inclusive Connections to Grow Your Business, at BIMS 2020 Featuring the SIPA Sales & Marketing Leadership Summit next week.

“I’ll be 100% honest,” Dorsey told me recently, “for the work that we do and the coverage we provide for The Plug, the idea of leveraging data to tell stories of what’s happening in the Black innovation economy… is not separate from the discussion of where business and society are going. It is mirroring some of the overlooked information sources that we have relegated out of the mainstream conversation of tech society.”


Dorsey, founder and CEO of The Plug, a distinct, subscription-based digital news platform, has an incredible knack of making the complicated sound fluid, the challenges sound doable. Even better for her audience next Thursday where she will deliver one of the three BIMS 2020 keynotes, Dorsey has an entrepreneurial mindset in a data-educated journalistic background.


“From a data perspective, we try to ask the questions that are not as easily surfaced or easily accessible and try to create accessibility out of that information,” she said. “So that means a lot of times we are conducting our own surveys, or having to do information collection almost in a manual capacity.”


This work has led to some viral moments. After George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis this summer, Dorsey worked on a project following the statements that big tech companies were making, in support of inclusion and denouncing police brutality and racial injustice.


“We tracked the statements from each company, [who said it], what time, what date, to really just document activity as protests were erupting,” Dorsey said. “And we cross-referenced that with the diversity and inclusion reports that we were able to pull in from [those] companies—to analyze not just what they were saying but what they were doing internally within their company culture. And that information went viral.


“It was the first time that people saw in a transparent way the back end of companies, and having the diversity and inclusion reports centralized in one location was super significant for companies from a leadership context and also for your everyday user and person who looks at these companies as potential employers or even companies that we’ve used or given our money to. That level of measure and accountability was a conversation that we think was long overdue for sure.”


And so from a data perspective, she said, “Transparency breeds accountability, and that truly is the aim of our work—to look at these trends, look at these pieces of information and to make sense of how they are shaping our experiences and how they will shape the future of our society, and how technology covers that as a whole.”


Where this translates into dollars is pretty simple. A company that follows through on its commitments in the diversity and inclusion space will be much better prepared to reach out to diverse customers.


“There has to be a level of congruency to lead as much internally as you purport to lead externally,” Dorsey said. “There has to be great behaviors at home before going out into the world. That is the task of companies today—and leaders today. How do we create a workforce culture that is inclusive, that is belonging, and that helps to shape the kinds of business decisions we make as companies and leaders moving forward.”


Although The Plug focuses on the Black innovation economy, the strategies and journalism put forward can be “a framework for us all,” to quote Dorsey. The Plug’s homepage says: “Our journalists contextualize information, synthesizing art and science, to deliver insights that bring you up to speed on changing ecosystems and interesting markets.”


“My philosophy is that people are looking for depth and community, and they’re reading and subscribing and willing to pay for information and products and services that they find most valuable,” Dorsey said. “As a smaller publication, being in the niche space in which we are, we deliver a value you won’t find elsewhere…


“We believe that good information as well as quality of reporting is central to building a strong product that helps to inform, inspire and even guide some of the decision makers in how they’re making investments or decisions in their places of work.”


Learning to Think Differently


Dorsey attended Columbia grad school for data journalism, so although young, she sat at the data and analytics table before it got overly crowded. But she refused to take too much credit.


“Working for a startup like Uber, and then Google Fiber, data was just part of the work and helped me to think differently about how these things drive business decisions and campaigns,” Dorsey said. “My goal was, How do I apply this to the kind of reporting and news that I want to bring into the world? But overall, the analytics conversation has been decades in the making, and where the Plug has been most innovative is in bringing that data and insights into a space that gets largely overlooked.”


She touched on other areas that publishers must delve into now—general accessibility, the integration of audio, video formats for all. “We’re having to become more expansive and understanding,” she said. “For your smaller team, sometimes [that can be] a challenge to manage and be as considerate. There are some AI tools that can help us get there a bit more. Sharing best practices across the industry, from that identity of inclusion is significant and important. It makes us better as an industry and helps sharpen us as leaders.”


Dorsey hopes that these times are different, that diversity and inclusion will not just be the “flavor of the month”—that society will not simply revert to “regularly scheduled programming”—and she is using her immense data journalism skills and various platforms to propel her work forward.


“It’s unfortunate, quite honestly, that we’re [still] not being intentional about elevating great talent,” she said. “And we’re still blinded by these challenges to see other people as capable and committed despite the work they put in. I think that hurts us overall. We have a long way to go.


“When we talk about the future of journalism and reporting, you don’t see a plethora or even a minutiae of Black, Latinx or native or indigenous publications, which are some of the most underfunded media platforms right now,” Dorsey continued. “We know that the journalism and information space as a whole is looking for spaces for sustainability, so if we don’t have unique and diverse voices in these rooms, how do we know what to solve for? How do we think creatively about the solutions on the table? We decided to go subscription, and create these revenue-generating platforms in order to ensure our survival.”


Hear more about these platforms next Thursday morning by registering for BIMS 2020 today!


‘You Have to Build Processes’; Test, Value and Increase Your Landing Pages

“The landing page, it’s one of those things, it can become its own science,” Matt Bailey, founder of SiteLogic, told me a couple months ago. “The landing page is the critical part that a lot of people forget about in this type of lead marketing or content marketing or even dealing with the funnel.”


Bailey—who will be speaking Dec. 4 at BIMS 2020 with Lauren St. Clair, group marketing director, Diversified Communications, at a session titled Lead Gen Technology: Keeping the Engines Fueled—said that he had just read something amazing in his email, about landing pages.


“At Dell, every new landing page is a multi-faceted project that requires several handoffs taking 6-8 weeks to customize and globalize for testing,” he read. “Contact form completions rise 50% and increases as high as 300% on dedicated landing pages.”


You don’t have to spend that much time on yours, but it does speak to their importance. Here is more advice from Bailey and others:


Test everything on the landing page. “I deal with so many companies, very focused on being at the top of the funnel,” Bailey said. “Let’s get people there with our content, let’s answer their questions. And then they forget about their landing page, throw up the same one they used last year, change a few words and say, ‘I’m done,’ not realizing that the landing page is just as important as the content you used to get them there. And now you have to convert them. Test your landing page, test your call to action, test your offer. All of these things are just as vital as the content you use.” Adam Goldstein of Business Management Daily once said that they use a mystery shopper consulting firm to test their pages.


Establish processes. Bailey once related a story about a friend who ran a test for two weeks, determined how the company could make thousands of dollars more, and then withered when his supervisor asked him who authorized that. “Unless you have a culture that allows that voice to be heard…” he said, not needing to complete the sentence. “What is your plan? Are you testing the usability or easability of getting through your site? The best tests are usually the simplest and easiest. But how are you going to implement them? You have to build processes.”

Create more. More landing pages means more conversion opportunities. “Quite simply, the more landing pages you have on your website, the more opportunities you have to convert site visitors into leads,” recommends Hubspot’s Pamela Vaughan. “There’s also a huge SEO benefit to having more landing pages, which can have an impact even before visitors land on your website. Think about it: The more landing pages you have, the more landing pages will be indexed in search.”


Review your offers. “Take a look at the offers you already have and identify where you might have some holes,” Vaughan writes. “Do you have offers to suit prospects at each different stage in your marketing and sales funnel? Do you have offers in a variety of different formats (e.g. webinars vs. ebooks vs. templates vs. videos, etc.)? Do they cover various topics your target audience cares about? Once you’ve identified what your holes are, then you can start filling in the gaps.”

Vary your landing page length. “No form length is the best—it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the form,” advises Hubspot’s Ginny Mineo. “Are you trying to get a ton of new leads? Keep the form short. Are you trying to get really qualified leads? Make the form longer. One is not better than the other—they just address different goals. Your form length will most likely end up somewhere in the middle. To find your form length sweet spot, run A/B tests and adjust your form length according to their results.”


Use tools. “Our landing pages are designed to be minimalist and straightforward. You either sign up or you don’t….,” said Tyler Denk, senior product lead for the Morning Brew. “We use Google Optimize to test every aspect of our landing page, and that’s especially important for optimizing incoming traffic from our referral program. We split our testing audiences into two main cohorts: referrals via email invites and all other referrals.”


Design a clear landing page. Morning Brew tested the layout of the page, including header text, subheader text, text on the button, style of the form, color of the button, additional images, testimonials, etc. For their emails, they increased the conversion rate by over 4% through a few iterations involving the header, subheader text, button text, and button color. “That 4% increase in conversion rate leads to more than an additional 4,500 subscribers per month via the referral program alone,” said Denk.