"Try to differentiate between innovation and true imagination," said Jared Weiner, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Future Hunters, in Monday's wow-inducing, thought-provoking opening keynote at the third annual Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) here in sunny Fort Lauderdale.
"You want to be responsible for creating the automobile and not the faster horse," he told 300-plus attendees, playing off the famous quote attributed to Henry Ford. "When I get to lead off a conference, I always test with this: Listen carefully to everything these next couple days and when you get back to the day-to-day, really try to reimagine the future."
Weiner asked what the one "luxury" is that people would pay anything to have more of? Time. "You want to optimize time for your customers and your own people," he said. "The pace of technological change is exponentially" speeding up. This creates anxiety and an atmosphere for change.
Looking ahead quickly became the day's mantra, and not just because the Super Moon was presiding later on. (We would soon hear about the Super Reprint.) In a session titled Events and the Integrated Enterprise, three industry experts acknowledged that event growth has stalled a bit and it may be time to try new formats.
"For most B2B events, the traditional, model is pretty antiquated," said Danny Phillips, president & CEO, Argyle Executive Forum. "Get the buyers and sellers in a big room, shut the doors, hope for some integration. This goes back to the '50s and '60s."
Instead, Phillips wants to see more predictive analytics and use of data to ensure a more meaningful experience at events for attendees. Companies have been investing so much time and money to send people that it's not enough anymore to just wish for good things to happen.
"Any events manager will measure a whole bunch of things now, like value and engagement," said Andrew Mullins, CEO, Knowledge & Networking Division, Informa. "You want to give a deeper, wider experience [that makes] people jump into advocacy and promotion [and say,] 'It was an amazing experience, and I met all the right people.'"
Loren Edelstein, editor in chief, Meetings & Conventions magazine for Northstar Travel Group, moderated the session. She said that the clients that used to buy print ads are now buying event sponsorships and getting one-on-one meetings with the people they want to meet.
"We've discussed this at our sales meetings," she said. (An editor at the sales meetings says something in itself.) "We need to go in and ask, 'What are your needs?' It really solidified our client relationships when we started traveling with them." They started adding to the event experience—taking a group kayaking, for example. It led to a "different kind of connection with our audience," she said.
Mullins wants more companies to aim big. "Choose your territory, go big and go bold," he said. "Have a full array of products" to create more touchpoints. You want to be number one in your niche or why bother.
Asked about event sustainability, Mullins admitted that you have to accept that things have a lifecycle now. "You have to ideally know before it's over." How? "By talking to [your customers] 365 days a year." Have a group that you can come to. Without a strong community, you're guessing, and "you're going to get it wrong."
A place that's getting it right is Harvard Business Publishing, which is looking ahead by looking back. Emily Ryan, senior product manager, wowed her audience in a session titled Analyze and Unearth Your Content Archives to Boost Engagement and Retention.
In 2012 they decided to open archive access to subscribers on hbr.org and haven't looked back. "We heard people recognized [back] issues by covers, so we started posting images of covers [to help them find key content]," Ryan said, "We saw a 20% increase in subscription revenue right away."
Here are 8 more winning moves Harvard Business Publishing made:
1. They converted their digital articles into pdfs—and kept it at the same price point. "People love to print our content, share it, dog-ear it. But we weren't providing pdfs," Ryan said.
2. They developed an editor-guided review for access to the archive. "How do we highlight the value of the archive to our readers?" asked Ryan. This helped.
3. Their Top 50 Slide Doc allows readers to more easily share content. It's highly visible and easy to consume.
4. The Insider newsletter goes to subscribers every Tuesday. "The editor writes this letter" in a friendly tone, Ryan said. "She gives a digest of what she thinks our subscribers should care about most. The Insider has been amazing... It has been a great tool for bringing people closer to you and making them feel like they're engaged."
5. The Social Archive Program sends out evergreen articles from their great past—dating back to 1953—each week. It has brought an average of 180,000 page views a month in just over two years.
6. They're also in the process of taking archived articles and breaking them down into ideas so they're easier to apply to real situations. "We kept hearing that people wanted that," Ryan said,
7. They created a Visual LIbrary in 2014, taking graphs and charts to capture ideas in a digital way—so people can use them in their own reports and presentations.
8. Their "one pager" takes a popular topic and condenses it into a single page of takeaways.
And I didn't even get into The Big Idea and the Super Reprint. (They're tied together.)