Virtually Amazing. SIPA 2020 Day 1 Talks up Data, Events and Value.

“If you ever wanted to do things differently—change your culture—now is a great time to start,” said Don Harkey, CEO of People Centric Consulting Group. “This is a big opportunity. We’re all disrupted. It’s a good time to put in new habits…. Focus on systems that impact your culture.”
And with that table-setting quote, the first-ever SIPA 2020 Virtual Annual Conference was off and advising Monday—on the new revenue paths to pursue like virtual events—and revising our 2020 and beyond outlooks.
“Start off by revisiting the value you provide for customers,” Harkey said. He gave an example of a group he works with that meets at a community center every week. “The center had to close down and everyone thought that was it. But is the value the building or the community that we build? It’s really about the community itself.
“So the question is, ‘Can we create community without a building, without getting people together physically? And the answer is yes. What are our customers needing now? The community center did exercise. So we started yoga online for that group, and 1000 people logged in. Are you providing something valuable that your customer might pay for?”
Here are more highlights from Day 1. You can still register here for Day 2 and the full on-demand privileges of both days.

Reach out and do everything but touch. Harkey strongly encouraged customer conversations now. “It’s not about, ‘will you buy this.’ It’s about, ‘can I help you recover?'” Speaking about virtual events, Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, Education Week, said it’s important to “survey your readers and sponsors before to ensure buy-in ahead of the event. “We asked oddly simple questions: What time of day is best for you? What month would you come? Why? We thought we might get 25 or 50 responses but we received 2,200 responses with email addresses.” They learned a lot from them, including a call for deeper content.

What’s the big idea? “Build a sustainable, trusting, idea-sharing and internal product development approach process,” Cibellis said. Use a transparent, internal form for idea generation. Through this they came up with A Seat at the Table With Education Week, an interactive video series that’s been very popular. “It’s yielding more collaboration and less competition,” he said. “You want to encourage intra and cross department idea-sharing.”

Look at your data. “[Data] value is in the eye of the beholder,” said Michael Marrale, CEO, M Science, in an informative Alternative Data 101 session with Meg Hargreaves, COO, Industry Dive. “You’ll find value in surprising places. Typically, we’ve partnered with companies that don’t fully realize the value of their data. They can be surprised” when told their data has value and content licensing potential. “Don’t think that size of the company is the main factor. It’s really about the data. You can have relatively small revenue but big data capabilities.”

Keep lines of communication open and be transparent. With over 500 employees, you might not think that Chris Ferrell, CEO of Endeavor Business Media, would have time for one-on-one staff calls. But he does “try to call a handful of people each week that I don’t normally talk to and ask where the company could be supporting them more and what they might need. My direct reports I talk to every week, of course. But we’re doing that throughout the organization, making sure people are not falling through the cracks [during this challenging time] and people are getting the support they need.”

This virtual may be more than a fad. In a fascinating panel discussion about creating long-lasting value, Stephanie Eidelman, CEO of iA Institute, said that she is excited to see how their now-virtual events perform. “Each industry is different, but it would be awesome if it worked for us. Expenses and margin are much more favorable. And the calendar is so crowded—finding a place that doesn’t conflict with this or that event. Trying to shoehorn a live event in a place in the calendar [can be tough]. Virtual gives you [more options], and I like the risk elimination about committing to the hotel contracts.”

Install processes to up value. “We’re always looking at companies through the lens of valuation,” John McGovern, CEO and owner of Grimes, McGovern & Associates, said in that same panel. There’s a misconception about “smaller companies that have a high amount of owner involvement. One of the smartest things owners can do is manage their org chart. If an owner is extremely involved in their business, you’d think that buyers want to hear that. Actually the opposite of that is true. They want to see the owner moved off and the successor being groomed—doing reviews, looking at salaries.” Organic development has staying power, he said.

Think scrappy but scalable. In a session about Mastering Memberships, Elizabeth Petersen, product director, Simplify Compliance, and Delaney Rebernik, membership and content strategy consultant, spoke about keeping long-term sustainability top of mind. “It’s really important to dazzle end users, not just buyers,” Petersen said. Included in their targeted engagement strategies is a strong welcome series. “You win stakeholder support through collaboration, education and process development. And you want to recruit internal staff who are energized and not drained by the process.” As for the increased customer service, Rebernik said that “because we put our editors into customer service roles, it was important for us to come together as a community… and develop processes and workflows.

Again, you can still register for today and the opportunity to watch ALL the sessions any time you want! I really just was able to give you a taste of the great content we have. There’s so much more!

‘Are You Refilling That Pipeline?’ Kopacz Is Here to Help Publishers.

There is something really good to these virtual conferences. I just watched the director of strategic initiatives for The Washington Post and he was great. (I will report on it here next week.) He even told a funny Jeff Bezos story.) It doesn’t work for everything. Theaters have tried to put some productions online and it’s tough.
Sitting at home, we can focus on speakers online—even with the occasional pets, kids and laundry disruption. SIPA 2020 June 1 motivational keynote Don Harkey told me that he likes the idea that he can mention an article and people can bring it up, or they can comment as he goes along, and he can play off that energy

“The more that we can mimic the one-to-one conversations at these events, that’s going to be key,” SIPA 2020 June 2 keynote speaker Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade, told me this week. In a way, watching a speaker on our computer is pretty much one-to-one. It really is just you and him or her. And you can ask questions—actually that’s easier online than in person.

Kopacz is a brilliant speaker, and I hope many of you will register to hear her. For six years prior to starting Revmade, she led Atlantic Media’s B2B sales enablement efforts, which have become known as best-in-business examples of how to achieve digital success.
Between running her company and caring with her husband for their 9-month-old daughter, Kopacz sees a tunnel at the end of this blight. In that tunnel—or let’s say pipeline—is the need to give your customers the lead generation they need.
“Why does someone buy into an event?” she asked. “I’ve been working with a couple clients—why does someone spend a ton of money to host a booth? They want to have face-to-face conversations with possible clients. So how does the lack of live events across the industry affect us? What does that do to lead generation efforts? And how are you refilling that pipeline? Publishers still have a key role to play between buyers and sellers. There are many ways you can mimic what live events do.”
Kopacz said she had been thinking about her upcoming SIPA presentation that early morning. “Publishers can provide information and research, but what do they need from me? How can I help them navigate this? I work with brand clients. And they’re calling me saying, ‘we’re not doing trade shows, so how do I find qualified buyers?’
“‘Have you thought about working with a publisher?’ I suggest. But publishers are up against a lot in this new environment. What publishers need to do is to align their products better with marketing pain points. ‘How do I call up some of the clients’ pain points? How do I create a lead gen replacement package?’
“This is where your media sales team can play the biggest role, helping clients understand and being relevant to your target audience,” Kopacz continued. “They’re also wondering, ‘How do I navigate this?’ So there’s some advice-giving that needs to happen.”
From a business standpoint, good things can come of this, but it will not be easy. Harkey told that story of his 75 year-old mother-in-law teaching piano lessons on Skype now. “If you would have told me that at Christmas time, I would’ve said no way. But she’s doing it and liking it and said she will be offering it to her students in the future. It’s things like that that are fundamentally changing.”
Kopacz agrees. “The biggest challenge is, how do you lead your company through a massive transformation when your work hours are not what you’re used to”—tell me about it!—”you can’t connect in the office, and you can’t separate professional and personal problems?”
If anyone can advise us on this, it will be Krystle Kopacz. Stay tuned. Register here.

‘What Do You Do Best?’ SIPA 2020 Keynote Don Harkey Sees a Clear Path Forward

Even before Don Harkey, CEO of People Centric Consulting Group, and I started a Zoom conversation on Monday—you are in for a treat when he keynotes the first-ever SIPA 2020 Virtual Conference on June 1!—we both laughed. I think it was because each of us used “pivot” in the first sentence that we spoke.
“That’s the word of the month for me,” he said.
It’s probably the word of the year for all of us. Funny, when I looked it up in Webster’s just now, the noun appears first—”a person, thing or factor having a central or major role, function or effect.” The second definition reminded me that it’s what we call the center in basketball, almost an antiquated term now that the game has changed so much and centers matter less.
But I digress. It’s the verb pivot that we have all been living the last two months—turning, changing to something new. And accepting.
“My favorite story is that my 75 year-old mother-in-law is teaching piano lessons on Skype,” Harkey said. “If you would have told me that at Christmas time, I would’ve said no way. But she’s doing it and liking it and said she will be offering it to her students in the future. It’s things like that that are fundamentally changing. The key, as always, is listening to customers and putting fear away.
“The challenge we all face is the new situation we’re in—the stress and the fear—and that we’ve had to pivot from all of [our normal] positions. This is outside of our comfort zone and at the same time it’s interrupted all our habits. But now we have a common enemy so to speak. In a way it’s like an unintentional experiment. There are positives—my mother-in-law’s new outlook—and negatives that can come out of this. I own a business, and I’m stuck and it’s hard to pivot—oh, I said I wasn’t going to use that word again. None of us would choose this crisis.”
Harkey has an easy-going style. When I asked him how presenting from a box on a screen rather than in person might change his style, he hesitated. “Oh, no, I’ll be standing, moving. I won’t change anything. But that’s a good tip for others.”
He has found that he is able to feed off the energy of chats and comments taking place while he speaks. That’s one of those positives of our brave new world, he said.
“We do a live group every month here—60-70 people—so the question became, ‘how do we recreate that?'” Harkey asked. The answer, of course, is virtually. “I was the speaker and all these conversations were going on on the side. But it wasn’t distracting. It was actually fun to interact with that. There was energy being created. And it related to what I was talking about. You felt part of the community.
“When you’re at a live conference, you go to sessions, briefly meet someone, but maybe miss those people later on. Or you might be sitting in the front row, and you can’t pull up an article that something the speaker said triggered. At an online conference, you can pull up this article, or talk more virtually with a person you met or heard.”
Identifying With SIPA Spirit
Harkey said that as a “recovering engineer,” he can identify with the entrepreneurial spirit of SIPA members. He was working for 3M and saw some teams being successful and others not so much and why. So he decided to start a company and apply what he learned. All has been going well, and then a pandemic hit.
“There was a moment for me. All of this started happening, and the new revenue targets for the year for our company [seemed worrisome].” He thought to himself about the various scenarios and most weren’t good. Would he have to go back to engineering?
“I didn’t sleep too well that night,” Harkey related. “But”—as a believer in being very open with his employees—”I brought it to the team the next day. I said, ‘the best case is we’re fine, but the worst is really, really bad.’ They all circled around the problem and rallied. ‘Okay, now that we know that, what decisions do we make? We can focus on moving forward and helping clients.’ It’s like on planes when you’re told in case of emergency to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.”
As an engineer, Harkey also knows innovation. He has met business owners who are just so focused on the fear that they can’t innovate.
“When it comes to Innovating, it just doesn’t happen magically,” he told me. “I can’t tell you, ‘Okay, go be creative now and write,’ while we’re talking. Or everyone go innovate. It’s a creative process. You can’t do that on command.
“So you try to look for opportunities. What do you really know? What do you do that’s unique? What do you do best? Remind yourself of who you really are. Don’t walk in and just talk [to customers]. Listen. Have conversations. You don’t have the answer right away. Collect information. Then if there’s a circle of what you do well and where they need help, [see] where they intersect.”
He offered an example of one client that helped people sell items online through Amazon. They were having horrible backlogs, like 7-8 weeks for guitar strings. “The customer looked at themselves and said, ‘We’re really good at helping customers solve problems,’ so they started looking for solutions and found ways to get past those lead times.
“Sometimes we’re afraid in these situations and we shut down. But this is not a time to circle the wagons. It’s a time to listen. We had a meeting with a large nonprofit that have a location that people [like going to], or that’s what they thought. We asked, ‘What are you great at?’ ‘Well, we’re great at bringing people together.’ ‘Okay, what does that mean [in this environment]? The core of what they do well is not the building. Then if the building isn’t the key, what is? We can do different things to bring people together.
“Usually when we hear innovate, we think, ‘What can I do with technology?'” But it can go way beyond that, he said.
‘We’re Coming Together More’
We returned to his mother-in-law and the idea that certain positives will come out of this. He pointed to a restaurant in his area—Springfield, Mo.—that has discovered that they really have a knack for doing takeout. “So now they’re focused on delivery. Pick up food on the way home—it makes sense,” he said.
“Another example is that I think [as a whole], we feel tighter as teams. We’re coming together more. But we’re working apart, so what’s happening? Well, we have a clear purpose and clear objectives. We’re communicating clearly with each other. Maybe even more than before. It’s improving esprit de corps. So don’t stop accidentally doing that.”
It’s also true that Zoom offers a strangely effective dynamic, where it’s tough to look away from the other person or people, as opposed to in face-to-face conversations.
Harkey admits that, of course, it’s far from perfect now, but in line with his upbeat nature, he said that we will, ahem, pivot from some of the bad. “Even bad things that have happened to you, we’re learning lessons from that, good and bad, and can use them to move forward.”
Join us on Monday, June 1, and hear much more from this visionary leader. Register this week to get the lowest rate! Every registrant will be entitled to on-demand listening of all sessions.