‘Give Them Quick Wins’; Onboarding Should Be Personalized and Thorough

“It’s critical to onboard new subscribers successfully,” Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, said in a webinar last week. “Make sure they can easily log in. And if they haven’t accessed anything or they’re not receiving your news alerts, you’ve got a problem.”

Fink’s comment made me recall a survey that Joe May, marketing director of Pro Farmer, helped to distribute for his audience. “Our survey resulted in multiple concerns about user log-ins and passwords to the websites. So what we did was proactively remind our users the basics—how to reset their password; how to set their browser to remember their credentials so they don’t have to enter it every single time. That’s a simple action that we probably all take for granted…”

If we do take that for granted—speaking as someone who loses patience when my digital Washington Post doesn’t easily open for me—then we shouldn’t. If anything, onboarding has become even more important now, when our virtual patience may be on the thin side.


Here are lessons from the publishing world and Lia Zegeye, senior director of membership at the American Bus Association, in a story on Associations Now.


Be more personalized in your onboarding. Schibsted, a large media site in Norway and Sweden, created a “newsroom onboarding guide to welcome subscribers in a more personalized way. Now new subscribers can choose one of their renowned editors or journalists as a guide through the onboarding period. These personalized onboarding emails have a higher unique opening rate: 63% versus 38% for the standard onboarding process. The retention rate after the first renewal is also five percentage points higher.”


Show, don’t tell. In the personalized onboarding webinars that Zegeye conducts, she “shows a short promotional video from ABA’s tradeshow, providing a testimonial about the value of the event from a member’s perspective. Zegeye said she often gets thank-you notes from webinar attendees who say, “Wow, I had no idea you guys did all of these things!” “It’s a great way for me to connect with our members,” she added. The webinars immediately put a face with a name, and members are more likely to reach out to her directly with questions. “Mailing out packets has become a thing of the past,” she said.


“Remind subscribers and members why they signed on and reinforce that decision,” said Jim Sinkinson of Fired Up Marketing. “New customers—especially trials—forget why they subscribed. Don’t let them forget. Tantalize them with the valuable information they will be receiving. Onboarding materials should address three things: Motivation, method and making them heroes—give them quick wins.” I recently found out that I get PBS2 (channel 800!) from my cable provider; they should have informed me of that earlier based on my preferences.


Target. Speaking of preferences, from a data perspective, “this [opening 30-day] period is also crucial for us to gather patterns of user behavior,” said Katrina Bolak, manager, customer onboarding and engagement, for The Globe and Mail in Toronto. “We need 30 days of data to accurately serve up future content based on interests and for our email segmentation.” After that, content consumption patterns begin to form—good and bad.


Design matters. “We don’t think of onboarding as a discrete activity,” Aaron Steinberg, publisher at insideARM, said last year. “It’s the beginning of our ongoing member service and engagement. We want to be in touch with our customers all the time, and we do a good job of that.” He spoke about the importance of design in the customer service chain. “Our materials are good, our onboarding is good, but in the middle there was a design” on the website that needed to be clearer. That changed, thanks to that good customer communication.


Engage with social media. Zegeye shows new members all of ABA’s social media platforms and asks them to follow ABA from the start. “Members tend to gravitate toward Facebook to discuss their challenges, which gives the membership team a good way to tap into what members are experiencing and engage with them in a meaningful way, she said.”


Emphasize any incentive programs and key website features. ABA has a member-get-a-member incentive program, with the prize being a $50 gift card and entrance into a raffle with a chance to win $1,000. “Your members are your best ambassadors” for recruiting new prospects, Zegeye said. She also walks new members through key parts of ABA’s website.


Get members talking. Having ambassadors reminds me of something I heard once from Elizabeth Petersen of Simplify Compliance. Their conference app allowed people attending the event to have conversations before they attend. “So the week before the session, people started posting who they wanted to meet and what they wanted to see,” she said. “Then they started posting pictures of their dog wearing a conference tee-shirt. And a drink they were having before they got on the plane. So they were onboarding one another… That’s a million times more powerful than me standing in front of folks saying, ‘You must come to this session; it’s going to be the greatest thing.'”


‘You Can’t Rely on Too Few Products’: SIPA 2020 Speakers Offer Crisis Path

“Two months ago, we asked, ‘Where do we go from here?'” said Caysey Welton, content director, Folio:, Access Intelligence. “The pandemic will have long-lasting impact. It will be important to have conversations with your audience. Those who have diverse portfolios, have managed cash well, have good digital DNA and are nimble and creative with product offerings will do well. You can’t rely on too few products. Legacy products will go on but we should probably lessen our dependence on them. Look at your data.”
One common theme during SIPA 2020 this week was the increased need for products. “Continue realigning your product portfolio with the client input that you get,” suggested Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade. Because many publishers relied on events, the need for products and the revenue they can bring is crucial now. As Welton said, data could be the new buzzword.
Elizabeth Petersen of Simplify Compliance stressed the need for a diverse revenue stream. “We would like to get as much subscription revenue in now as we can. Try taking products that may be subscription in nature and bundle them to get a higher priced product.”
Here are more highlights from SIPA 2020. The two days of exceptional content are now available for purchase on demand here.
Experiment. “It’s important that the team is much more open to experimenting now,” said Diane Schwartz, CEO, Ragan Communications. “There should be a voracious appetite for trial and error, and being open to producing products that may not have a long life span. We put out a Crisis Communication plan back in March that’s been very popular. We’ll make that a subscription product. We’ve also gone to more daily subscriptions where we can repackage and monetize.”
Check 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.”
Find hidden gems. “Look to see if there is someone in your organization who is being underutilized,” said Kopacz. “Maybe a younger person who is bored and wants to learn and do something new. Also look for sales people now on an independent basis. They may be good ones who are jobless and looking for something.”
Stand out. “Your [LinkedIn] brand has to be unique; you have to find the key differentiator that makes you different from your competitor,” said Steve Kearns, marketing leader, social media, LinkedIn. “That’s the foundation from where you start.” Michelle Peña, senior editor, Business Management Daily, urged people to “cultivate relationships” on LinkedIn. “When they comment on your post, take a moment to respond to them. It will show that you’re an energized member of the community.”
Be realistic. “Tailor your virtual event execution to the customer service and technological skills you have available, not what you wish you had,” said Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, Education Week. He added that Zoom works best when content is linear and there are no concurrent sessions. Companies have been having success breaking out in small discussion groups.
Train and share. “We focus on training sales reps who aren’t used to selling [things like virtual events],” said Chris Ferrell, CEO of Endeavor Media. “We have 17 on the calendar so far, and we’re launching more to fill gaps in the market. Webinars are also up dramatically for us… We believe in sharing successes. You’ll hear enough about all the bad stuff.”
Seek clarity. “The offer is the distillation of your message,” said Jeson Jackson, audience development manager for Education Week. “Make sure you’re asking the customer to do what you want them to do… Listen to your customers. By listening we can [act accordingly] rather than assume. You want to uncover what your customers want, which may be less intuitive than you think. You want well informed customers making well informed decisions. Your company’s future is secured by innovation not persuasion. And clarity alone should be the only persuasion you need.”

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!

Inspiration, Revenue, Value and Growth Will All Shine at SIPA 2020

Earlier this year, Money-Media launched Health Payer Specialist, targeting health insurance carriers—many of whom are paying the bills for COVID-19 medical treatment. “On March 3, we announced that our free beta test was ending at the end of the month,” said Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media. “The next week, everything seemed to change overnight and the pandemic was suddenly a real thing. We thought this was going to scupper our product launch, but we actually saw amazing results. We brought on 20+ corporate licenses during the month of March.”
Fink will be shedding brighter light on this on Tuesday, June 2, in a SIPA 2020 Virtual Conference session appropriately titled Growing Your Audience in the Time of Pandemic. Joining him will be Stephanie Williford, CEO of EB Medicine. When EB Medicine put COVID-19 content in front of the paywall, website traffic exploded (153% increase) and a modest increase in subscriptions (9%) followed. “We also think the goodwill and brand awareness we’re generating now will pay off in the long run,” she said.
That is just one session in an amazing two-day array that SIPA is presenting. Yes, it’s virtual, and you will not be able to talk in-person with friends and colleagues, but all the other advantages—learning, asking questions, hearing solutions, following up quickly—will be there, minus transportation, hotel and food costs—and the greater time away from the office.
Here are more takeaways:
Idea sharing. “The hallmarks of the SIPA community, to me, are community and idea-sharing,” said Elizabeth Petersen, product director for Simplify Compliance and chair of the conference. “And we’re doubling down on those themes with this year’s virtual event. You’ll find a lot of realness, rawness and hope with this year’s sessions. Our speakers will be discussing challenges that existed pre-pandemic and ones that have been introduced with COVID. Most importantly, these presentations are going to be solutions-focused, and attendees will walk away with ideas they can implement immediately.” Petersen will also present a session titled Mastering Memberships.
Revenue strategies. Industry Dive COO Meg Hargreaves will be co-presenting a session titled Content Licensing: Alternative Data 101. Alternative data is more than financial market-drive pricing data; it can include structured data that specialized publishers are already collecting. Here you will grasp the basics behind alternative data to learn if there may be licensing-related revenue opportunities within your own business and content assets.
Inspiration. “When it comes to innovating, it just doesn’t happen magically,” Day 1 keynote speaker Don Harkey told me. “It’s a creative process. You can’t do that on command. So you try to look for opportunities. What do you really know well? What do you do that’s unique? What do you do best? Remind yourself of who you really are. Don’t just talk to customers. Listen. Have conversations. And you can do that now. Collect information. Then if there’s a circle of what you do well and where they need help, see where they intersect.”
Platforms. If you’re like many businesses, LinkedIn is the go-to social media for your customers, and have they been in the news of late! Last week, LinkedIn launched a live streaming events platform that combines existing resources to help companies reconnect with their customers and communities. Steve Kearns, marketing leader, social media for LinkedIn, will co-present a session titled All Things LinkedIn: Sales, Marketing and Content Strategies. They are also launching a new Polls feature—something so many companies are doing now. Michelle Peña, senior editor, Business Management Daily, joins Kearns.
Business value. Every conference needs an all-star panel, and SIPA 2020 has at least one. The session is Hallmarks of Lasting Business, and the panel includes Stephanie Eidelman, president & CEO, insideARM and the iA Institute, insideARM LLC; John McGovern, CEO and owner, Grimes, McGovern & Associates; and Caysey Welton, content director, Folio:, Access Intelligence. Petersen will moderate. “Nothing takes the place of face-to-face,” Petersen said, “but I truly believe that this is the next best thing.”
See the full schedule and registration here.