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Think Virtual-First, New Sponsors, Fast Following and Editorial Selling

You know how there’s speed dating and speed networking and speed reading and speed friending and speed skating and speed eating and speed walking, etc. I’m turning to speed ideating today. See if any of these ideas from the last couple months triggers something good for you.
Build something new. Maybe we need to put aside the pivot for a while and create an event that’s virtual-first—like we used to say digital-first a few years ago. What works best on Zoom? I like moderated discussions there. Or think of five speakers you never would have thought you could get pre-pandemic. Try calling them now. I just read something that said celebrities are turning up (virtually) in all sorts of unexpected ways these days. This gives us a chance to re-format.
Come up with new sponsorships. Vendors still want to vend. They need new opportunities. What fresh and exciting sponsorships can you come up with? The Washington Nationals have Bathletix hand santizer. Start a podcast. Or a puzzle. Or a quiz.
Talk to your customers. The natural inclination at this time might be to withdraw or think everyone is on vacation, but the opposite might be true. It’s the time for strategic conversations and important questions. Pick up the phone—yes, you do NOT have to Zoom. “How are you?” should be the lead question. “What do you need the most help with?” “What are your pain points?”
Empower staff to have these same conversations and then share. Anecdotal information from the conversations/emails your staff is having with your audience should be shared at your next Zoom meeting. Everyone should be empowered to ask these questions. A short personal email is fine if you don’t want to call and then listening for what comes next from them (after “how are you”).
Follow the money. Asked why he might go into popular verticals rather than more obscure ones, Industry Dive CEO Sean Griffey said, “Crowded spaces means there’s money there. I’d rather go where there’s money today rather than create a market tomorrow. If it’s between being first in something or being a fast follower, I’m not in the first one… At the end of the day, we like verticals that are impacted by technology or regulation so there’s a need to follow the news.”
Try “selling without selling.” Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications, said that he has an audience that doesn’t like to talk to sales. So an editor will contact them and say, “I’m the editor and my job is for you to get value from the site. Is there content that’s not there that you need?” He calls it selling without selling. “It’s non-intrusive but takes the right type of editorial folks who get that.”
Create content bundles. People have more time now so come up with new courses or e-learning initiatives. Bundle that with a new newsletter or report and special access to something.
Get more social. Despite social media’s effectiveness for driving traffic to organization websites—it’s number one at 90% in a recent survey—only 1 in 5 respondents in that survey feel strongly that their organization’s social media strategy is well defined, and only one-third strongly agree that social media is a high priority for their organization. There’s a definite disconnect there.
Do an honest assessment of your product bucket. Use that to inform future products. A reallocation of resources is something real that has to happen and now is a good time.
Focus on the “gap methodology. The plans that we all put in place 4-6 months ago aren’t the plans today. And who knows what the future will bring. Our key stakeholders are experiencing a level of uncertainty that we’re all experiencing. There’s a place now between the current state (unarguably not great) and the future state. Make the most of the time now.
Get back to your core products. What do you do best? What do you have—in the archives perhaps—that you can tune or adjust to solve your audience’s current challenges? Maybe you once did something on crisis communications or managing remotely or hockey in August.
It’s been a long week.
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Profiles of 2019 SIPAward Winners Provide Ideas During Crisis

With the deadline looming for SIPAwards entries—you can’t win if you don’t enter!—it’s a good time to list some of the profiles I wrote on 2019 honored entrants. The SIPAwards are a total win-win-win entity, especially in these challenging weeks. Great efforts get recognized and applauded, members read about them, we celebrate (virtually) at SIPA 2020, and helpful times are enjoyed by all.
Here’s a rundown of a few profiles that I wrote of 2019 winners, with links to the full stories. Except for one in-person event, they are all initiatives that can be executed during our current climate.
In 2018, the Informa Pharma Intelligence editorial and marketing teams collaborated on the release of its annual white paper analyzing the evolution of pharma R&D for the past year. But this wasn’t your typical medical or scientific report. It was more music to their audience’s ears. “Using the evolution of music as the backdrop for the 2018 report, the team set the trends… against everything from present day pop charts to the birth of jazz,” they wrote on their 2019 SIPAward-winning entry.
“Education Week Online Summits are an ideal way for busy educators to access timely information about a range of critical issues in K-12 education easily by using their phones or desktops and integrating their learning directly into their usual workflow,” wrote Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, for Education Week, in his 2019 SIPAward-winning entry last year.
“Gas station owner Mike is struggling to keep up with the times, and not just in his wardrobe.” Thus begins one of the many OPIS animated videos featuring Mike, here wearing a psychedelic shirt and headband. This 98-second marketing video is one of many in the OPIS RetailSuite Video Series starring the buyer persona (but not Oscar-nominated) “Mike the station manager.” This campaign helped produce 600+ closed sales in 2018, and drove a 17% YOY increase in sales revenue for the retail segment of OPIS business—and won a SIPAward.
The original trial sign-up page for Money-Media’s Life Annuity Specialist looked a bit intimidating. It had several boxes to fill out, a password to create, enter and re-enter, and many asterisks which usually isn’t good. Then there was a testimonial, a confirmation box, “privacy and cookie policies,” and finally the Sign Up button at the bottom. Whew! But then a new trial sign-up page was created, and success followed—and a 2019 SIPAward for Best Success Story.
Talk about a win-win initiative. In 2018, Connectiv member Putman Media’s inaugural Influential Women in Manufacturing (IWIM), a recognition program honoring women who are creating and leading change in the manufacturing and industrial production space, honored 22 women and won a coveted SIPAward. Along with that came new social media channels, an awards breakfast at their annual Smart Industry event—shown here with Putman’s three IWIM creators—a new sponsorship, webinars, a podcast series, and, oh yes, 27 more honorees in 2019.
“Mapping out the email content for the entire marketing campaign from the first to the last email enabled me to really put myself in the attendee’s shoes and think, ‘what is my customer’s journey’?” That quote is from Sarah Plombon, marketing manager for Access Intelligence, in her 2019 SIPAward-winning entry for Best Success Story. For their 2019 Nuclear Deterrence Summit, she created an automated email marketing campaign that drove an 18% increase in year-over-year attendee revenue.
“Data shows that 39.4% of people who view this quiz are completing it, 49.7% of people who begin the quiz are completing it, and 99.2% of people completing the quiz are entering their email addresses,” wrote Megan Sigg, marketing coordinator for Access Intelligence’s PR News, in her 2019 SIPAward-winning entry for Best Lead Generation/Nurturing Campaign. “Overall results of this lead-generation campaign have exceeded expectations bringing in more than 700 total leads…”
Again, here is the link to the 2020 SIPAwards. There’s still time to enter, win and be included in this column next year!
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How Events Are Finding New Revenue (and Securing Budgets for Rescheduled Shows at the Same Time)

As events originally scheduled for the first and second quarters of 2020 migrate to a fall season already packed with existing conferences and trade shows, preserving original budgets is no sure thing.

Two clients of M&A advisory firm Grimes, McGovern & Associates are creatively leveraging new webinar strategies and membership programs to not only drive new revenue and secure sponsors and attendees for their rescheduled live events, but keep their valuations intact as they explore sales to new owners.

“At first it was the March events but within a week it became apparent that April and May were in jeopardy too,” says Marlon Wurmitzer, Senior Associate at Grimes, McGovern & Associates. “The sole owner of the business, who also runs the conferences, had to act quickly because we are in the middle of trying to secure the sale of his company. Because of his ability to scramble quickly, he has created a revenue stream that will increase the value of the organization.”

That company produces more than 20 events with 300 to 600 attendees and revenue of $50,000 to $200,000 each across the emerging technology, digital infrastructure and commercial real estate markets.

To produce revenue now, as well as preserve sponsors and attendees for events shifting to the fall, the company created an hour-long “Daily Webinar” featuring one or two sponsors paying between $1,500 to $3,000 each. The webinars feature thought leaders from both sponsors and end-user organizations and are free to attendees—provided you are a ticket holder to a future live event.

Another Grimes, McGovern client is hosting weekly webinars that are sponsor-curated, with free access for all current subscribers. Sponsors pay between $7,500 and $15,000 for each webinar and the company is planning to transition subscribers to an annual membership program to receive exclusive access for this type of content at a later date.

“Sponsors have been receptive as long as the pitch takes into account the grave situation that we are all going through at this time,” says Wurmitzer. “Value needs to be demonstrated. In terms of attendees, this has shown us that there is an absolute need for value and insight during this time of crisis.”

The two event companies are generating between 200 and 400 attendees per webinar and projecting $20,000 to $50,000 per month in new revenue over the course of the next three months.

An Opportunity for Smaller Events?

Wurmitzer says the future is extremely bright for smaller event organizations, more so than larger ones. “If a company has had to cancel a sponsorship to, say, one of the bigger Data Center Conferences companies like Gartner, DCD, Microsoft or AWS, they may find themselves with extra sponsor money available in 2020 on a ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ basis. Smaller event companies are poised to benefit and they are beginning to hear from potential sponsor that they never secured before, for their fall events.”