‘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.”

‘Echoes for the Long Term’: Day Two of SIPA 2020 Offers Ideas to Last

“People don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be communicated with.” As I look over my notes for the again-excellent SIPA 2020 Day 2 sessions, that quote from Jeson Jackson, audience development manager, Education Week, stands out. Because even though so much of what we are doing now is in response to the pandemic, there will be a carry over of successful ideas and methods.
And that will be one of them. If a theater I like simply asks me to buy a 2021 subscription, I might hesitate. But if they communicate with me and engage me in a conversation between four or five of their diverse actors and directors for next year, I’m probably in.

Day 2 keynote speaker, Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade, talked about “echoes for the long term” that she is hearing now. “Overall what I’m seeing is we’re heading to some type of reordering. How can we be more important to buyers so we’re not cut off? In my mind we should think like this all the time. We talk about products but not outcomes… We shy away from the end result.”

Again, just another day in (SIPA’s virtual) paradise produced a litany of strategies and ideas.And you can get them all on demand here. The 41st annual SIPAwards were also given out. See those winners here.
Kopacz gave five sales tips:
1. Executives should make it a priority to talk to 10 advertisers a month. It’s not about selling, it’s about listening
2. Start doing audience poll surveys at least two times a year. How hopeful are they, what are their pain points and budgets? It will keep you relevant.
3. Convene weekly sales and product team meetings. What are sales hearing? How should the product team respond? Do we need a new price point?
4. Continue realigning your product portfolio with the client input that you get. You’re not selling a webinar but a sales funnel.
5. Make sure your sales team has what they need to meet those pain points and make more sales. Get new products into sales team hands.
Education Week’s Jackson spoke more to the marketing bent. “The offer is the distillation of your message. Make sure you’re asking the customer to do what you want them to do,” he emphasized. How often have we read an email, agree with what it is saying and move on because it isn’t specific in what action we should take? Where’s the big red button?
Listen to your customers, Jackson urged. “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.” He said that attractiveness is amplified by relevance, importance and urgency.
“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… Your unique benefit is how you transform your customers. What problems did you solve for them? Be specific. Value propositions need to establish your unique value.
“Take some time and make sure your value prop is still relevant to the moment,” Jackson said
Later in the afternoon, Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, amplified some of these themes, speaking about learning the pain points of your customers.
In the case of virtual events, she said to make sure that both your clients and your sales team are comfortable with the platform you use. “My biggest advice is to send the sales team to somebody else’s event on that platform where they can get comfortable [enough to sell it well]. Because if they’re not comfortable…”
Farley added that sales may also need to have conversations with one of your brand leaders or editors because as packages become more integrated and bundled—that was a common theme today—they may know best what a client needs.
“We’re also seeing a pushback on pricing,” she said. “There had been, at least back in March, a sense that virtual should be cheaper. But people are starting to appreciate the value of what we bring [virtually]. It still has the value of live, and [brings] the experience to connect buyers and sellers. The connections that you’re bringing aren’t all of a sudden cheaper. And the same amount of time that goes into [putting together] live events goes into virtual events. We have to make sure we don’t give deep discounts.”
Joining Farley, Tom Gale, CEO of Gale Media, spoke about a live Zoom call that they hosted where 500 people signed up. Remember how this article began? People want to be communicated with. “Engagement with community,” Gale said. “We’ve gotten intelligence for what our customers are looking for [from that].”
As I said yesterday, these are only snippets from two days of really sharp and exceptional content. I will report some more but even better, you can also get it all on demand here to review at any time.
Much thanks to BeaconLive and ePublishing for being sponsors for SIPA 2020!

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.

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.