From November 13-15, business information professionals from around the country gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the fourth annual Business Information & Media Summit, hosted by Connectiv, SIPA, and InfoCommerce Group.
After the conference, I chatted with some thought leaders to get their take on the most important trends in the specialized information industry. Below is a summary of four themes that cut across most of the BIMS programming.
1. It’s Time to Make Use of the Data You’re Collecting.
Content may be king, but the importance of data is undeniable. Almost every presentation touched on this phenomenon.
For example, Patrick Crane of BlueConic gave publishers the following advice for harnessing the power of their data: “Begin thinking of new ways [your data] can be monetized or guide your product development. With changes coming fast and furious, publishers will need to be agile in developing new revenue streams and first-party data is a great place to start.”
There was also a great deal of talk around the influence of AI and marketing automation. Robert Keenan, President of Keenan Media LLC, noted that a major takeaway from the conference was that, “In 2018, publishers need to explore how AI can bring higher levels of insight into their audience lists.”
Jim Sinkinson, Igniter in Chief at Fired Up Marketing spoke to the relevance of marketing automation, “We’re starting to see some very advanced ways of ranking prospects and more elaborate and creative uses of triggered messages. I don’t think you can stay in our business without mastering this technology and these quickly evolving techniques.”
All of the technological disruption in the industry can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Start with the data you already have and take measured steps to work towards gathering more while harnessing the power of AI, IoT, and marketing automation. Patrick Crane ended his talk with a quote from Arthur Ashe that can be applied to moving forward with data in your organization: “To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
2. Your Customers Aren’t Numbers. They’re VIP Members.
While data and new technologies are changing the landscape, the importance of people—both your customers and your team—can’t be overlooked.
Kelly Parsons and Victoria Mellor, both formerly of Melcrum, spoke about the necessity of treating your subscribers not like subscribers, but like true members. In transforming Melcrum from a newsletter publisher into a membership-based advisory and training business, they realized they needed to provide their customers with all of the perks and personalized attention that a membership typically provides: community, innovation, and unparalleled support.
Jim Sinkinson also noted the importance of the customer, particularly as it relates to on-boarding. “There’s a tremendous growth in sophistication as to how we increase new customers’ emotional bond to the brand, as well as training those customers to make the service part of their regular workflow. The result is much better renewals and retention.”
While the significance of treating your customers well can’t be denied, you also mustn’t lose sight of the people on your own team. Patrick Crane added, “Quality people are still the most important part of any digital strategy. The market is full of incredible platforms and technology, but they aren’t magic. Having the right people and planning behind these tools is what makes the difference between a successful project and a game-changing one.”
3. Think About Content In a Bigger Context.
Part of valuing your customers is understanding what content is relevant to them and sharing it with them in an exciting and engaging way.
Robert Keenen’s noted, “B2B players must not devalue their content. The content needs to be valuable. If we’re generating strong/meaningful content, then there is a revenue stream to be gained.”
Barbara Weckstein Kaplowitz, President of Big Huge Ideas agreed. “Good content, delivered when and where the customer wants it, and a structured process that builds community and trust by seamlessly moving our customers through onboarding, into engagement, into renewals is the way to thrive in 2018.”
Barbara then took things a step further, “The medium for delivery needs to be more visual than ever. Test video, and if it’s already part of your arsenal, ramp it up and add mobile video.” Addressing the importance of not just the content itself, but the way in which it’s distributed, she continued, “It’s predicted that 25% of video will be viewed on phones and tablets in the coming year. Incorporate explainer videos and live-streaming into both your editorial and marketing mix for success.”
Understanding what content is relevant to your customers and harnessing the most popular methods for delivery will ensure that you’re not only getting the greatest reach but also that the content is both generating new business and retaining current customers.
4. Take Advantage of Your Advantage.
If you’re a specialized or niche publisher, don’t feel like you have to keep pace with the big guys, always chasing after the latest trend. Focus on your target audience, identify their needs, and look for innovative ways to address their specific pain points.
Elizabeth Green, CEO of Brief Media, spoke at BIMS about how her business used their status as a “David,” an underdog, to take on the “Goliaths” in their industry. While all the biggest publishers in the veterinary medicine field were focused on developing native apps, Elizabeth and her team dedicated their efforts to building responsive websites. They jumped on this opportunity six years before the Goliaths caught on, and Brief Media found themselves reaching a much wider audience than their competition.
As a final note, Elizabeth shared what is perhaps one of the greatest lessons any publisher can learn.
“The David and Goliath phenomena is important to both Davids and Goliaths and a testament to why everyone performs better when we recognize our weakness and choose unconventional strategies to exploit our strengths.”
SIPA’s next major event will be the annual SIPA Conference, held June 5-7 in Washington, DC.
About The Sterling Woods Group
The Sterling Woods Group teaches clients our five forces to methodically make more money online. The goal: make sure you lock in double-digit growth year after year using the power of digital media. Many companies have experienced over 50% growth using our system. Beyond the financial benefits, clients tell us that – for the first time in years – they feel truly focused.
We offer workshops, coaching, and keynote speeches. Sterling Woods is also an agency that launches new digital initiatives, so clients don’t have to add overhead. Our agency business model is unique in that most of our fees are based on performance.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of Sterling Woods, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. He started his career as a consultant at McKinsey. Ristagno holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors: A Proven Method for Making More Money Online, set to be published in 2018. He regularly speaks at key media conferences, including at Niche Media events, Specialized Information Publishers Association meetings, and the Business Information and Media Summit.