Day 2 of BIMS Features High-Flying Success Stories and More Revenue Ideas

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Diane Arseneau, CEO of SIPA member Zagora, was ahead of her time. Back in 2008—when silos still stood tall and “publisher events” still was not an everyday phrase—she went to TC Media, publisher of the Montreal newspaper Les Affaires, and proposed an events division. 

They agreed, and four years later Arseneau came up with the idea of renting a plane for a traveling “conference” for entrepreneurial Canadian miners to venture 2600 kilometers north in Quebec. “Let’s try something different,” she recalled saying yesterday while presenting a session at Day 2 of SIIA’s Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale.

Only the word “completely” was missing from this over-the-top idea that would have given it a Monty Pythonish, fantasy feel. But Arseneau showed us the video! And we watched entrepreneurs bonding on frozen runways with layers of clothing, regaling in the cold, as she pointed to underground mining cities below the snow. She set up meetings with mayors and Chinese mine owners, all under the auspices of Les Affaires.

At $7,000 a person—"cupcakes" she said repeatedly—not only did the paper make money and the entrepreneurs all sorts of deals, but the editorial department, that previously would have nothing to do with Arseneau’s business-side venture, ran very popular feature stories and spreads. And she was smart enough to make that video. Today, the events division is the most profitable at the paper.

The lesson? In a time now when cooperation between different departments of publishers is soaring, think big. Connectiv and SIPA along with Russell Perkins’ InfoCommerce Group thought that way four years or so ago when they created this event. Today, on BIMS 3’s last day, the 300 attendees from publishers small and big are glad they did. 

Here are 8 highlights—though maybe not as high as Arseneau’s plan—from Day 2:

1. Be open to new ideas—from the boss and innovator side—and be determined to see them through. When early in her career, Victoria Mellor, CEO and founder of Novatum Group, offered her boss a business idea focusing on internal communications, he scoffed and told her it wouldn’t work. She borrowed money and started Melcrum out of her apartment in Notting Hill, London. “There’s nothing more motivating than someone telling me something won’t work,” she told us in a keynote about Melcrum’s transformation to high-dollars membership. Mellor later sold Melcrum in a big transaction—“I went through a week of late nights and pots of coffee [during negotiations] to make that happen,” she said. 

2. Develop relationships with the customer. Kelly Parsons, CEO of OpsCat and a former executive of Melcrum, presented with Mellor and spoke of the importance of a connected customer strategy. “Without that we couldn’t have done it… It gives you a business clarity that helps you cut through decision making. They chose two of those customers “to be my best customers and beta test” a product. “Know what your clients and members are thinking about and need,” she said.

3. Follow the formula for what works in your market. “How-to headlines work really well,” said Bethany Chambers, director of audience engagement, North Coast Media, in a session titled Crafting Killer Content That Gets Shared. “How-tos, fun facts, people… People want to read about others in the industry.” Chambers, who will be presenting this session as a webinar on Dec. 6 (sign up here), also recommended knowing your platforms well and what type of content works best on each and when.

4. Develop processes and stick with them. Chambers said that’s her biggest focus. And about an hour later, Money Media’s VP of commercial operations Egon Smullyan, fresh off being named one of SIIA’s five emerging leaders, told me how he has developed processes—especially in sales and marketing—that the company now thrives on.

5. Celebrate company anniversaries. This came up a couple times yesterday. Amy Wieman, vice president of marketing, Business and Legal Resources (BLR), a division of Simplify Compliance, talked about their campaign celebrating BLR’s 40th anniversary. “It was a fun, multi-channel, multi-touch campaign,” Wieman said. “We tied it to internal and external celebrations.” There were contests, giveaways, a 20% off BLR store coupon, 40 days of BLR trivia and a charitable giving component. The results? A 3-4% increase on social with 4,000 views, increased sales from the coupon, great feelings all around and publicity from their contribution to the High Fives Foundation, and a BLR board room dedicated to retired founder and SIPA Hall of Famer Robert Brady... At the end of her presentation, Chambers said that they had a “big anniversary year coming up for one of our brands” with a logo and other initiatives in the works.

Diane Arsenau
6. Always have incremental revenue activities for your events, Arseneau advised. “50% of your audience will buy a site visit or a workshop; if it doesn’t work, you just cancel it… It’s also a good time to test topics. If no one registers you have your answer. We did a World Café with activities among the participants, a moderator, roundtables, questions about their issues—200 people talking about problems, solutions and where they would buy next.

7. Repeat popular posts. Luis Hernandez, director of content and marketing at FDAnews, insisted on this one. “People forget about 90% of what they read after 12 weeks,” he said. “Check your analytics and repeat your most popular posts every quarter.” (He snuck it in again later in his list.) I also liked this Dear Abbyish tip from Luis: “Like any relationship, be honest [with your audience] and do what you say you are going to do. Be clear.”

8. Forget The Field of Dreams. “’If you build it they will come’ is bad advice,” said Chambers. “You want to identify your audience first, then go where they are.” Somewhere in Iowa, they’re a bit disappointed.

Follow the conference through Twitter and #BIMS17. Sessions go through noon today.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…