"Organizations have this notion that selling is about 'I get something from you and therefore I win,' but it's ultimately about service," Daniel Pink wrote in his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others." You have to understand that what you're doing when selling is in some ways noble."
Pink's notion opened the doors wide for everyone in an organization to think of themselves as salespeople in some sense—including editorial. Brian Cuthbert, group vice president, Diversified Communications, picks up on this in his talk titled Aligning Editorial Strategy with Sales and Marketing. (He will be delivering this in a SIPA webinar next Wednesday, Jan. 10. Register here. SIPA members always get free access.)
"I need editors doing some different things than they used to," Cuthbert said in June. Editors are required to talk to five renewals—"we're really excited you're back"—five new leads—"what are your content needs?"—and five cancelled members—"what can we do better?"—every month. "We've picked up 3% of cancelled members by doing this," Cuthbert said. "If I can save 5-10 members a month, that's thousands of dollars."
And if editorial is doing all this talking, then Cuthbert wants sales to give them actionable information so "they can sound as intelligent as possible to our customers. I want sales to talk in an open way about what's working and what isn't. What were customers asking for that we couldn't serve?" And it goes the other way as well. He wants editorial telling sales, "Here's what we're hearing—a big trend in xyz."
In an interview last week with Folio:, Allison Adams, the new chief subscription officer for Connectiv member SourceMedia, echoed some of these comments. Asked how they know which types of readers to target for subscriptions, she said one way is by "listening to those that are on the front lines within the organization here, our subscription sales team as well as our editorial team, who are spending all day on the phone or out with customers.
"One of the first things I did here was talk to both of those teams and say please, don't hesitate to bubble ideas up, set up meetings with customers who have mentioned they'd like to see something different. It's very much an open-door policy."
Look at Your Archives
Something else that Adams asks her editorial people to do is to think of content in multiple ways. There's the straightforward reporting, but she sees the potential for more.
"If we look at content as an asset, one area that will continue to be interesting is looking at our unstructured content and how we can move it towards structure," Adams said. "Customers will pay for predictive data, predictive trends. If you can look back and pick through your archived content and find things that can be predictive, whether it's about managing risks, or some data point that might be useful, you can find really good value for subscriptions."
Having editors go through archived content is one way to add another revenue stream, but letting subscribers do it is another. In 2012 Harvard Business Publishing decided to open archive access to subscribers on hbr.org (Harvard Business Review) and never looked back. "We heard people recognized [back] issues by covers, so we started posting images of covers [to help them find key content]," Emily Ryan, senior product manager, said, "We saw a 20% increase in subscription revenue right away."
They were also in the process of taking archived articles and breaking them down into ideas so they're easier to apply to real situations. "We kept hearing that people wanted that," Ryan said.
Both cases ask editorial people to wear another hat—one that looks more closely at what customers want. Cuthbert also demands that his editorial people get out to company events to speak and interview customers in person, but again with more in mind than a good byline.
"Interview them, do a story, create content. Then pass those leads over to sales. We're finding really strong conversions on that."
Hear more next Wednesday at Cuthbert's webinar
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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…