I attended the Annapolis (Md.) Film Festival over the weekend and besides the impressive films—I still recall Itzhak Perlman talking about not making live events feel too rehearsed in a documentary about his extraordinary life—I was really impressed by their survey method.
Right after the film, they posted a huge diagram of what numbers to text to tell how much you liked it—or didn't. Everyone always takes out their phone anyway right after a presentation finishes, so it was a natural transition. It's a long way from giving out slips of paper that you had to tear at a designated spot to indicate your rating. (That was supposed to alleviate the need for a pen.)
We're coming around to another SIPA Annual Conference, so I looked up some of the best ideas from last year's edition—with a few add-tos and updating: (SIPA Annual 2018 takes place June 5-7 in Washington, D.C.).
1. Survey. Speaking of surveys, one of the first things Anne Holland and Cassandra Farrington of Marijuana Business Daily did in their new venture was conduct a survey of businesses in the field—their audience. What did people really want from an information company? "They didn't want to know how to run a dispensary better," Holland said. "They wanted a free daily news website that connected them to the cannabis industry across the country; they desperately needed business and financial benchmarks, and industry numbers. And they wanted a conference, with other mavericks who were running dispensaries."
2. Create a place where you can bring people to brainstorm, said Elizabeth Petersen, chief people and strategy officer of Simplify Compliance. "Every person has ideas but they need to be coaxed... I have introverts and they need to be encouraged—having a structured agenda is a great way to get people talking."
3. Start an advertiser advisory board. We hear about editorial advisory boards but not as much about advertisers. "Before you roll out a new product, you would take that product to the board," said Ryan Dohrn, founder and CEO of Brain Swell Media. "'Is this a product that you would pay for?' Advertisers will give you plenty of feedback. The publisher of the magazine is probably not best person to run that advisory meeting. She might get upset when advertisers shoot something down."
4. Don't underprice, said Krystle Kopacz, CEO of new SIPA member Revmade. "In media we're so used to discounting, and then not accounting for all costs." She also said that ignoring program management is a huge pitfall. "Great customer service can overcome a lot" of negatives. She added to be careful not to disrupt yourself too much as you move forward. "The key is to be on the side of your client."
5. Keep the customer involved throughout the new-product process, said Greg Hart, director of marketing for PSMJ Resources and chair of SIPA Annual 2018. "Understand what their challenges are but then think about the solution. That does not just come from the C-level of an organization. [Innovation] needs to be customer driven."
6. Create products for a changing marketplace. "Of the products I've already developed, what can I reuse in a practical way?" asked Terrie Goldstein, publisher of Hudson Valley Parent magazine. "Products have cycles." She created a following of moms 27-45 "who trust me and my company as a resource." This allowed her to survey that group and find out what products they wanted.
7. Find new niches for products. There are clues to new opportunities that you should look for, said Lesley Norins, vice president of Medvostat. They include:
- new laws and regulations that may soon take effect;
- spreading technology;
- newly formed groups or associations;
- new innovations;
- people who already have a job getting more responsibility (such as a manager of tank car safety).
"Then you want to investigate the topic before your competitors," Norins said. "Is anybody covering this? Don't assume anything; check it out. In our field of 60 newsletters we rarely enter a field where someone's already there. And, of course, act quickly."
8. Get started with video. "The most watched times for videos on our site are 7-8 pm Saturdays and 9-10 am on Sundays, with an average watch time of almost 4 minutes," said Linda Vassily, VP of marketing, Cabot Investing Advice. "We have a lot of consumer content, so our videos are most popular on weekends. They run about 8 minutes. We've gotten almost 700,000 page views. People don't have short attention spans if they're interested in your content."
9. Convene a focus group, said Petersen. At times, she has reached outside her own company for ideas. "Once every other month we brought together 8-10 prospects and asked those prospects to grade 8-10 ideas. Some that we thought were terrible would get Bs. We invited someone who gave an idea an A to be a pilot partner on it."