"People don't want to be marketed to; they want to be communicated with." As I look back on my notes from SIPA 2020, that quote from Jeson Jackson, marketing and customer experience manager, Education Week, stands out. Because even though so much of what we are doing continues to be in response to the pandemic, there will be a carry over of successful ideas and methods.
Jackson will also be speaking at BIMS 2020 Featuring the SIPA Sales & Marketing Leadership Summit in a session titled Marketing Pivot: How Are Publishers Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic Now? with Charity Huff, CEO, January Spring, and Stacey Bailey, vice president, Chartwell, Inc. It will be interesting to see what has changed for Education Week since June.
"The offer is the distillation of your message,” he emphasized. “Make sure you're asking the customer to do what you want them to do.” 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.
Kevin Turpin, president of the National Journal, spoke about the big decision his company faced 10 years ago on their future direction.
"We spent a year with our customers, asking them a set of questions over and over," Turpin said. "The most important one was, 'What keeps you effective?' When businesses are trying to recreate themselves and change, they spend too much time inside, in strategy meetings, batting around ideas that they think will work. We don't spend enough time going around. How are [our customers'] jobs changing? What are they thinking about? What are they investing in this year? This will give you solutions."
Turpin’s message only resonates more now and into 2021. He said to ask yourself, what customer problem are you solving? "One thing we launched was a presentation center," he said, explaining that by talking to their customers they discovered that's what they needed help with. "They were being asked to explain [the] Washington [political scene] in more detail. They knew the content but needed a workable format. We're actually very good at that. Take what happened in midterm elections and create a 40-page slide deck out of it. We're still doing that for board meetings of Fortune 500 companies."
One would think that strategy could still do well in the pandemic, as I’ve heard colleagues say that their presentations have been more effective this year, with the tools available and the opportunity to reach a bigger audience online.
"We knew that the more people we could get using our services the stickier our membership would be," Turpin said. At that time, pricing went by the number of people in an office, whether it was two people using it or 100. The low end of pricing about doubled when they went from subscription to membership.
A major goal was to stay in constant touch with members, starting with a welcome call from dedicated advisors. "There are significant touch points that we know are viable," Turpin said. "Like asking them what presentations they have coming up and then we put that on the calendar. We then reach out to them 3 or 4 weeks before and say, 'we know you have a presentation coming up—how can we help?"
Hear from Jackson on Dec. 2, and Turpin on Dec. 4 at BIMS. See the full agenda here.
Former writer at The Washington Post, publications manager for Washington Redskins and editor at Newspaper Association of America
Specialties: runs a large arts group at www.meetup.com/ArtHouseDC