The quarterly numbers were almost out, and anyone in my position (I was the group publisher) could see we were going to be short. Always an advocate of total disclosure, I told my superiors to be prepared. My reward for this communique was predictable: “What are you going to come up with to replace the missed revenue?”
My boss and I were just getting to know each other, although this current matter was going to cut short any famous long-term partnership. I explained that I live and breathe the pressures of coming up with new revenue ideas. My prime value to the company is thinking about sources of new revenue;on the train, before bed, sometimes (sadly) in bed, at the ballgame, at the market, in the shower. Asking me to suddenly produce a new revenue idea beyond the realm of the 24/7 thinking I already devote to this missive is not realistic.
But that doesn’t mean you and your company can’t take some proactive steps and strategies to boost your chances of stirring the creative juices.
Trends of the Past Will Uncover Tomorrow’s Opportunities
Someone once said trends are the toughest things to predict;and by the time you spot them, it’s usually too late to act on them and the market is off to the next trend. There’s a lot to be said, though, for looking into the past and understanding what allowed past trends to take hold, and reviewing the present to try to figure out where a market is headed. Try to look at how a trend developed, where it came from, and what conditions currently exist to prompt the next one.
Create an Environment Conducive to New Ideas
Make sure the creative thinkers on your team are comfortable and properly motivated to come forth when called upon. I used to buy my staff lunch on a regular basis in exchange for each person bringing a new idea to the table. Reward people for ideas that work. And do anything you can to use their ideas. Nothing falls flatter than the manager who rejects everything and makes his or her team gun-shy to suggest something the next time.
Understand Your Products
It sounds basic, because it is. One of the optimum times for me to think of new revenue ideas is at the beginning stage of any relationship I have with or at a publishing brand. I try to get a handle on what they are trying to do based on the kinds of products and services they provide, the form those offerings take, and the strategic stance they are pushing. If you haven’t conducted a general review of these areas lately with your staff, try it;you’d be amazed how many of your insiders are not as cognizant of your strategy as you’d expect.
Monitor Your Audience
Study how your audience processes information and how that has changed in recent times;when they seek out information, what sources they use, how much time they spend, how they like to be contacted, what interests them the most, what areas have lost interest, what they are seeking more of. You might be delivering the best content in the industry, but your format may not be the one for your audience.
Define Your Role as Manager
One speaker on a recent panel I moderated on brand extensions at this year’s Folio: Show said it was important to establish his own dialogue with industry players and thus serve as a very senior-level idea generator. He was able to hear first-hand what industry leaders were thinking and what they needed, and then take that information back to the war room and see if it could be converted into a new product or service. But he had to position himself so he didn’t overlap the efforts of his staff or their relationships with the same contacts.
I was always impressed with a publishing friend who built an annual “special project” into his budget every year, with some steep revenue expectations. “What’s next year’s project?” I’d ask him. “Damned if I know,” he’d say, “but by next October, you can bet we’ll have one.”
Jim Alkon is a veteran of business publishing from both the editorial and publishing sides. Today he is head of Publishing Solutions, a consulting firm that helps publishing and media companies improve their products, tighten strategies, and spot new revenue sources. Visit his Web site at www.publishsolutions.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .