SIPA 2014: “Ink doesn’t get the attention of the Inc.”
The two-day conference focused on growth and success in troubled times.
Washington, D.C.—During the 38th annual Specialized Information Publisher’s Association (SIPA) Conference, the discussion often boiled down to one unsavory fact: “Ink doesn’t get the attention of the Inc.”
In his co-keynote address alongside Andrew Waite, president and publisher of Nexzus Publishing Group, John Gordon, director of business development at Home Depot, made that point explicitly clear. What you produce in the pages of your publication—print or digital—doesn’t always equate to acknowledgement or attention from the advertisers you’re trying to court.
In a flux economy with major legacy stress still heavily weighing upon it, the publishing industry needs to remember one clear fact, according to Gordon, “your publication is not your best and only value proposition.”
The audience at the Capital Hilton where the two-day yearly conference was held was certainly left weighing the consequences of a tactical shift when it was pointed out to them that there is strategic value in what they bring to the table.
Oftentimes, this definition of self-worth from a business standpoint has less to do with how you perceive your company and more to do with how you perceive your internal team.
“You need a strategic partner in the company that can sell the value of your proposition,” Gordon told the crowd. “The marketing department is not the best decision maker and not your best friend; [it’s] a machine.”
Waite contends that divide between marketing and editorial is where publishers can carve out their window of opportunity to keep efforts focused.
“Publishers don’t want to get dirty,” he said. “But, if you’re going to sell the product, you had better know what it is. I find so many often don’t.”
The opening keynote was bookended by the closing keynote given by CEO Arno Langbehn of B. Behr’s Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. His very funny presentation was filled with food, fun and film references, but hinted at a larger problem in the industry: loss of vision.
“The best companies do not diversify at the top,” Langbehn told the audience. “They diversify in the depth targeting specialized markets and selling for high products.”
Whether it’s specialized food sellers versus restaurants with a too-large menu or American Girl Doll stores versus your average toy seller (examples used to great effect), there is both market power and high potential profit for cross-selling done right. However, he did warn of the “dead silence” when you miss your narrow target audience.
“Some companies are brought down because their focus is too wide in [an] attempt to get all the customers,” noted Langbehn. “And they end up getting none of them.”
He continued, “Customers buy in extremes. You cannot reach high profits with average prices.”
This emphasis on profit was a huge theme of the conference, which dedicated a track to forging new revenue streams. The other four tracks focused on content, leveraging technology, optimizing corporate organization and sales and marketing.
Here are a few highlights from some of the session speakers:
- “Customer testimonials are your best leads. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.” —Lexie Gross, vice president of sales at Business Valuation Resources
- “Raw data is not going to sell as well as data insights. A really great database should save you time, not overwhelm you.” —Minal Bopaiah, executive editor at Subscription Content
- “Treat exhibitors and sponsors like gold! Vendors always feel like they’re shoved in a corner at these [events]. It takes no money to go around and shake their hands.” —Carl Landau, grand poobah at Niche Media
- “All of us have archives we can monetize. View events as content, as well.” —Diane Schwartz, senior vice president and group publisher at Access Intelligence Media
- “Aim to create a product that can’t be replicated or copied at a lower price.” —Guy Cecala, CEO of Inside Mortgage Finance
- “Unless there’s a direct need to have a problem solved, companies aren’t going to listen to the [vendor’s] pitch.” —Eric Weissmann, director of operations at Columbia Books
- “One thing that’s crucial is that people are lazy. People want to come into meetings, know nothing about anything that’s going on [and] state their ignorant opinion about something they know nothing about. That’s a management hurdle.” —Greg Krehbiel, director of marketing operations at Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc.