‘People Have to Feel Like They Trust You’; Building Relationships Defines BIMS Day 2

On the NPR quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, they’ve taken to asking celebrity guests on “Not My Job” a multiple choice question—where all the choices are right! It makes sense. Number one, it allows them to give three correct pieces of information, and two, nobody loses. I thought of that watching Jim Sinkinson give his thorough, benefit-laden Copywriting Bootcamp today at Day 2 of BIMS 2020.

“Good subject lines or bad?” Sinkinson quizzed the big group.


1. “Need a CA.-specific handbook ASAP? Here you go.” (“Bad. What is it?”)

2. “When FMLA gets tricky.” (Bad. No problem, no solution.”)

3. “Dads make more buying decisions.” (“Bad. We don’t know what to make of it.”)


He might have listed a couple good ones that I missed. But Sinkinson was made for virtual. Yesterday Bob Bejan, Microsoft’s events guru, told us that speakers have to be more cinematic now and less theatrical, pretend you’re having X number of one-on-one conversations.


What did Sinkinson tell me after his session? “It’s different. I feel like I’m having a whole bunch of one-on-one conversations.” He gets it.


There was a lot of getting it Thursday at BIMS 2020. I don’t think anyone is going to walk away from this event—and into the next room—saying they didn’t get enough useful information.


Here are five highlights from today:


“What will keep them and what else might they want [after a couple years of subscribing]?” data journalist and founder of The Plug, Sherrell Dorsey asked in her opening keynote. She’s proud of their membership structure but admitted it’s hard. “People have to feel like they trust you. For us it wasn’t just about being loud. There are lots of larger publishers. For us it was about doing something deeper—taking our time to be intentional about the type of stories we need to be doing… and having a level of expertise that we can bring to the conversation.” She added that while “people do value community even more so now,” it’s hard to provide. “We’re working to recreate that… People want to know that there’s a real-life human being behind this stuff, a level of authenticity.”


“Don’t try to emulate an in-person event,” Eric Shanfelt told us in an informative virtual event session. “Focus on profitability and audience development, not revenue.” Merek Bigelow, executive editor, Loss Prevention Magazine, added that audience development has been their biggest success in virtual events and they’ve enjoyed a greater profit margin. “How can you shift the content to be engaging in a digital platform? It does allow people to layer in an element of casualness and create it as an opportunity so people want to be there.”


Build relationships now. “Building relationships with new prospects means that when we are able to do this in person, a hybrid format will bring those people into the fold as well,” said Dorian Sullivan, VP, audience development, National Association of Broadcasters, in that same session. “We want to have a year-round relationship.” Added Bigelow: “You assume that same content will resonate. It really won’t. You have to look for ways to create that interactive conversation.” Sullivan said that they are looking at their speakers in a new way, where they will be asked to contribute to the ongoing conversation of the community. “We’re looking to revise our contract [by requiring] two thought leadership pieces before the show, and maybe a webinar after.”


In your data world, strive for accuracy. Shawn McCarthy, VP of operations and general manager, Endeavor Business Media, and Mary Tangen, vice president, strategic initiatives, agriculture, DTN, presented the session, Product Is the New Content: Case Studies in Data Monetization. Data licensing is a big part of both of their successful ventures. “Ask for intended use,” Tangen said. It’s a major item. “Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it’s not right. And strive for accuracy. We have over 90% retention rate so we’re doing something right.” McCarthy runs MAPSearch, which combines one of the leading providers of locational accuracy, comprehensive coverage, robust attribute data, and exceptional customer services. Asked how they price it, he said you look at the history and then the ROI. “What did it take to get the product and data?”


“What experience do you create for customers?” Sinkinson asked. “How do customers use your products to get results?” He wants you to focus on benefits. “Our customers buy benefits not features. A benefit is the promise to transform someone’s life for the better.” Think about what makes a difference in people’s lives, he said. “Use provocative language in a subject line. Stir things up.”


‘This Will Take You to a Whole Other Level’; BIMS Speakers Lay Out the Strategies

“Company A Acquires Company B.” “Great, I read the same thing in Google,” Jim Sinkinson of Fired Up! Marketing once told us about a headline he received. “Your content should not be about the industry per se, it should be about the reader. There are important developments afoot in that acquisition that are going to affect me.”

Do you always have the reader in mind and the value you are conveying to her or him?


According to Sinkinson—who led The Ultimate Copywriting Bootcamp: Emails and Landing Pages at BIMS 2020—you should. “Company A Acquired Company B, and This Is How It Will Affect You,” he rejiggered the headline. “There’s a lesson here and we need to be prepared for the next lesson that looks like this. That will take your editorial to a whole other level.”


It was Matt Bailey who told me in September that “the landing page is the critical part that a lot of people forget about in this type of lead marketing or content marketing or even dealing with the [sales] funnel.” So Sinkinson’s bootcamp is must-see TV.


Here are five more strategies from BIMS 2020 speakers:


1. Customers want something to change. They spend money and expect something to happen, Sinkinson has said, perhaps even more so this year. “People do not buy your content because it is content. They are not buying facts from you.” They want benefits. “Learning is not a benefit, updates are not a benefit. Knowledge is sufficient but it is not enough. It doesn’t take you anywhere. You have to tell people what to do with it.”


2. Let your subscribers/audience tell stories. MedLearn Media depends on their Monitor Mondays podcast to bring a big audience in. When COVID-19 began, they “invited more healthcare professionals to the podcast to share and tell their stories of what they have been experiencing and seeing each week,” said executive director Angela Kornegor. “The response on the new format was astonishing. Our live attendance to our podcasts increased by 50% which not only gave us great insight and feedback into what our customers were looking for and craving, but gave us intel on topics we could produce webcast topics around.”


3. Build data products. “None of us spend as much time as we need to envisioning data products that solve specific problems,” BVR CEO David Foster has said. “Meanwhile, so many new market entrants have figured out ways to process results in real time and then build services around that information. Hearing these stories, with all their buzzwords, can scare niche information companies into inaction… The field remains wide open to provide value by creative analysis by market-knowledgeable experts. It’s what we’ve always done. We best add value to data in the same ways we’ve always thrived—with superior product plans for content extraction, refinement and delivery.”


4. Lead customers to the next level. “What’s the last question that you want to leave your client with so they’re going to move forward?” asked Leslie Laredo, president Laredo Group and the Academy of Digital Media. “It’s really interesting how many people haven’t prepared enough to know that question.” Laredo said you need to have your “ask” ready. “How are you going to advance the conversation?”


5. Develop a clear 2021 marketing strategy. “You need a full calendar that builds social media posts around what’s important to your readers,” Charity Huff, CEO of January Spring, once told me. “You can take the editorial you do and use it in so many different ways. We are helping publishers reach new readers, drive them to their site, and then monetizing them to advertisers and sponsors. Without a strategy, you end up chasing stuff that doesn’t matter or turn into revenue.”


SIPA December Member News

A Clever insideARM Take


On insideARMMike Bevel, their director of education, lists some of the things that he is thankful for—after some fun Thanksgiving banter. It’s a nice way to speak to your audience. His first thankful burst is: “Everyone who reads our newsletter. Everyone who takes time to trust us, and our insights and opinions. Even you. Even the person who once wrote to me to tell me I had half a brain. I’m a brain half-full kinda guy anyway.” Well done.


Fantini Research Celebrates 20 Years


What started as a single emailed newsletter with six subscribers in January 2000 has blossomed into a multi-title publishing and research enterprise with global customers. “We are proud of our accomplishments in building our suite of products and services, and we are even more excited about the future as the gaming industry continues to grow and evolve,” says Fantini Research founder and CEO Frank Fantini.


On their Meet the Team page, you can watch a wonderful video interview with Fantini and associate publisher and executive editor Ashley Diem (pictured above). “Historically, our main product has been a daily newsletter that covers the gaming industry comprehensively… It’s become a must-read for a lot of people,” he says proudly. “We have that slogan, ‘More important than your morning coffee,’ because for some people it is.”


In response to the pandemic, they created Fantini’s Gaming Show: A Virtual Trade Show and Newsroom. “There is now a way for gaming industry suppliers to exhibit their products to decision-makers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”


Africa Confidential, Plain-English Media Offer Glimpses


We’re all playing with different paywall ideas this year. Africa Confidential features timely daily stories from many of the African countries. Usually there’s one paragraph and then it says this: “End of preview – This article contains approximately 1642 words.” They do choose about three free stories for visitors to read, highlighted with a red box. Good color choice.


Plain-English Media’s Community Association Management Insider—which they acquired from The Habitat Group—gives a headline and an opening paragraph before putting in big type: “The resource you requested is available only to current members.” Speaking about the acquisition, Matt Humphrey, president and founder of Plain-English Media, said at the time: “It helps us serve community associations in a new way that complements our flagship real estate publication,”


Ace Infoway, Money-Media Show They Are Good Places to Work


Ace Infoway has a section on their homepage titled Life @ Ace. “Hop on to see our activities because no amount of creative copy can justify our employee (ec)centricity!”


Of course, most of the ideas were pre-COVID though I’m sure most will continue at some point. They did a ThanksGiving day with people writing notes on hand cutouts of what they are thankful for. There’s also Yoga Day, Environment Day and Women’s Day.


And there’s still that moving and emotional, two-minute video of a desolate Broadway, an empty San Marco Square in Venice, a “Sorry We’re Closed” sign, and then a tribute to the “Heroes fighting the Coronavirus.” “For Ace Infoway, things are not the same as before. We really miss working together… We take this moment to thank our Ace Internal Heroes. Our dedication to our clients is the only motivation we thrive on.”


Money-Media uses a video to show why it’s a good place to work called, “Why should you work for Money-Media?” and it appears prominently on their homepage. We hear from employees about the career-growing opportunities, trust and camaraderie. Then we see pre-COVID laughter and food at staff gatherings, a softball title and comfortable meetings. “We are seeing video usage rise, especially as we test new formats,” said Money-Media managing director Dan Fink.


Utility Dive, Waste Dive & Smart Cities Dive Join Forces to Cover the Cost of Climate Change


“It seems like another lifetime, but it was just shy of a year ago when Industry Dive’s energy and environment teams gathered in our main conference room to start brainstorming and planning major projects we wanted to dive into in 2020.”


So starts a story on the Industry Dive site announcing how three of their verticals will partner to cover one of the biggest stories of the day—climate change. Waste Dive launched a tool to monitor the climate targets of major companies in the waste and recycling industry. Utility Dive unveiled an interactive tool that will allow readers to quickly learn critical information about the physical risks climate change poses to utilities.


‘Effect Change and Influence People’; With Thought, Virtual Events Can Do More

Events were certainly top of fold on the first day of BIMS 2020 yesterday, with a very popular Connections and Cocktails. Frank Salatto of Government Executive Media Group spoke of the success they’ve had pivoting to virtual. “There are new opportunities in the data you can collect and the leads you’re able to deliver,” he said. Here are some of the virtues of virtual events as we look to 2021.

Opening day keynote, Bob Bejan, corporate vice president of global events, studios and marketing community for Microsoft (pictured here in his studio), told us about a conference—Microsoft Ignite—that they staged this year, virtually, of course. Last year’s attendance in Orlando over 5 days was 24,700.


“This year we had 266,000,” he said. “Just the idea of the inclusion of that and what that means in terms of the audience and who you can reach, not just by scale but to effect change and influence people” is huge, he said. “What does that mean in moving forward?”


Most of us are much more micro than Microsoft, so forget about those sheer numbers. But exponentially, getting 10 times your audience—or even 5 times—could be realistic moving forward. Here are some successful takeaways. (A few are from an excellent blog post by Omeda.)


Be innovative. Wine tastings at virtual events aren’t really new anymore, but they still work. We just had a sommelier talk to about 40 of us for BIMS 2020 about holiday wines and much more, and good vibes bubbled up. The National Speakers Association held a series of “digital dine-arounds,” virtual dinners where members could get together with a top official from the association. It was a part of NSA’s INFLUENCE 2020 conference—and just one way that organizations can excel in a virtual format. Another group here, Association Media & Publishing, did something similar with the second-day morning of their conference. You could make scones with a Board member, take a scenic walk with the President and other feel-good activities.


The event isn’t over until we say so. “Your virtual events do not have to be a singular point in time… Make the event a launch point for engagement and interest from your audience.” There’s no reason anymore that your event has to be just 2-3 consecutive days. Do a special hour of content every Monday afternoon and call it your Magic Monday conference. BVR’s Divorce Conference scheduled sessions weeks before and after. Instead of their annual conference, the United Fresh Produce Association created United Fresh LIVE! 365, a year-round online platform featuring a permanent expo, social gatherings, on-demand education, webinars, conference programming, and networking opportunities for the global produce industry. “We basically built a year-round convention center,” John Toner, VP of convention and industry collaboration, said.


Invest in lighting and tech for your presenters at home. We actually did see a couple speakers this morning whose lighting could have been much better. It makes a difference. It’s hard to work out though. One of the speakers was presenting from his parents’ basement. Maybe just best to touch base a couple days before and have them see the light. Writes Omeda: “The speaker will feel more in the moment during the presentation and the video production afterwards will be a better quality.” Bejan also wants speakers to be more cinematic than theatrical. “It’s like you’re having a one-on one conversation with each person in that audience.”


Use polls and other interactive features available to drive engagement. “We have watched polls keep the audience engaged throughout the virtual sessions,” writes Omeda. “Polling the audience is a great way to get the pulse on the audience and to keep them engaged in real-time. It helps to foster the sense of the audience coming together.”


Less might be more. This may be the hardest concept to accept. We’re all taught that the more value you can convey the better. But Zoom fatigue is real. “Instead of packing in many sessions and multiple panels, take into account exactly what your attendees are looking to learn and hear about,” Omeda writes. “Identify what will benefit them in order to make the event most valuable.”


Go global. There should be no barrier besides time difference why you can’t have a bigger global audience, if that works for your niche. For Pro Farmer’s first virtual Crop Tour in August, four online, 90-minute broadcasts brought in more than 18,000 total viewers coming from all 50 states and 12 countries. (Historically, the typical audience across the four days and seven Midwest locations has ranged between 2,000 and 3,000.) “You can’t get that kind of reach in person,” said Joe May, marketing and sales director, indicating that Pro Farmer will most likely keep some of that digital component in future Crop Tours.


“If you think how early we are in the medium, the signs are very encouraging about what’s coming out of this,” said Bejan. But this is definitely a practice-makes-perfect affair. Asked about Microsoft’s upcoming partnership with CES on their huge 2021 show, Bejan said, “Everything we’re doing in CES is the sum total of every mistake we’ve made the last eight months.”


Send Welcomes, Go Global and Use These Key Words to Get Best Email Results

According to the company’s analysis of 4 billion emails between January and June 2019, the most successful emails often tell exactly what the email includes, such as “newsletter” (31.43% click-to-open rate), “PDF” (30.31%), and “ebook” (27.84%).


Other words that do well in subject lines are “infographic” (35.14% on a very small sample), “free” (22.54%) and “video” (18.76%). Free gets debated but there’s obviously still a time for it, especially in our COVID era. “If you’re promoting a piece of content or a valuable resource, you’re probably better off if you mention it in the subject line,” writes Michal Leszczynski, content marketing manager for GetResponse.


Here are more key takeaways from the report, which you can see in full here:


Less is more. Open and click rates surged when just one message was sent per week. A sharp decline occurred when the number of weekly emails went from one to two. Marketers that send one newsletter have an average open rate of 33.4%, whereas the rate falls to 26.9% when a second email is added, and falling to below 20% after the fifth email. Now 20% still isn’t bad, if it’s the right 20%—the ones who perhaps convert more, especially if you’re selling high-value offerings.


Send welcome emails. Their average open rate is over 82% and average click-through rate around 27%. So welcome people to as many things as you can. Also make sure to add something click-worthy to your welcome messages, “a discount code, personalized video, or exclusive content available only to the new subscribers.”


Go global. We’ve talked before that one advantage of webinars and virtual events is global reach. While the average email is opened by 19% of North Americans, Europeans opened 26.9%, Oceania 25.6% and South America 23.1%. Not quite sure why, but Germany has an average open rate of 40.7% and a click-through rate of around 7%, both double or more of other major countries, including the U.S., Canada, India and the UK. France, Spain and Italy are also high.


‘Quality over quantity.’ The GDPR era is helping to increase the use of double opt-in approvals, which both decrease the potential of spam issues and increase overall engagement. Nonprofits were the most likely industry to use double opt-in and, at 21.3%, the only industry with more than a fifth of senders relying on the additional layer of approval. “What’s interesting—but not surprising—is that the industries with a bigger share of confirmed lists also observed the highest average results in terms of opens and clicks,” Mateusz Ruzik, GetResponse product manager said in the survey. “This once again proves that email list quality trumps quantity.”


Add video. Emails with video still generate the highest engagement rates. “The problem is not all email clients support it, which is why only around 8% of the emails our customers send contain links to videos,” said Ruzik. “For now, the best workaround is to use an image (maybe even a GIF) that looks like a video player and links to your page. That way, you’ll boost your click-throughs and enhance your contacts’ experience as they’ll watch the content in their default browser or video player.”


Don’t exclude weekends. The two best send times are around 10 am and 1 pm. They are also seeing an increase in click-through rates later in the afternoon, around 6 pm—though this was pre-pandemic. While Monday and Tuesday continue to lead both in terms of average opens and clicks, the click-to-open ratio of Saturday and Sunday were the top two choices. “This may be due to the fact that weekends are much less competitive,” writes Leszczynski. “Combined, Saturday and Sunday account for 18% of all email campaigns sent, while Tuesday on its own, accounts for 17%.”


Try an emoji in your subject line. In most cases, it’s not about the length of the subject line but rather conveying the message—and sometimes an emoji can do that. The average open rates for emails that contained an emoji in the subject line were 25.02%, almost 3 points higher than the average. But just 3.9% of marketers use them, down from 6.7%. Don’t go overboard and run an A/B test, they recommend.


You’ll know quickly who to retarget. The timing of a message matters significantly, in part because the message loses its exposure after a while. About a fifth (19%) of email opens happen within the first hour it hits an inbox, and 73% within the first day. With each hour, your chances of getting more opens decrease. After 6 hours, over half of your emails have already been opened. They suggest a flash sale perhaps to those who don’t respond within six hours.


Use your preheader. The preheader is the first snippet of text in your email that appears next to your subject line. People see it before they even open the email. While only 11% use them, emails with a preheader get much higher average open rates—27.82% vs 21.46%. They also have much more impact than personalized subject lines. A preheader should complement your subject line.