Monday, November 23, 2009

Success with Your Business Model - It’s Not Just About Money

Our advice is the same across platforms: if you are trying to build, rebuild or tune your business model for an event or any other media product, first figure out what you want to say, and then figure out how to make it pay. Use this approach and your satisfaction is guaranteed.

Tap the creative passions of your organization by returning to what you want to communicate and why it is important to your audiences that you succeed. The heart-felt motives of your organization and your audiences are your most valuable resources. You need creativity and passion to develop possible solutions in a tough and changing market.

Media models are challenging because the factors are multidimensional and fluid. Factors include information needs and audience propensities; marketer interests; competitive factors; and industrial, technological, demographic, political, and economic cycles. And your different platforms for delivering information each have distinct characteristics.

Use creative intuition and data to narrow the possibilities. You can’t test the pay-off for every possible permutation. Your capacity to create or alter your business model is constrained by the time, talent and budget you can devote to new solutions.

Now detail your new plan, based on specific data and explicit assumptions, and break it down to milestones over time. If for instance you believe you have identified an opportunity to better appeal to an underserved segment of your audience and attract more people to your event, you need to quantify the prospect population and estimate the response that you can reasonably expect over time. You need to know realistically how you are going to identify the key prospects and how you will appeal to them.

The sensitivity of you model is key. Your model should be dynamic so you can test multiple scenarios by altering response factors, prices, and expense factors. Repeated runs of your model can give you confidence that it can work and show you how to monitor results in actual rollout. And obviously if you can’t make it work in theory you need to generate more ideas.

A good model gives you operationally usable information. For instance in the re-launch of a database subscription service with historical data, we saw that PR leads historically converted at a much higher rate than other sources of new customers. Our successful re-launch model focused on PR efforts, explicitly quantified. We created a cumulative lead generation target, broken out by week and reacted immediately to any shortfall. With enhanced PR, reduced costs resulting from automation, and the addition of events for users, we had a winner!

Moving minds in positive directions with good media/information products is deeply satisfying! And when you can make money doing it, it is even better! Feel free to share, by a post or privately, your own media model improvement successes or issues.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What We Can Learn from Loyal Attendees

“I don’t take notes at a conference, I write a to-do list,” a company president and regular conference attendee told me. “I get started on execution while I’m still at the event,” he explained. You can improve your retention rate by learning not simply why your loyal attendees return but also how they achieve the benefits that draw them back.

Your returning attendees are demonstrating that they have gained from your last event. Undoubtedly you’ve used their feedback to articulate the benefits of your event for marketing purposes, but have you looked at how your returning participants actually use the events?

Talk to your most loyal attendees. Find out what they do differently, compared to the typical attendee. Ask yourself, are there ways to support the behavior that makes it more likely for attendees to return?

Loyal attendees can usually identify specific actions they took as a result of event participation. Returning attendees are more likely than one-timers to have applied an idea which they picked up from a session or from informal exchange. They are also more likely to have followed up with a new contact they met.

Helping attendees take action will improve your retention rate. Engagement at the event generates positive feedback and leads to action after the event. For example, we found that in executive workshops where attendees were asked to share one idea they intended to implement, evaluation ratings improved. More importantly, we have evidence that these attendees were more receptive to future event invitations. We have also set up game-show style and role-playing sessions that got people involved – it was not a surprise that we saw those people again in subsequent years.

Attendee engagement with fellow attendees facilitates follow-up action after the event because participants get to know each other better. Group exercises and truly participatory discussions within sessions are something our most loyal attendees have consistently told us adds value because of the relationships formed in the interactions.

New technologies can also aid the engagement that leads to action. Not everyone wants to stand up and ask a question or give a response. We’ve gotten attendees to text and email questions from the floor and respond to questions using their smart phones. Forming LinkedIn and Twitter groups to connect attendees is also a growing practice.

Here’s a test: Motivating action is crucial to helping people and encouraging them to come back for more. Put the above ideas to a test yourself by adding one relevant item to your to-do list, right now. I would love to hear about your results!

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