Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Got Content? Seven Ideas for Monetizing with Events

The current lingo for pounding coin out of content is monetizing. The old term was making money. However you phrase it, new events are a key opportunity for old and new media alike as the economy begins to turn. There will always be a place for face-to-face!

Monetizing sounds sanitized but making good content profitable is usually a messy muddle. Events could be your best way to package your content for a price. Here are seven quick thoughts to help you succeed:

1. Size matters
Your audience and the universe from which it is derived have to be big enough to support an event. Typically for B2B events, you have to be able to reach the audience directly from good lists. I’ve developed event audiences from scratch, and still have scars.

2. Response rates are key
You need evidence that your audience will show up. I’ve started events “on faith” but I much prefer evidence.

3. Content is Queen
You need something sexy to say. Your event’s perspective and voice must attract and hold your audience emotionally. And it needs to be lively. Your program could include audience-driven programming as well as elements guided by your company’s content expertise.

4. Cash is King
You need somebody that will pay. There are many ways to assemble profitable event models depending on the revenue sources and you can slice and dice or bundle and mix the ingredients creatively but the numbers have to work. Start with the value propositions for your paying customers and build out from there.

5. Start now
You can not start event-planning too early. Canceling or postponing an event is a killer. I never-say-never to any humanly possible schedule but risks go up as lead-time goes down.

6. Think big
The best events are visionary. There are ways to mitigate risk but too much focus on the downside robs you of upside potential. There are ways to make small events profitable but scale on some dimension will pay better. I always try to make events bigger or turn a single event into a series.

7. Make it new
The event business is ripe for innovation. Get creative with media and technology.

Any questions? Ideas to add? Comment below or get in touch. Its time to get to work on your next event!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Attn: Media Entrepreneurs, Don’t Take Risks!

The best media entrepreneurs don’t take risks. They take what other people think are risks. Bernie Goldhirsh, the founder of Inc. Magazine and a quintessential entrepreneur, was one of the most risk-adverse people I’ve ever had the privilege of working for.

Bernie, who died too young, in 2003, was an avid sailor, who got his start in publishing with SAIL Magazine. His love of sailing brings to mind a simple illustration of risk. In the old sailing days, an investor financed a ship to go to another port with something that would sell at a good price there and to return with something that would sell well in the home port. If your “ship came in” you had it made. If it sank, you lost your investment. If you or all your assets were on that boat, you were sunk along with your ship. Bernie had a special talent for making sure his media ships came in.

Risk is simply uncertainty of outcome. Taking a risk can win high returns when the outcomes are favorable and incur steep losses when the outcomes are unfavorable. High returns are the “risk premium” that covers the possibility of losses. But the perception of risk can depend on who’s looking at it, and with what information.

Like most good entrepreneurs, Bernie made some costly mistakes but none that sunk him. He was an independent thinker with an intuitive sense for opportunity, and an ability to rigorously test his intuitions. He was unconventional in his thought process. He looked at the media business without preconceived notions. Instead of accepting what others told him, he based his judgments on his own careful assessments of reality. He was a calculator, a bottom-line-up-front guy who wanted to see the pro-forma financials for any business plan before he looked at other details. Nobody ever asked me tougher, more insightful questions about the numbers.

If good entrepreneurs are more tolerant of risk than other people, it’s because they’re more realistic about risk. They dig into budgets and projections and detailed plans to test the likelihood of favorable outcomes. They understand probabilities and recognize that business-as-usual is often less certain than it appears. They make mid-course corrections quickly and frequently as conditions change. Bernie once insisted on the complete revamping of a conference marketing effort when he realized the plans were wrong for a souring economy.

New events are perceived as risky, especially in this uncertain media environment, but you can reduce that risk systematically with innovation and with creative, disciplined thinking. Imagine developing events and other media properties that other people think are too risky, then put yourself in the position to know better. A fat “risk premium” is awaiting your success!

What is your take on risk in the current environment? Please comment below.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Better, Faster and Cheaper Events

I met the CEO of Kaon Interactive, Gavin Finn, the other day at Mass Innovation Nights (a great local event) and immediately found yet another reason to get excited about the future of face-to-face events.

They call it Experiential Marketing. Kaon founded in 1996 (the same year we started our company), is a former online multiplayer game animation company that morphed into an innovator of 3D interactive product models and demonstrations.

You can send product avatars to your next show. Finn was showing off his Kaon v-OSK. It’s like a big touch-screen tablet computer, positioned precisely where you want it if you are standing at trade show booth talking to a prospect. He was demonstrating how the unit, programmed by his company, can display your product in 3D so that the product can be spun around, viewed from all angles, opened up, or animated in action.

With a flick of his finger Finn showed how, video, fact sheets, power points and interactive components could be utilized along side the 3D images. It’s been written up in the trade press but seeing is believing.

Definitely wiz-bang technology but the economics are what’s really exciting. “Clients have been able to save so much by using our device instead of shipping and setting up actual products, that they are doubling the number of shows they are going to,” Finn explained.

It is now easy to cut costs and enhance the value of events. That same night, I learned about the Hubcast international print on demand network that looks like it could be used by event producers to cut exhibitor costs. And I talked to David Jenkins, CEO of Conversion Associates about how his company’s technology enables exhibitors to track lead conversions whether the leads respond on line or by phone as a result of a show. Additionally, I’ve used or reviewed numerous platforms that extend the event experience by bringing virtual participation into an event or by bringing an event into the virtual world.

It’s breakthrough time! Events really work. We know that. And events are intrinsically satisfying. We feel that. Events can also be expensive, limited in reach, stubbornly fixed in time, and tough to execute. But we now have the tools to clobber these issues.

We all need to get out more. Events are the essential social media. Nothing beats face-to-face, especially for high value information and big-ticket prospecting. Better, faster, cheaper events are poised to capture more information and marketing demand than ever before.

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