My 2016 Personal Exploration Goals

Can you accomplish a personal goal if you commit to working towards it for 10 minutes a day, every day in 2016?

A seemingly simple yet compelling challenge that Eric Zorn wrote about in a recent Chicago Tribune column. (you might have to be a subscriber to access it). He was successful in his goal of playing the fiddle for a minimum 10 minutes every day, and he gave a synopsis of other people who accepted the 10MaD 2015 pledge.

I have thought about this column for the past couple days.  Eric Zorn, I accept 10MaD as my 2016 challenge and resolution. But what goal to reach?? So many options!

Since writing and photography are two hobbies/passions I wish I had more time to spend time with, I decided that 2016 will be a year for “My Personal Exploration of Fine Arts.”   At this point, my “major” will be writing and “minor” will be photography, but that could swap during the year. Who knows?

Since I work as an audience development consultant where I spend hours writing proposals/project updates/marketing efforts, I want to clarify what I consider part of this 10MaD pledge:

  1. Writing for my blog on my business website.
  2. Writing for my personal blog, which has been inactive for a couple years.
  3. Starting work on a novel that has been floating just beyond my consciousness.
  4. Writing short stories or poetry.
  5. Writing freelance articles for magazines or other websites.
  6. Taking photos for a freelance projects.
  7. Editing or printing photos for above projects.
  8. When I go out specifically to shoot pictures.
  9. Maybe finally creating a website to sell some of my photos.

I will have to manage my time, since I know that any of these can entail a creative block or the opposite–that vortex, when time disappears while working on a project. I will occasionally post here about the status of my 10MaD challenge.

I am excited and a little intimidated to accept the 2016 10MaD pledge. One day done with this writing, 365 left since it is a Leap Year.

The journey continues. Happy New Years to all!

C

1/2/16 update–Readers, an fyi that I will post more personal posts and poetry on my other blog, which has been unused in over 3 years. That blog is Have an Opinion’s Opinion.   Feel free to follow either or both sites.

2016 Marketing Plan Flip

For magazine publishers, media companies, information services companies—whichever moniker you go by–2015 has been a challenging year for magazine audience development. Response rates have dropped, and there is more demand for data about subscribers that they do not want to share.

It’s time for 2016 budgeting and planning for many companies. I think we should consider flipping many of the marketing plans upside down, act differently to improve results in 2016.

Here are some ideas I have that you can incorporate in your 2016 marketing efforts:

  • Keep testing on larger email efforts.The incremental response differences add up—and you will learn more about your customers. There are many posts with testing ideas on my blog including this one.
  • Review where telemarketing falls on your plan. Test it earlier, especially for subscribers without email addresses on file. Can you do some dual-pub efforts in one call?
  • Use all available internal lists for your marketing efforts. Recently, I had positive results calling an internal list that had previously only been used for email efforts.
  • Do list exchanges with partner companies or consider list trades with competitors.
  • When setting up trade show exchanges, include sending out emails to the attendee list or the host company’s house list. This can net some brand new names for your database.
  • Does your web site include ads and pop ups offering free subscriptions?
  • If someone signs up for a quote or membership on your site, the welcome link/email can include an offer to subscribe.
  • Can you test any direct mail, even an inexpensive tip-cover?

Today’s brands are multi faceted, including other components such as magazines, enewsletters, events, website membership and downloads, and research. Oftentimes, the audience development budget is still subscriber-focused (especially if the magazine is BPA or AAM audited and/or has periodicals mailing privileges).

If that holds true for your brand,  it’s imperative that 1—magazine subscribers help support the entire brand and 2—“owners” of all the brand elements work together to help find invested, active users.   Make sure your audience development guru know all the segments you are trying to reach.

The journey continues.

C

Business Resolutions

Do you make annual business resolutions? Or an annual business plan that includes non-financial goals you want to achieve each year? This is a fantastic way for small business owners to look up from details, to envision changes they want to see within their businesses or themselves in the next year. For those who work for an organization, this will help you think about where YOU want to be in another year. Are there new skills you can learn this year to propel or change your career? People you can network with? Local organizations you can get involved with?

I have been a consultant for 15+ years. I was so focused on “getting the work done” that until 2013 I didn’t actually write down any business goals. Physically writing them down and then sharing them with others helped me to actually accomplish my 2014 goals.   I spaced them out throughout the year, so I would have time to achieve them.

The goals followed in a logical progression:

  1. Design a new logo to better reflect where I want to go, which you can see on this website. I worked with an independent designer, after laying out new business goals.  She then designed letterhead and new business cards, already in circulation.
  2. Create this company website and blog. Done.
  3. Increase social media presence.  While I have accomplished this here and on Twitter, I hope to do more to see a jump in followers in 2015.
  4. Do more outside speaking and training. I spoke at industry events, including the AAMP and MCA this fall. I was also hired to layout and present a 2-day training session for a vendor, which I did last spring.
  5. The most challenging: changing my business focus, from doing mainly hands on direct marketing work to helping with business strategies, improving clients customer relations and marketing results, building marketing databases (with outside fulfillment/IT management), and training.

The final bullet point above is still a work-in-progress. I underestimated the time it would take to change small business direction, since I feel like I am explaining to prospects WHY they need to look at their marketing in a new way. But, all my speaking and training was focused on this, and I passionately believe that we need to market smarter to improve the bottom line. I sometimes literally envision my business changing like a large ocean liner trying to change directions.  It takes time to do it without tipping.

I am now noodling around several goals for 2015, which I hope to share in the next couple weeks. Again, writing them will keep me focused and honest about them.

Have you already laid out business goals for 2015, or accomplished any in 2014 that you want to brag about ? Don’t be shy, feel free to list them below! It’s okay to be proud of the work we do, when we work hard!

The journey continues.

C

Thanksgiving: Success is in the Preparation

This month I have been inundated with ads, recipes, and media advice about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving meal. This past weekend I was busy myself shopping, cooking, and freezing food for our road tip to see family later this week.

It’s the preparation that makes a feast  like on Thanksgiving successful and satisfying. You can slap together other meals, but for a special meal like Thanksgiving much of the travel-shopping-decorating-cooking is done before Thursday. There will still be cooking to do, but it is virtually impossible to do everything on one day. Unless you have grown 6 arms. Even if you are eating out, be sure to make your reservations early.  Otherwise, you may find your restaurant full.

Running a multi-faceted marketing campaign also requires planning, for outstanding results. Follow this sure-fire “recipe” for planning your next marketing efforts.

First, meet with the stakeholders at the beginning of the campaign to discuss the final goals and budget.

Second, create a marketing plan to reach the goals. This plan should include timing of all efforts, what you plan to test, the list to use, estimated responses and budget.

Third, as you execute the various components of the campaign, record the results of your efforts. That allows you to adjust upcoming efforts and estimated responses as needed.

Fourth, if needed, create a contingency if customers are not responding as well as expected. Can you add an additional email effort? Test a new list segment? Is the tone of message correct? Do your links work properly, on an email effort?

Fifth, Deadline! Hopefully you have reached your established goals by today. If you are still a little short, can you send out a final effort?

Sixth, re-cap your efforts at the conclusion of your campaign. Maybe you came up with ideas to test next cycle, had a standout effort you want to keep for future campaigns, found a way to trim the budget.  Make note of them now, as you will probably not remember them all next time. Or tomorrow.

While the results of the planning will probably not turn out exactly as planned, there should be better results, fewer surprises, less stress throughout, and we can learn from our efforts.

Sit back and enjoy that anticipated meal. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

The journey continues.

C

Audience Development Roles in Media Companies Today

Having worked in audience development in the publishing/media/information services world for most of my career, people still don’t know what I do every day. Frankly, it’s hard to me to categorize what I do it changes so often! Rotating projects, technology, and departments that I interact with keep this job challenging and interesting.

For a media-related brand, here are a few of the major responsibilities that audience development professionals have today:

  • Achieve BPA/AAM goals for audited brands.
  • Maintain USPS goals for any magazines that mail at periodicals rates.
  • Ferret out and consolidate customer data into a central location, where possible.
  • Help other departments with marketing efforts to achieve attendance or participation goals. Can include helping to make list selects, research outside lists, marketing vendors, or execute marketing efforts.
  • Assist the publishers in flushing out a comprehensive sales strategy.
  • Identify “hot” areas on database that can help identify new products.
  • Keep database current and with demos where possible. Helps to market smarter and for lead gen.
  • Review customer touch points to 1—make sure our online web page flow is logical and correct. 2-ensure we have consistent, current brand messages.
  • Manage the issue close process, including getting files to the printer and/or digital file sender.

Knowing the audience development responsibilities vary at different organizations, feel free to add other roles you handle in the comment section. All the items listed above are topics I will continue to explore on this blog, as well as the critical importance of the audience development specialist on your team.

The journey continues.

C

Hiring a Consultant

When should you hire a consultant? Simple–when you need to solve a problem that your staff cannot fix. A consultant can help you train current staff, give you a temporary extra body during busy times, give an outsiders’ view of current work, give you an expert to help you when you need someone to oversee a project or departmental area, help you review an area of business if you are expecting change, help you get a new area of business off the ground for a couple years while training internal staff how to handle the work long-term after phasing out (or staying on in an overseeing capacity).

It can be helpful to see a consultant as outsourced personnel, bringing you expertise and helping you fill a role in which no one in your organization has knowledge. Consultants can work on a project basis, hourly or on a monthly retainer. The billing will  depend on the type of work you embark on. From a consultant with 15 years experience, I think that when starting work together, the consultant should:

  1. Be honest about her experience in a new project. Take on challenging work, but know that is okay to say “no” to a project completely outside her area of knowledge.
  2. Clearly outline the project, the expectations, the deliverables and the costs in the proposal.
  3. At the start of a project, it is important to agree how best to communicate progress with the client. A weekly email, monthly report, in-person or phone meetings–various clients may have different needs, but they should be reasonable.
  4. Be timely and thorough in communications throughout the project.
  5. Be fair and impartial in assessments of reviewing current work, if that is the assignment. I know from experience that it can be intimidating to have a consultant review current work and business practices. An less-than-ethical consultant could shade the results with a clear intent to phase someone out and insert themselves into the role, but this is wrong.
  6. If hours or time will exceed the original proposal, let the client know so there are no surprises. Be prepared to give your client a breakout of the time and work spent on any project.
  7. Be honest with yourself about the bandwith of work you can take on. A harried, overworked consultant who cannot focus enough time on each client is a sure way to make mistakes, lose clients.

I think that the client has responsibilities throughout the project as well.

  1. Be clear in stating the goals at the front-end of a project, which will allow the consultant to be as thorough as possible in her proposal.
  2. Reply to requests for information in a timely basis.
  3. Know that the scope of a project can change. Once a consultant starts delving into a project, there may be underlying issues that need to also be addressed. The consultant and client should discuss if the work might need additional time, expense, or breadth.

Both the consultant and clients should work together as a team to complete your project. Forming a partnership and building trust will ensure that goals are met on schedule. And know that occasionally a relationship doesn’t work. End those smoothly and professionally when needed. Your paths may cross again.

C