The mission: to empower local media companies to identify their “key customer franchises”

This summer’s regional Innovation Mission return trip to San Francisco (June 18-20) is indeed on a mission, and a very specific one at that. The mission: to empower local media companies to identify their “key customer franchises,” engage with them at unprecedented levels, measure their value, and build diverse, sustainable businesses on the shoulders of that value. Easier said than done, certainly. But not impossible, and vitally important, particularly as we grapple with the need to find revenue streams that overcome traditional media losses and stem digital advertising struggles.

The IM is all about giving digital strategy, audience, and revenue leaders the tools to take significant steps forward. To do so, we’ll address these essential questions head-on through visits to the SF Chronicle/Hearst, Advance Publications (Alpha Group innovation lab), Google (invited), Reddit (invited), NerdWallet, and others.

1. Who are your most important, and most valuable customers? In other words, if two or three “key customer franchises” account for the majority of your engagement and revenues, how do you smartly use data to identify them, and their current and potential value? Google calls this “relative user value.” It’s critical to understand this by channel: direct, search, social, referral, etc. Where do they come from, what do they do when they arrive, and what value do they carry? Once you know this, “second-level questions” can be addressed, such as how to build stickier relationships by delivering unique value, and how to turn brand loyalists into ambassadors that in turn bring new high-value prospects into your pipeline?

2. What do your key customer franchises want and need from you? How do you know? Do you understand what path they take with your content, and, to channel Clayton Christensen, what jobs they want to get done? If you do, then you’re in a prime position to build a recurring habit with your brand, and that habit can unlock value in a number of ways. For a great example, see NerdWallet. Rather than viewing itself as simply a media company building audience and delivering content, NerdWallet instead views its larger purpose as empowering consumers to make informed, confident personal finance decisions in all aspects of their lives. This problem-solving approach breeds trust, and that trust connects to value (including paid product recommendations that allow NerdWallet to directly monetize consumer decisions).

3. If you are creating value for these customer franchises by helping them accomplish important jobs, what are the many ways that you can reap value from these relationships? Put more directly, what are the most promising revenue streams? There isn’t a single model, nor is there a silver bullet. But, there are lots of possibilities if you truly own valuable customer relationships. Subscriptions, membership programs, online communities, offline events, products & merchandise, product recommendations and ecommerce, high-impact sponsorship and branding campaign – progressive publishers (both traditional and digital) are seeing success with all of these, and more. For the SF Chronicle, subscriptions are critical (with a membership program baked in), but the transforming newspaper giant has also built successful custom agencies and compelling vertical content franchises (check out NoCal Brewery Map)

Join your peers in SF this summer, and let’s address the industry’s biggest audience and revenue challenges and opportunities head-on. Learn more here!