How does the retirement of the postmaster general affect the B2B info industry?

The postmaster general of the United States, Patrick R. Donahoe, will retire on Feb. 1, as announced by the United States Postal Service on Nov. 14. The current USPS COO, Megan Brennan, a 28-year veteran with the agency, will step up to the CEO and postmaster general role. For the business-to-business take on the news, as well as on other current topics regarding the postal service, ABM turned to ABM/SIIA postal counsel Jack Widener.12-8-15JackWidener

Why is the postmaster general retiring?

The reason Donahoe offered is that labor negotiations are approaching, and he does not want to negotiate those discussions only to have his successor dealing with the outcomes. But part of the reason is also possibly that he felt Congress would not be passing any legislation in the near future, and he grew weary of waiting for that to occur. Postal reform legislation would have been the final piece that would have allowed him to complete his restructuring plan for the Postal Service. If that had occurred, with four years as PMG and 39 total years in the Postal Service, he would have achieved his major goal as PMG and could retire on a high note. But it appears Congress has no immediate plans to move forward with comprehensive legislation and, in fact, may add limitations on the Postal Service’s ability to reduce operational costs (see Legislative and Network Rationalization topics, below).

Perhaps Pat Donahoe’s greatest achievement is his leadership in restructuring operational functions within the Postal Service, which has resulted in billions of dollars in savings annually. As described above, his greatest disappointment, and ours too, is not being able to convince Congress of the need to pass comprehensive postal legislation to control costs. He needed legislation to change health care coverage plans, eliminate or reduce the retiree health benefits payment of about $5.7 billion annually and lower the Federal Employee Retirement System payments. He also needed legislation to change delivery from six to five days.

So the end of 2014 is a good ending point for Mr. Donahoe, and it ia an interesting time for an incoming PMG to take up the reins of the Postal Service.

Is Megan Brennan a good choice?

I believe she is an excellent choice. As COO, she has been the person who led the group that identified and implemented the operational cost reductions that have taken place. Many of us have known her for years and appreciate her willingness to go out and talk with customers, listen to criticism of the organization, respond honestly and follow up. We may not always agree with her decisions, but she has earned a high level of trust and respect from industry. She has always been a friend to publications, especially in these times when those revenues continue to decrease.

As an alternative, the Board of Governors could have gone outside the Postal Service for a replacement, and we have supported that at times in the past. It has not always meant greater success, though, and at this point in time it may be a wise decision to transition to someone from within, especially with the credentials Megan brings to the table.

What do the USPS’ finances look like for fiscal year 2014?

The Postal Service presented a summary for fiscal year 2014, which ended in September, at the Board of Governors meeting today.

  • The net loss was $5.5 billion and includes a $5.7 billion payment due for retiree health care benefits which they again defaulted on paying.
  • Operating revenue increased $569 Million from 2013.
  • Operating expenses decreased by about $41 billion.
  • Total Mail volume decreased by 1.8%.
  • What are the current hot topics on the legislative front?

In summary, nothing positive is happening on Capitol Hill heading into a new Congress. There was some hope that legislation might be brought forward in the lame duck Congress, but the various disagreements have led Senate leadership with no hopes of brokering consensus on reform legislation.

That said, it is a possibility that legislation could pass to place a moratorium on closing postal facilities (see network rationalization below). This would not be a stand-alone piece of legislation, but rather a rider on an appropriations bill providing direction to the Postal Service. SIIA/ABM oppose such a moratorium, but it could prove to be politically popular enough to pass.

What about network rationalization?

The Postal Service implemented a plan in 2011 to close about 230 processing facilities, not local post offices, as a result of decreasing mail volume and revenues. In 2012 and 2013 they closed about 141 facilities and determined the savings were $865 million annually. In 2014 they froze the process hoping legislation would be enacted. Congress as a group is sensitive to closings so the Postal Service wanted to avoid any distractions as they were working on postal legislation.

In July of this year they announced they would complete the 82 consolidations in 2015 with a projected savings of $750 million annually.

How does this affect ABM/SIIA members?

On the positive side, network rationalization has the potential to take $750 million in costs out of the system. That helps in avoiding more exigent rate increases and will have a positive, but small, benefit on periodical cost coverage.

On the negative side, there will likely be some disruption in service as the changes are made and the potential of permanent disruptions due to having fewer processing facilities. However, if history is an indicator from the previous closings, there will be negligible problems.

Are we supporting this effort?

ABM/SIIA’s position has been supportive of these measures in the past, and we continue to think it would be a net positive for members. Even though there are risks to service levels, we feel we must support the Postal Service in its efforts to “right-size” based on decreasing mail volume and runaway costs facing the UPSP. This has become even more important as Congress is not likely to take any legislative actions that would take additional costs out of the system. Short of legislation, this is one of the last options available to reduce costs and reduce the pressure on rate increases.

What other service considerations should we know about?

Periodicals: As part of network rationalization critical entry times (CET) are changing for Periodicals. A critical entry time is the time when you have to arrive at a postal facility to receive the service standard for the zip code your mail is going to. These CETs are changing to earlier in the day, from 4 p.m. (bundle sort required) and 5 p.m. (no bundle sort required) to 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. This means to receive the same service you will have to arrive at the facility before the new CETs.

First Class: According to the Postal Service there should be very little changes in the delivery of First Class Mail.

Why are the CETs changing?

The principal benefit of the new CET’s is that they will allow the Postal Service to expand its nightly processing window, smoothing out the peak volume load over more of the workday, thereby reducing the number of processing locations needed in the network.

‘To Get My Money Today, a Magazine Company Has to Do This Better Than Us’

This article is written by Matt Kinsman, ABM’s head of content.

Using a motto of “Content-Contact-Cash,” Rick Short, director of marketing communications at Indium Corp., has developed an aggressive content marketing strategy that turned Indium engineers into bloggers, video stars and influencers. The approach is very publisher-like: Indium develops its own editorial calendar and content, and manages its own audience database. The results? A 600% increase in sales leads and 10,000 new opt-in, self-qualified, sales leads each year.

“The digital world has allowed me to bypass the process [of working with media and agencies],” said Short, speaking at an event called Content Marketing 360 in B2B—From Soup to Nuts. Hosted by ABM’s Advertising & Marketing Services Council and the Institute for the Study of Business Markets, it brought together publishers, b2b brands and agencies.

“To get my money today, a magazine company has to do this better than us. I’d love someone to walk in and say, ‘We can do this cheaper, faster, better. And we will teach you new stuff at the same time.’”

Content marketing is hot; we see it everywhere. But how is it really any different from “custom content” or “branded content” strategies that have existed for years? The difference lies in what content marketing can accomplish, thanks to digital delivery and social media, customer understanding via audience data and modeling, and the fulfillment of lead generation.

The opportunity for publishers is huge—59% of brands expected to boost their content marketing budget in 2014, the largest lift for any marketing tactic other than digital advertising, according to Forrester Research. With their expertise in creating content and aggregating audience, publishers are natural partners for brands. At BIMS earlier this month, Penton CEO David Kieslestein said that marketing services are his company’s fastest growing business line.

However—as the Indium example points out—the danger of content marketing for publishers is brands keeping their dollars in-house. Here’s what Short thinks that they’re doing better in this manner:

1. What gets measured gets managed. For each content marketing effort, Indium establishes specific metrics in advance that are easy to report and implement, and are understood by its marketing team, which has access to metrics 24/7. Among the metrics Indium collects are how many contacts they gather, what type of information they request and what channels they explore (white papers, live-person chats, etc.).

2. Do-it-yourself solutions. Short developed the marketing tools himself, hires and manages the programmers, qualifies the leads, provides reporting and output, manages the CRM, and analyzes and upgrades. “The process from third parties was always complicated and expensive,” he said.

3. Comprehensive branding. IBM surveyed every corporate blog in the world and found that 80% had just five posts. Compare that to Indium, which did 163 blog posts over the past year and more than 1,000 social media posts across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vine. Also generated by Indium’s in-house content marketing team: 88 presentations at 45 trade shows; 20 videos, 202 pieces of literature (including newsletters and white papers), 25 Internet landing pages and 128 paid ads.

Short assured publishers in attendance that he knows they have the capability to do this, but he has never been approached for a “thought-leader” conversation. “I know publishers say we can do this, and I don’t doubt that you can,” said Short. “But I don’t hear from you. I hear from your junior people. It’s always someone 16 layers below you who approaches me.”

Today’s Sales Reps Need to Be Empowered, Information Gatherers

“Let him sell ads on commission. That will knock his ears back.”

I heard that line recently in a 1938 film titled A Yankee in Oxford starring Robert Taylor, Maureen O’Sullivan and Vivian Leigh. Taylor’s father (Lionel Barrymore) owns a local newspaper, and the advertisers will abandon him if he insists on delaying the paper to get his son’s athletic exploits in the next edition. Then, when Barrymore asks the cranky banker for money to send his son to Oxford, he refuses and utters the above line.

Wow, that was 76 years ago! It was almost a familiar refrain at a recent conference when the question of salary for sales reps came up. Both Lexie Gross of BVR and Bobby Edgil of BLR are not fans of large base salaries for sales reps. In one sense, sales hasn’t changed that much. In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Kelly Richmond Pope, founder of Helios Digital Learning, wrote about selling girl scout cookies. She cherishes the days when girls had to go door-to-door with parents or make the tough phone calls rather than having Mom and Dad bring the order sheet to their offices.

“A few weeks ago, I received a phone call. It was my friend’s 7-year-old daughter with her Girl Scout Cookies sales pitch. Not only was she poised and professional, she closed the deal by asking for the names of friends who might be interested in purchasing cookies. I…ordered three boxes of Thin Mints.”

But in most other ways, sales has changed. My colleague Patrick Angell in London recently posted a great interview with Raoul Monks of Flume Training about selling and hiring. Monks spoke about how the skill sets for sales managers have changed and thus so has what you must look for.

“Sales people need to act as trusted advisors and be prepared to challenge conventional client-thinking in a collaborative and authentic way that achieves client results,” Monks said. “However many sales teams are simply not doing this and the problem often lies with the fact that they are not empowered to do so.

“Today’s sales manager needs to enable their sales team to act and perform in the way that will make them stand out in the right way. This means taking a different approach to sales management—one that is more focused on helping the sales team behave in the right way and have the right drivers, rather than just looking at short-term results.”

Ryan Stillwell, COO of Vantage Production – a UCG company – expounded on this a little while ago in his member profile. He would like to see his sales reps get as much information as possible from customers.

“Take buying a car,” Stillwell began. “There are multiple types of cars. From a sales perspective, you start out knowing nothing [about the customer] besides the fact that they need a form of transportation. However, you don’t know if they have five kids or are single. Do they have a long commute to work? Is this for their occupation or leisure? Are you a beach bum, do you want 4-wheel drive? We need to cut through that stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to say we have different types of vehicles on our lot; which could you see yourself getting the most value out of? This allows for the discussion to get narrowed down quicker. This is what we try to teach our sales reps.”

How long before little girls are checking LinkedIn, Facebook or Pinterest to see the dessert preferences, exercise regimen, or potential buying power of their neighbors? (Although Richmond Pope does mention knowing the “easy sells” in her cookie-selling days.) Stillwell also gave interesting thoughts for hiring good salespeople:

“It’s tough to evaluate who to hire—it’s not like you can easily gauge what motivation a person has to succeed. I like to try and understand what a person has gone through, evaluating the adversity they faced. How long did they have to continue to follow up in order to be successful? Did he or she have to do follow-up presentations, face-to-face sales, cold calling? How many people did they reach out to in a day? Etc.”

Again, not that different from Richmond Pope’s treatise. “I learned never to set unrealistic sales goals; to always take responsibility for my work; and that if someone says ’no’, have confidence because another will say ’yes.’” she wrote. And steady those ears.

A 6-Step Process for Keyword Research

Andy Swindler, CEO of Astek and a longtime SIPA member and speaker, presented a webinar for the American Society of Business Publication Editors yesterday. The topic was Connect With More b2b Readers, so it obviously had implications for SIPA members as well.

Swindler’s premise was clear: There are enough tools now that you no longer have to guess at what content your customers—and potential customers—are most interested in. And then once on your site, they should do what you want them to do—whether it’s signing up for a free newsletter, clicking on ads, subscribing to a publication, or registering for a webinar or event.

He stressed the importance of having a CTA (call to action) on every page—even if it’s a blog post. Swindler said that a few years ago you mostly had to worry about your home page for where people entered your site, but today, they can enter anywhere. (In fact, in some places you’ll read about home pages being de-emphasized now.)

He added that keyword research can improve the quality and relevance of content for your paid subscribers as well. You’re trying to align your content with your audience. This has also marked a time when editorial and marketing starting blending more, but he was quick to say that it’s not about how someone writes a story, but what he or she writes about.

Swindler offered a 6-step process for basic keyword research.

1. Go to Google Adwords keyword planner (it’s free).

2. Search for keyword and new ad group ideas; type in your word(s). His example was “net worth” (for, say, a financial publication).

3. Look into the most promising ad group. The idea is not that you’re going to win for that phrase, but that you’ll see other phrases that have had less searches for.

4. Review the high-ranking keywords. You’ll see celebrities coming up in this search, he said, which is fine. He used “[boxer] Floyd Mayweather net worth.”

5. Check the number of Google search results that have been conducted on your keyword phrase. The idea is you want a lot of searches and not a lot of competition. You don’t want so many websites optimizing the same keywords you do.

6. Publish the article, in this case using “Floyd Mayweather net worth.” You’re pushing it out there for free so Google can find it. The idea is to “create meaningful content around this word or words” for your audience. So this doesn’t mean you’re writing an article about Floyd Mayweather. He suggested this headline: “Mission Possible: Inch Your Net Worth Closer to Floyd Mayweather’s Net Worth.”

He encouraged using your keywords in the headline and body—perhaps 2 or 3 times, as early in the article as possible, but not too much—and then also for your image file names and alt tags. The keyword phrase should read naturally, but Swindler said that Google is getting better at figuring out permutations. Also fill out your meta descriptions. Once you do show up in a top 10, the meta description will tell people what that article is about.

The more specific you are with your search words the better—he recommended long tail keywords over short tail—and then a high ranking could last you a while. (However, Ed Coburn of Mequoda pointed out in Miami last week that while Google will now allow you to update your articles that have ranked well, they are not using the new date—a problem for now.)

Swindler also advised going to the Google Trends Keyword Demand Prediction. That will give you a bigger snapshot over time. There might be “a seasonality” to your keywords. It will also help you to predict what people search for. He recommended Microsoft Bing Ads Intelligence, WordTracker’s Free Keyword Research Tool, and Moz.com. (The latter has now become the leading resource for SEO, he added.)

It’s important to “keep at it,” Swindler said, sounding like a sports coach. Make it a weekly routine such as:
1. Check your Web Analytics for keyword traffic;

2. Use keyword tools to find editorial topics—maybe do this for 20-30 minutes at the beginning of each week.

3. Measure your conversion goals for each keyword and the time your users spend on new pages—how much time are they spending with your content? The time should go up with this process. You’ve created more relevant content for them.

Thanks to ASBPE and Jessica Zemler, their webcast chair and the digital channel director for Advanstar Veterinary, for access to this webinar.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Copyright Office Urged to Okay DVD Copying by Consumers (MediaPost)
In a filing with the U.S. Copyright Office, advocacy group Public Knowledge argued that people should be able to copy the DVDs they’ve purchased in order to watch them on tablets.

YouTube Copyright Policy Revised (Guardian Liberty Voice)
YouTube has amended a form used to resolve copyright disputes after the operators of a German web channel received death threats by alleged Islamic extremists, who were able to gain the personal information by filing a fake copyright claim.

Amazon.book and the New Top-Level Domain Names (Publishers Weekly)
Amazon’s purchase of the .book generic top-level domain has prompted speculation about how the e-tailer plans to use it. Amazon bought the TLD for a reported $10 million last week, allowing it to sell domain names with the .book suffix.

Rightscorp Nails 30,000 Users For Piracy in One Month, Still Loses Money (Ars Technica)
Copyright enforcement company Rightscorp told investors it has closed 130,000 cases against Internet pirates, but despite that, the company’s newest earnings report shows it’s losing more money than ever.

Oracle and SAP Settle Bitter Software Piracy Lawsuit (TechWeek)
For years Oracle and its German rival SAP remained locked in a bitter lawsuit over software piracy, but now both parties have reportedly settled the lawsuit, ending seven years of legal wrangling.

Leahy Introduces Same-Sex Copyright Inheritance Bill (Roll Call)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced a bill that would let spouses in same-sex marriages inherit each other’s copyrights regardless of whether or not the state where the copyright owner dies recognizes same-sex marriage.

Russia Amends Anti-Piracy Law (Broadband TV News)
The Russian Duma has passed an amended anti-piracy law that protects copyright in a number of fields, including literature, music and software, but not photographs.

Republicans Vow to Take on Patent Trolls in Next Session (The Daily Caller)
Speaking at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Summit this week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte claimed he is working with the incoming Senate leadership “to see patent legislation signed into law in the near future.”


Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

9 Marketing Lessons From Under Armour Founder

Kevin Plank—founder of the projected-$3-billion-in-sales company, Under Armour—started in his grandmother’s townhouse in the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C. In a Q&A (and video) on The Washington Post site a few days ago, Plank tells a story about one of his early marketing coups, when director Oliver Stone needed shirts for his football movie, Any Given Sunday.

“I sent them some samples, and they loved the product, said it was some of the best they had seen and they asked us to send them a thousand of these, a thousand of those,” Plank said. “I thought, ‘this is great,’ but then I asked where to send the invoice. They were like, ‘Invoice, are you kidding?’

“I’m looking around Grandma’s basement, yelling turn down The Price is Right [their constant background noise], thinking we have a big order on the line. It’s a little-known fact, but…for all the exposure that we got from Cameron Diaz to Jamie Foxx’s jockstrap with the Under Armour logo in the center of it, that was something they paid over $40,000 for all the product that they bought from us.

“What I hear over and over again is ‘this is good marketing,’ ‘you gotta give it away,’ or ‘I’m giving it away only for a little bit.’ Don’t ever, ever devalue your product. Ever. It’s the worst thing anyone can do to hurt your brand. I had people threaten that if we didn’t give it to them, they wouldn’t wear it. But I’ve found that, if you make a great product, and you charge a fair price, there will be a market for it.”

Here are 9 business lessons from Plank’s interview:

1. It’s worth repeating—“don’t ever, ever devalue your product. Ever. It’s the worst thing anyone can do to hurt your brand.”

2. Perception can be reality. The National Football League called Plank one morning early on and said they’re in Washington and want to visit his office. Instead of inviting them to Grandma’s basement, Plank suggested lunch at Morton’s on his dime. (He had to rush out to the bank.) “Everything was about projecting yourself as being more—the company you see yourself as, not the company you were.”

3. Remember the basics. Plank thought that when USA Today featured athletes on its cover wearing Under Armour mock turtlenecks it would be his breakout moment. But “nobody knew what it was or how to get a hold of us.”

4. “Put the freaking pen down and go do something.” Plank started by taking special fabric and a Hanes T-shirt to a local tailor and asked him to make shirts like this one. “Sometimes entrepreneurs can get caught up with theorizing, hypothesizing, business, planning…Go find out if you can make your product. Once you make it, stop projecting…and go find out whether your product can sell.”

5. Limit your cash and credit outlay at the beginning. SIPA member Bob Coleman just told me about his new and successful seminar business. The rule that guided him? “Don’t do any new product unless you [can earn] cash within 30 days.” Plank would agree and advises to just “go sell…If it doesn’t sell, there’s probably something wrong with your business.”

6. “Don’t forget to sell shirts and shoes.” That’s the only slogan that Plank puts up in red ink on his office whiteboard. It’s easy to get caught up in other things—for publishers that could be social media, intricate design or complicated marketing. Remember what “rings the register.”

7. Hold on to good people. Plank doesn’t believe in the saying that you need new people to take that next big jump in your business. “It’s just the best people you know to accomplish the task at hand…”

8. Aim high. Written on the Under Armour wall: “Let’s be the greatest company in the history of the world.”

9. Grab serendipity when you see it. Plank had been toying with the name Body Armor, until his big brother came to take him to lunch one day and asked, “How’s that company you’re working on, uhh…Under Armor?” He quickly trademarked it, adding the “u” for the phone number—888-4ARMOUR.

Side note: In today’s Post, in-vogue ballerina Misty Copeland talks about her upcoming star-turn in Swan Lake for The Washington Ballet: “It’s what so great about the Under Armour ad [she stars in]…” So let’s add 10. Get free publicity.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.


Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Thankfully, the Click May Take a Backseat

This is sponsored content from BBN Networks.
By Scott Roulet

“Be careful what you ask for because it may come true.”  The over-used cliché captures the sentiment we face as the digital advertising industry begins to de-emphasize the click and emphasize the less defined ad engagement. 

For years, CTR has been source of cynicism around media watering holes as well as the more high intellect industry conferences. Outside of media sellers looking at the landing pages of prospective advertisers or marketers trying to gain insight on a competitor’s  campaign, who really clicks on these ads?  In fact most of us have met few, if any, web users compelled to intentionally press the mouse while hovering over a clever message embedded inside a 300×600 ad unit.  Adding to the CTR mystery, is the elusive bot with its daily havoc that distorts reality and threatens the sanity of ad ops teams.

Relief may be just around the corner because we will soon be redirecting our attention to ad impressions that are actually within view of the user. In theory, this is sensible measurement. Unless an ad is actually seen, it’s merely a self-rewarding creative work of art. Accountability for ensuring the ad can be seen as imperative for the integrity of this medium. Many publishers, especially in b2b, filled their web pages to look like a NASCAR race but you don’t see sponsor logos on the bottom of the cars, and expectations for digital media should be no different.

Companies like Moat have developed amazing tools that measure a user’s engagement with website ads. Our company has implemented Moat to provide inventory and campaign analysis, but there are alternative tools including DoubleVerify and ComScore with similar functionality. While the industry has mandated a certification process for technologies that assess viewability, there is not a common methodology standard to minimize the reporting discrepancies between systems. Similar to the variances between the ad servers for publishers and advertisers, viewability statistics vary. These companies are dedicating some of the brightest minds in ad technology to enhance the accuracy and compatibility, so it’s only a matter of time before those gaps are closed.

Publishers must develop page designs that raise the in-view rates for their inventory while considering a strategy that fairly distributes the inventory allocation across advertisers with various requirements. Major buying agencies and trading desks have already begun the adoption so publishers will soon be challenged with the dilemma over which advertisers are assigned placements with the greatest in-view rate. Historically, “premium” positioning came at premium rates; however, that approach is an unlikely solution since the downward CPM pressure is driven by the same buying groups demanding higher in-view rates.

The momentum for viewability is a logical progression for a medium in constant search of improved measurements for intelligent validation with greater accountability. The speed bumps along the way are inevitable but standardization will come, and premium publishers will adapt with web properties that maximize engagement with the brands. 

Ready to just go back to worrying about CTR?  Be careful what you ask for.

Scott Roulet is a digital media entrepreneur and publishing veteran. He is a co-founder and president of BBN Networks, a b2b digital marketing company connecting marketers with business decision makers. For more information, please visit: www.theb2bnet.com.

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