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BIMS Keynote Kapur Talks Growth, Data, Millennials and a New Era of Lead Generation

"Traditional lead generation is on its way out the door," Rajeev Kapur, CEO of 1105 Media and a keynote speaker at SIIA's upcoming Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS), Nov. 14-16 in Fort Lauderdale, told me recently. "Over the next couple years it's going to be challenged. If you continue to do lead gen the same way over time, you'll fall behind. The folks providing the leads—i.e. 1105—need to do a better job of providing leads.

"Our customer base is starting to change. Our customers, the people receiving leads, they have a challenge with thinning staffs so they want us to do more. [That means] providing more value in the leads. In the next 2-3 years or not sooner the traditional lead gen model is probably gone and replaced with something entirely different. That's why when I came aboard and talked to customers, we started to look at new ways to evolve and today we're working on a new technology platform to roll out for customers."

Kapur will speak more to this at BIMS. He has quite the interesting background—many years at Dell, co-founder of a technology company, CEO of an audio company. But 1105 Media was his first plunge into the world of B2B media.

"I wasn't necessarily looking [to move] at the time, but I knew the executive chairman of 1105 pretty well, and they were looking to make a change and reached out to me," he said. "And ultimately what they wanted to have I've done before. They wanted someone from outside of the industry who could come in with a fresher perspective and new thoughts—effectively build a new foundation and a great team."

CONNECTIV: Did coming from outside help in this case?
KAPUR: I think it did and it still does. I didn't come with a lot of preconceived notions. I have a quote that I tell people, that most companies are challenged not because they did the wrong thing, but they did the right thing for too long. That's true for industries as well. I remember back when I was with Dell around 2004, thinking that unless something drastically changes, it's going to be a challenge here. We're going to have to embrace a whole new market. Every once in a while companies have to reinvent themselves.

How does a company's size affect its growth?
Obviously, the smaller you are the more nimble you can be. I have a philosophy that in order to do this—to focus and lift the business—you need a strategy. And you have to have a culture that can support that strategy. Then it's about execution and focus. At 1105 we focus a ton on the culture and getting the best out of people—while asking, "How do we look at this from the voice of the customer?" We're strong in the data analytics world and an example of listening to the customer is that we launched virtual e-learning—a paid model in our TDWI business.

And this is where data becomes so important?
Yes. We have a leg up because of our TDWI business, which provides training to data scientists. We've been building out our data sets internally so we can slice and dice the data and anyone on my management team can have phenomenal data at their fingertips. Overall, the biggest challenge in data is that it's the buzzword. Everyone wants to do data. Publishers are saying we're not publishers any more we're data companies. But just because you say you're a data company doesn't make you a data company. The challenge is going to be that there's so much data out in the marketplace, CEOs and management teams are going to suffer real-world, analysis paralysis. Unless you're really able to understand what the data is telling you…

It's of no use.
It's all in the interpretation—what are the tools that you need? How do you understand the trends properly? Data is important but if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. You also can't forget the voice of the customer. So yes data analysis is real hot, but if you don't know how to use it, it will cripple your business. I'm a huge basketball fan. The Lakers were criticized for not moving fast enough in the world of analytics like the Golden State Warriors. But there's a happy medium. In the end you have to pass the eyeball test. Data analysis doesn't tell you if [NBA first draft pick] Ben Simmons is a good dude. You need good instincts as well.

You've also talked before about the importance of influence.
People in the publishing industry have to understand that it's going to be about influence. How is your brand influencing others? How are companies going to show their influence—that's what will set them apart. Over the next few years, millennials will start to make more headway, and their habits are totally different—80% prefer to text not talk, 67% learn how to do things by watching YouTube, and 48% want to own their own business. "If you want me to buy your product, let me help you design it." They're going to be an incredible generation.

Has the funnel been inverted?
Yes, but the idea of listening to the customer is not new. What's new is that tech is making that easier. One takeaway is that if you don't embrace [the kind of] tech that puts you closer to the customer—like virtual learning, more digital, more social—you could miss out on the millennials. Live events will be even more important because they will provide a place for the next generation to meet. Instead of going to a classroom and learning something, they'll do that virtually, and then congregate at an event.

So events will continue to grow?
Yes. The events business will continue to grow exponentially with the addition of virtual education and e-learning. This will cause a domino effect across all aspects of the industry and there will be a consolidation again. Understanding the customer will be more important than ever and big data is going to play a key role in that changing landscape, be it with lead gen, events or marketing services.

We've talked about lead gen, data, tech, but does it still come down to content?
As the demographics start to shift, you can't sleep on having great content. I was recently at a conference a while back when someone claimed that millennials don't have attention spans. I have two millennial sons, and they'll binge-watch a show for hours. So it's not the attention span that's the issue, it's the content… Internally we are constantly looking for new ways to deliver content that's relevant and provides great take-home value.

I've written a lot about "failing fast" and the importance of developing new products. But how do you make your employees feel safe enough to try new things?
I tell everybody that works for me that I'd rather have them try and fail than not try. And that I want them to make a decision. We can fix a bad decision; we can't fix a no-decision. No one will ever get fired for trying something new or for failing at something they tried to do. I reward people who try, people who think outside the box. I am doing everything I can to empower my team all the way down the chain to say, "Look, this is what we need to do for the customer." If you look at our Acquire Show in Washington, D.C, that was something the team had been thinking about for a while when I joined. I said, "Let's do it."

You must be a popular CEO.
My job is to hire the best people, give them the tools to do their job, remove obstacles when needed and get out of their way. I'm happy to say that when I walk in the room I'm not the smartest person in the room. If you're a leader and you walk into a room and you are the smartest person, that's a problem. But what I'm good at is creating a culture, listening, coming up with ideas, and helping my team grow and achieve goals.

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Posted on 07/11/2016 at 11:10 AM