Planning for 2017? 7 Strategy Questions to Answer

Are you asking yourself the right questions as you plan for 2017?

Before you wind down for the holidays, make sure you answer these questions so you can hit the ground running in 2017.

  1. What is your “breakthrough experiment” for 2017?

If you aren’t innovating with new products, you’re dying. 88% of Fortune 500 companies have gone out of business over the past 50 years… unless you’re trying new things, you’re jeopardizing your future.

You need to try at least one new thing each year. Don’t expect it to be an automatic winner at the start – view your investment in something fresh as an experiment. You will learn how to make it into a success once you try it, measure the results, and correct course accordingly.

  1. Is at least 1/3 of your revenue coming from digital sources, and do you have a plan to get more than half of your revenue from digital over the next 3-5 years?

Digital media guru and CEO Clark Gilbert explains that if you aren’t getting at least one third of your revenues from digital – and moving toward the 50% mark – you’re at risk of getting disrupted by your competition and going out of business.

  1. Is at least half of your digital revenue from sources other than programmatic advertising?

The digital ad market is challenged. Rates continue to decline, and ad blockers threaten mobile revenue models. They key is to supplement ad revenues with consumer revenue streams, meaning the reader pays to access your digital content. Here are four ways to monetize your digital content.

  1. Do you have a marketing plan with specific goals for each of your consumer segments?

One-size-fits-all marketing no longer works. Have you segmented your consumers into three to five different groups? For example, a finance-oriented magazine might want to segment their readers based on size of company, role (CFO vs. staff accountant), and/or technical sophistication. Develop unique marketing strategies for each consumer type. Attention spans are decreasing – don’t clutter your marketing message with materials that are not relevant to a given segment.

  1. Do you have a robust account management strategy for your top advertisers and distribution partners?

Understand the business objectives of your key partners, and develop a list of projects to work on together. This way, everyone succeeds. Distributor hoping to get into a new market? Position one of your products to help them enter. Advertiser looking to target a certain psychographic? Work with them on a custom advertising campaign to drive leads to their website.

  1. Have you identified a slate of initiatives to improve your EBITDA margins by at least 1 point?

Don’t cut so deep that you hit bone. However, you should always look for ways to improve your EBITDA margin by at least a point.

  • Can you renegotiate a major contract?
  • Opt out of a software license you rarely use?
  • Motivate your sales and marketing team to promote higher gross margin products?
  • Take advantage of lower-cost marketing and distribution channels?

Warning: Do NOT use cost cutting as an excuse to underinvest in new products and services.

  1. Have you distilled your company objectives into about 5 goals that you can broadly communicate to the company at large?

Get everyone on the same page. Summarize your strategy into five easy to remember goals and communicate them broadly. Update the company at least quarterly on progress against your targets. If everyone understands the why and feels like progress is being made against lofty ambitions, you’ll get a much more engaged and effective team.

If you can develop solid answers to these questions before you take a breather for the holidays, you will be setting yourself up for a wildly successful 2017 and beyond.


Rob RistagnoBW is the CEO and Founder of The Sterling Woods Group, a firm that builds new revenue streams for media companies and publishers. He is an expert in direct monetization of content. Prior to creating The Sterling Woods Group, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. He most recently was the Chief Operating Officer of America’s Test Kitchen, considered to be the gold standard in the niche media world for building diversified – and often digital – revenue streams.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. Next up? The Niche Digital Conference in Denver, Sept. 19-21. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – is launching the all new Super Niche, March 27-29, 2017. Check it out!

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