American Business Media’s annual meeting this year took a single theme approach, focusing on the opportunity for b-to-b publishers to offer marketing services. While the core of marketing services is based on many things publishers already offer (content, data, lead gen), it’s also a different business with longer sales cycles, potentially lower margins, and a different sales and editorial mentality. It’s the latest example of publishers “chasing new money in a hurry,” according to Mitch Rouda, president of e-media at Farm Journal Media.
For some publishers, acquiring their way into marketing services (in March, Penton bought online marketing firm EyeTraffic Media) may be the best option. Referencing the development of Meredith Integrated Marketing, Tom Stein, president and founder of b-to-b agency Stein Rogan + Partners, said it was based on six acquisitions and that former Meredith National Media group president Jack Griffin told him, "If we decided to do this in-house, we’d still be just talking about it.”
However, most smaller publishers don’t have the war chest for six marketing acquisitions (or spending $350 million on a digital agency the way Hearst did for iCrossing). For them, entering marketing services requires a mix of in-house development and strategic partnering. Last week, Northstar Travel Media announced a marketing solutions division based around two internal staffers (a VP of marketing solutions in former TravelAge West publisher Michelle Rosenberg and a dedicated project manager), and a strategic tech partner in Decision Counsel to execute programs.
Summit Media also debuted a new dedicated custom media group (“custom” is increasingly becoming a dirty word that marketing can’t relate too—hence the rise of “marketing solutions.”) with seven full-time people and multiple freelancers. "What’s interesting is [clients] want our expertise as content producers, not our audience,” said Dave Newcorn, vice president of digital and custom media.
Many of the services now falling under the umbrella of “marketing solutions” have previously been offered as value-added. “We need to change the nature of free with things like copywriting, consulting, white papers and surveys,” says Newcorn. “We charged one client $7,500 to put together a survey and send it. In any other kind of work, that’s consulting.”
Summit came up with a price calculator that deducts hard costs but also incentivizes salespeople to sell high. Part of getting the new custom group off the ground was a “lunch & learn” campaign in which Newcorn and his group visited 108 customers in 15 cities, explaining the concept of lead nurturing.
The publisher also did research identifying four stages of the buying process and what solutions to offer. They include:
Stage 1: Status quo—no projects. Customers should be addressed with best practices and industry trends.
Stage 2: Discovery—the customer knows they need a project but isn’t sure what to do. Here, white papers and Webinars are applicable.
Stage 3: Vendor selection. Here Summit presents customer testimonials, assessment tools in which prospects can enter data and increasing use of video. “For our market, they want to see the machines in action, says Newcorn.
Stage 4: Short list. Vendor comparison charts. “Here, they need something downloadable,” says Newcorn. “A chart indicates they’re pretty far down the path. A boardroom PowerPoint is something junior execs can show to more senior, maybe less tech savvy execs.”
The Summit proposal package includes a kick-off meeting with the content creators, written analysis and recommendations and a 12-month road map. “Now that we have the infrastructure to produce custom packages, now we have to look at how we sell it,” says Newcorn.