Penton, a b-to-b media company, has launched a new data division called SmartReach. The group is a formal effort to serve endemic and non-endemic direct marketers by leveraging the company’s database of 16 million b-to-b records and it signals a shift to fully internalize some of what was historically outsourced to list company vendors.

SmartReach is fundamentally set up to manage the full range of subscriber and customer data and package it in ways to support integrated marketing campaigns sold by the company’s sales and marketing services teams.

Penton is also touting the new group in the context of what might be considered the next wave after "digital-first"—professional information services. In other words, the need for data on the publisher side to determine what information customers need the most and, following that, the data marketers need to target those customers and determine ROI for a campaign are considered increasingly core to future success.

In that context, Penton has brought the full data marketing operation in-house. It’s cut ties with its list management company and has built a team of 10, some with previous list marketing company experience, led by Joann Kropp, vice president, customer data solutions.

"We’ve built a direct marketing team to support our internal reps and to tap into this large audience to target effective solutions and up our game in metrics and reporting to become a better marketing partner," says Kropp.

While Penton has media brands in 17 markets, SmartReach will primarily serve a core grouping: agriculture, transportation, natural products/food, infrastructure, design and manufacturing.

According to the company, its database has 16 million records with 1,000 data points for marketers to hone in on a particular audience segment. But Kropp says the decision to move the entire operation in-house hinged on two factors: her team’s understanding of the audience and the ability to work with a marketing client in a turnkey manner.

"When you start to pay attention to what your audience wants and you get better at more effectively targeting them, an in-house data team is going to understand that better than a third party. You can also work with your client from start to finish," she says.

In terms of ROI, Kropp says the revenue her group has helped bring in has increased by double digits in the last year, which has essentially been the proof-of-concept period for the formal SmartReach launch. But by bringing it all in house and having the data team provide the turnkey support, Kropp says the operation will gravitate towards more cohesive best practices. "We want to tighten up on the best practices, send less [emails] and perform better—that’s the ROI."


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