Data Trumps Ad Inventory At Randall-Reilly & ALM
What is the formula for B2B media success? “Use content to attract and qualify an audience you can reach anywhere,” advocates Prescott Shibles. He says reader data is more important to your business than ad inventory, and suggests there is no time to lose in figuring out how to use it as a growth engine.
Mr. Shibles and Jeffrey Litvack are two B2B publishing insiders I consistently learn from. They don’t just talk the talk; they get their hands dirty, digitally speaking. Prescott Shibles is vice president of audience development for Randall-Reilly and has become a respected industry futurist. Jeff Litvack is group president and chief digital officer at ALM. He has implemented more data-driven sales programs than anyone I know. I caught up with both last month at the Niche Digital Conference in Savannah, Georgia.
Lest I make them sound like Ben & Jerry, allow me to qualify that the only thing tying these two gents together is the common themes in their advice. That and their generosity in helping me share their ideas with you.
It appears to me that both companies are committed to ruling their markets by having such powerful and actionable data that that the barrier to compete with them is high. At the same time, by using data for audience growth and sales, there is ROI. Both companies are ahead of the pack in terms of going through the trials and errors of finding the best ways to profit from data.
ALM is a leader serving legal markets and other professions. Data is so integral to their sales, the website describes their marketing programs as “all powered by the most sophisticated database in the industry [with] unprecedented targeting, profiling and segmentation. . .” Litvack calls it “Data as a Business.” He suggests B2B publishers make this a core capability, charge for it as a service, and leverage it to grow audience and sales.
Data is primary to Randall-Reilly sales also. “First we provide data on your audience so you know who to target and where and when to reach them,” their About Us page says. Is that your “first” action when selling advertising programs? Most publishers I speak with start with a rate card. R-R sales staff is able to access a database on their tablets when selling advertisers, showing how any given target audience is reached via print, web, social, postal, how many phone numbers are available, how many receive particular newsletters, etc. They use all those ways and more to deliver the advertisers’ messages.
Alleviate List Fatigue
Chances are audience data is not yet the backbone of your operation. I bet your lists are, though. Shibles asks if you ever wonder why some email campaigns might convert at 15 percent while others convert at 30 percent? You might think 15 percent is high. Regardless, he points out it is the quality of your data which makes the difference. Publishers have higher quality 1st-party data than the big data boys, but “can you operationalize it?” Don’t let a competitive advantage go under-utilized.
ALM tested behavioral targeting against the list-based approach. Using sophisticated audience data for the email component of a lead-gen campaign, the response increased 700 percent! They generated more registrations from mailing to 3,700 people than the traditional mailing which went to 21,700. The more you learn about your audience, the less you need to email them to acquire the right prospects to sell to an advertiser. ALM creates “master profiles,” integrating data from every platform to better understand what each customer is most interested in, most likely to buy.
One publisher I spoke with recently needed to satisfy a promise to an advertiser to get 1,500 attendees to a webinar. Getting the first 1,250 was easy. It took mailing after mailing to scratch and claw for the last few. Imagine if they had the data to get ALM’s 700% bump. Solid data prevents list fatigue, which causes your messages to be ignored due to their numbing sameness -- if they don’t opt out altogether.
A good tip from Shibles is to “take the dead wood off of your lists.” Pull anybody who has not opened an email or clicked on something during the previous three months. Let them sit. Three months later, send them the ol’ “we want you back” message; which typically includes a freemium or other offer. Randall-Reilly gets a great response on those and is able to reengage many of them. “It’s more valuable than getting one click every three months.”
To be continued. Look for more data insights from Andy in November!
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.