Morphing From Publishers to Providers
A large, and growing, publisher who recently received more than $20 million in funding wondered how ad agencies will survive. Offering enterprise solutions to advertisers is an important element in their growth plans, he told me two days ago. In his vision, there will simply be little need for agencies.
Then yesterday a tiny, niche technology publisher also told me sales of marketing services has become essential. In fact they intend to offer it to their readers, as well. Like many vertical B2B publications, their audience includes solution providers, VARs, distributors and others who could use marketing help.
"The whole Web thing is about a conversation, a continuous dialog, which exists between a company and its target audience," offered Paul Caplan. The Cygnus Business Media Senior VP doesn't see advertising as about CTRs, but rather "the level of engagement a reader has with advertisers."
Going operational with marketing services
Okay, so it's unanimous—we all are selling marketing services with our advertising, or know we should be. How do we blend this into our publishing operations? How do we pitch this and move the needle with advertisers?
Brian Ceraolo also advocates "it is imperative" to offer services along with ads. The Executive Vice President of Peerless Media advises, "You need a business plan behind any approach you take, so it does not become just a cost center." Their current approach grew from value-added offerings of market intelligence and lead generation. Now they have staffed up the Peerless Research Group which offers marketing services. Advertisers can pay separately for what they need and buy additional lead-gen products.
"Lead-gen has always been what B2B publishing is about. Marketing services is an outgrowth of where those leads go," adds Cygnus' Caplan. "Are the leads being properly utilized? This leads to Marketing as a Service (MaaS) and lead nurturing."
Mr. Caplan felt the industry hurt itself in the early 2000's. Before that marketers had paid for market research; but then publishers started bundling it into advertising packages. With the rise of MaaS, research is just one arrow in the quiver of publishers. Publishers like Cygnus offer services which include social media help and video production. After all, unlike agencies "we have a channel to distribute it through to a relevant audience."
This approach "is new to a lot of advertisers," Brian Ceraolo says, "so we talk through goals which enhance our relationship with them. . . You've got to be a lot more creative and more focused on the content we create." He advises to make the point you are allowing marketers to tap into your expertise as publishers.
"It is not a magazine pitch," Caplan agrees. "We make sure we know what strategic initiatives a client has and we present a holistic concept. When an ad rep walks out of a marketer's office, our goal is for them to feel 'those guys really get it.'" To that end, Cygnus merged print and digital sales forces five years ago so buyers have a single point of contact for a full set of solutions.
Offering marketing services may be nothing new, but the tools available to publishers are expanding exponentially as data and the ability to capitalize on it for marketing success expand. Why shouldn't we usurp the role of ad agencies? They've been dissing us forever, anyway, routing our calls to entry-level media planners. Payback's a bitch.
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.