From start to finish, American Business Media's 2011 Annual Conference revolved around a single phrase: marketing services.
Perhaps the most encouraging marketing services statistic discussed at the conference came from Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at research firm Outsell Inc. He said 85% of b-to-b marketers plan to use media companies for marketing services this year, while 80% plan to use agencies for such services.
The data can be found in Outsell's “6th Annual Advertising & Marketing Study.” The report was based on a survey conducted online in January; 1,012 U.S. companies participated, including 681 b-to-b marketers.
“Publishers have some golden assets,” Richard said, pointing to their capability of delivering integrated media campaigns to a segmented audience.
There was much debate at the conference about what was meant by the suddenly fashionable term of marketing services and whether it was indeed a new thing at all. During one conference panel, Andy Goodenough, president-CEO of Summit Business Media, noted that many business media companies have offered marketing services such as research and custom content for decades.
What's changed is the urgency surrounding marketing services—and the desire to get paid for them. As b-to-b print ad pages continue to decline, business media companies see marketing services as a means to replace this lost revenue.
Another critical change, of course, is the continued rise of digital marketing, which takes money away from print ad pages but also provides an opportunity. Digital marketing requires marketers to create content to fill their websites, microsites and white papers—content that b-to-b media companies can create.
During another conference panel, Dave Newcorn, VP-digital and custom media at Summit Media Group, said, “We feel content marketing is the key to Internet marketing.”
This panel showcased the wide range of ways that smaller publishers are embracing marketing services. Newcorn said Summit Media Group, which publishes Packaging World,
has created a centralized custom media group in part to “put a price on custom” and to generate more revenue from the custom products the company was already creating. The sales staff has been incentivized to focus on larger custom projects; they earn double commissions on projects that meet a certain revenue threshold.
A second panelist, Gerry Ryerson, president of Edgell Communications, discussed his company's efforts to unify its database of readers and automate lead generation. The ultimate goal of the effort is to provide marketers with higher-value leads.
Ryerson recalled interviewing the person who would eventually take over the lead program at Edgell: “He said, "My goal is to turn a $100 lead into a $1,000 lead.' That rang with me.”
The final panelist in the session, Mitch Rouda, VP-e-media at Farm Journal Media, said publishers' focus on marketing services amounted to “finding new money, fast.”
Some speakers at the ABM conference, particularly those from the advertising agency side of the business, cautioned business media executives about diving headlong into the marketing services pool. Tom Stein, president of marketing communications agency Stein Rogan + Partners, said ad agencies have the advantage of working with a single company in a particular industry, while media companies work with a host of competitors. This structure will make it hard for media companies to have “strategic” relationships with marketers, he said.
Near the close of the conference, Tom Kemp, chairman-CEO of Northstar Travel Media, led off the “CEO Roundtable” session with a fire-and-brimstone defense of b-to-b media's capacity for adapting to the changing marketplace. He noted how business publishers, despite doubts voiced by existing exhibition companies, successfully added events to their portfolios in the 1970s. In the 1990s, naysayers said business media couldn't adapt to the Internet.
Now, Kemp said, a similar chorus is doubting the capability of media companies to add marketing services to their product offerings. He predicted the business media industry as a whole will use marketing services to generate new revenue. “We will leverage our content, our databases, our domain expertise, our customer relationships and our trusted, independent media brands.”