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B-to-b media companies get serious about marketing services

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The past three years have been an experimental phase for fledgling marketing services units at many business media companies. But with experience and some success behind them, those organizations are now going all in, putting talent and technology in place, tightening up organizational structures and extending the scope of their services. B-to-b media companies have offered marketing services for years, creating custom content and advertising copy for clients or offering lead-generation programs or event sponsorship opportunities. But the selling and execution of these programs was often not handled in repeatable, scalable, measurable ways. That has been changing, as companies organize to capture a bonanza that has been pegged at almost $6 billion for b-to-b media companies by research company Outsell (“Outsell Market Analysis: The Marketing Services Opportunity,” August 2012.) Two of the most noticeable signs of top management's commitment to marketing services are the caliber of people brought in recently and the support of centralized departments to execute those programs. During a companywide restructuring in April at UBM Tech, the former marketing services unit was reorganized and renamed the Partner Solutions Group. At the time, Paul Miller, CEO of UBM Tech, explained that the new group has two main focuses: content marketing and custom events. The events area, which was not previously a separate unit within marketing services, will get more focused attention in the new structure and is expected to provide a huge growth opportunity for UBM Tech, he said. The company has appointed personnel to oversee those two functions. Robyn Duda, VP-events for UBM Tech, who previously handled branded and custom events for the InformationWeek Business Technology Network, will now focus exclusively on custom events for all of UBM Tech. Stephanie Stahl, executive editor-content services, previously oversaw content marketing for the InformationWeek brands and will now perform that function for the entire company. “Stephanie and I have been working closely together to create fully integrated programs [within the InformationWeek group],” Duda said. “Now that we're together under one roof—along with our design central group—we can take these services to the next level and carry them through the whole UBM Tech organization.” In January, Hanley Wood debuted a new unit called the Strategic Marketing Services Group. Hanley Wood has owned Hanley Wood Marketing, a marketing services agency, for more than a decade, but SMS was created to address different needs. “Strategic Marketing Services is focused on helping our customers get leads, nurture leads and convert leads so that they can win business,” said Peter Goldstone, CEO of Hanley Wood. Hanley Wood Marketing provides agency-style branding services that are big-ticket, long-term engagements, Goldstone said. SMS, by contrast, serves the business development function with sales activation and lead-generation activities, he added. “The engagements are shorter-term, results-oriented and lower-cost,” he said. “There's a clear distinction in the scale, the scope and the size of the projects because there's a difference in the goals and objectives of each of the engagements.” Goldstone brought in several people with tech media backgrounds to build out the products, work flow and metrics required for sales enablement, as well as to lead the sales effort. Among them are Dave Colford, chief revenue officer, who was previously exec VP-global sales and operations at Geeknet, and Tom Rousseau, exec VP-strategic marketing services, previously VP-alliance marketing for IDG Enterprise. At ALM, no one was specifically devoted to marketing services until Eric Biener, previously VP-strategic accounts at Ziff Davis Enterprise, joined the company as director of marketing services in April 2012. Since then, Biener has built ALM's marketing services business using shared internal resources and outsourced services. “Based on the success we've had in the first 12 months, we're now starting to hire operational and audience development people and sales associates specifically assigned to this business,” he said. Biener initially focused his efforts on the clients of ALM's national brands, including The American Lawyer and Corporate Counsel, but he began expanding his efforts to ALM's regional newspapers, such as the New York Law Journal and The Recorder, this spring. “With our regional brand sellers, we will be offering marketing services that can be tailored to a geographic area or region,” he said. At Summit Business Media, Elliot Markowitz and Josh Heitsenrether, who joined the company in April 2012, run a centralized marketing services unit as director-strategic content and director-marketing services, respectively. They previously worked together in similar roles at Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to their arrival, Markowitz said, marketing services “was terribly disjointed. We have had to knock down the silos and create a more seamless work-flow process,” he said. Heitsenrether added: “What has been most important is the addition of accountability and measurability.” “We can now pull together an integrated program that not only aligns with brand awareness but also pulls a lead-generation component through it,” Markowitz said. “In some cases, these culminate in the most intimate type of lead generation, which is a face-to-face event.” George Assimakopoulos, VP-Penton Marketing Services, joined Penton Media through its March 2011 acquisition of interactive marketing consulting company EyeTraffic Media, which he founded in 2004. When it was independent, EyeTraffic built, managed, tracked and analyzed interactive marketing campaigns, Assimakopoulos said. Penton Marketing Services now provides lead-generation and content services in 17 vertical markets, he said. Two years after the acquisition, marketing services is still gaining momentum. “During the first quarter, we equaled all of what we did last year, and we expect to grow even further this year,” he said. Kate Spellman, senior VP-marketing at Penton, said audience knowledge based on ongoing research is important to the success of Penton Marketing Services. “One thing George's team does is continually analyze the audience, not just when client wants to engage,” she said. The key is understanding what content will resonate with the client's customers, Assimakopoulos said. “We're clearly identifying what the customers' audiences need, then going back to the client and saying, "We know how to position you, your services and your products in front of the customers who are looking for what you provide at the moment of interest,' ” he said.
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