BtoB

Transform, invest, engage

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I have had the good fortune to work at three great companies in b-to-b media over the past 20-plus years. Each was known as a strong “culture” organization; each had a reputation for fast growth and great products. These reputations were earned and resulted in market dominance, top talent acquisition and constant evolution. The three category-leading companies are Cowles Business Media, Hanley Wood and Atlantic Media Co., whose b-to-b platform is Government Executive Media Group, where I am now president. Each company did it differently, but there was commonality of themes across all three. The common attributes found in all three companies can be distilled down to these fundamental ambitions: transform, invest, engage. We are all living through the media transformation as it has been going on for a long time. Over the past two decades, b-to-b media businesses have been building integrated, diversified platforms that include print, events, market insights and digital solutions. Each company embraced transformation as an everyday activity. One expressed it this way: “If your product is good, make it better; if better, make it the best; if the best, it's time to reinvent it.” In the new media world, and at Government Executive, we understand that we are “digital-first” as an enterprise. We drive digital innovation across all platforms each day. With more than 60% of our revenue being digital, we operate as if we are a startup digital company, always questioning what new skills and talent the startup idea will demand and how our legacy, market-leading assets can be used and adopted. We are able to leverage a digital culture and then fortify the business with events, customer insights and, yes, print. The startup, digital-first culture allows us to deploy a strategy of constant innovation and product development. The goal is to bring products to market quickly that are informed by audience and customer insights. The next theme across all three companies is a commitment to invest in the stated strategy of transformation. In order to improve our business, we know we have to invest in the best products, people and ideas. It's not a coincidence that each category-leading company invests more in attracting the best talent—the people who produce the right products at the right time for the served markets. Yes, we are digital-first, but that does not mean digital-only. At Government Executive, we still produce a print publication each month. We have a redesigned magazine and brand architecture (produced by celebrated design firm, Pentagram) that will debut this month. We want to give the magazine its best chance at succeeding. A major website redesign is right behind it. The areas of investment are apparent. We require more analytics, customer and market insights, more customer support and project management, more specialists in the areas of research, digital development and new technology platforms to “niche the niche” and serve micro-communities. Those are investment dollars well spent. The final shared guiding principle is most important: engage. All ideas, transformation, reinvention and investment are there to support audience and customer engagement. This investment is critical to winning the “engagement war.” Only then can we truly assist our marketing customers by connecting them with the right buyers and influencers. It takes investment in people, platforms and technology to win the mindshare of the audiences we serve. Unfortunately, there is no free lunch in media and marketing. Marketing services allow us to “change the conversation” with our customers. We engage with them in ways we never had before. We understand their pain points and solve problems around them, leveraging all our customer insights, market insights, and media and marketing platforms. It is, I believe, the golden age of media and marketing. The digital-first cultures willing to invest in the best ideas and talent—and do whatever it takes to engage the audience first and best—will thrive. Our digital team calls it being “scrappy.” The future looks bright for those who buy into the promise of digital transformation, strategic investments and deep audience engagement. Peter Goldstone is president of Government Executive Media Group. He can be reached at pgoldstone@govexec.com.
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