Business media companies share strategies for accessing funds ‘beyond the advertising budget'

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In 2008, Booz & Co. consultants recommended that business media companies choose one of two paths to achieve future profitable revenue growth in a fast-changing industry. One was user-paid business information; the other was marketer-driven solutions.

Last week, the question of how media companies can provide marketer-driven solutions was the topic of the wrap-up session of American Business Media's Executive Forum titled, “Beyond the Advertising Budget—Accessing the Marketing Budget.”

“We look at the entire scope of [budgetary] control of our marketing partners,” said Jeff DeBalko, president-CIO of Reed Business Information's Business Media Division in the U.S.

“About 30% to 40% of their budgets are in play, but only 20% of that is advertising.” In order of importance, the remaining areas include lead generation and sales force support, database management, market research and analytics, face-to-face and traditional custom media, he said.

When DeBalko launched RBI-US's centralized Interactive Division in 2006, lead generation, as the largest opportunity outside advertising, was his first priority. With the company's then-decentralized approach, “this was one of the areas we couldn't really go after the way we were organized,” he said, adding that lead generation has grown incrementally under centralized management ever since.

Moderator Stephen Davis, senior VP-group publisher at SRDS, asked whether branding is being overlooked as marketers become hyper-focused on lead generation. “I'm concerned,” DeBalko said. “There's a huge disconnect with some of our major customers who are [missing] the value of branding.”

Jane Ottenberg, president of TMG (formerly The Magazine Group), said customers come to companies such as hers, which specializes in custom media, primarily for branding. While lead generation is designed to measure ROI in terms of finding new prospects, custom projects built around branding have been used successfully by TMG clients that want to retain existing customers, she said.

Tim Fixmer, president of Stamats Business Media, shared details of a program that started as a simple webinar pitch and developed into a major custom project for the Portland (Ore.) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tapping the customer's enthusiasm for positioning itself as “the greenest city” for meetings, the Stamats team developed a video project from story concept through production—“a turnkey operation,” Fixmer said—that the Convention and Visitors Bureau could use multiple times and in multiple ways. The resulting project “came out of a marketing collateral budget rather than the advertising budget,” he said.

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