Knowing your audience is the key to b-to-b future

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While the last few years in b-to-b media have been tough, there is a new sense of optimism as the global economy is stabilizing, unemployment is declining and businesses are looking forward. Although these tough times have given us some clarity around what's working and what's not, we are undoubtedly still on a journey toward an undefined destination. Despite that uncertainty, the outline of what the future will look like for our organizations is becoming clear. First, there is a growing realization that the heart of our business lies in understanding our audience better than anyone else. With that knowledge, we can create powerful content—for distribution in print, online, in person or in any other format—as well as new, valuable products and services. We're also beginning to see monetization of that content through new user-paid offerings, as business media executives realize that we can no longer distribute for free all that we produce while relying solely on the advertising model for revenue. With an enhanced focus on audience comes our second important priority: evolving our unparalleled vertical-market intelligence into products and services that help marketers move their businesses forward. B-to-b media must learn to take market intelligence as a starting point, then evolve and monetize that intelligence in the form of marketing services—including sophisticated lead generation, creative and measurement services, custom content, research and perhaps work flow tools and software solutions. That transition will make us more relevant to marketers and ensure our future success. Even amidst uncertainty about the future, we need to be investing now in technology and people with marketing expertise so that we gain increased knowledge about our audience and how it segments across different channels. This expertise will provide the roadmap for our marketing clients to use in effectively reaching their target audiences, with specific messages, along different points in the purchasing process. And it informs how and where we can charge for our content based on the value provided to those audience segments. This journey into new and expanded business models necessitates an increase in the kinds of capabilities our businesses must possess, and that can certainly be complex and overwhelming. But we really have no choice. We must embrace these challenges as opportunities to unlock valuable new ways to interact with our audiences and build our market expertise, enabling us to fundamentally change our relationship with those in the industries we serve, be they readers or marketers. In this sense, it's really back to the basics of how our businesses began: a deep understanding of and interaction with a highly specialized vertical community. This is why we have revamped our industry association, American Business Media. With a new business plan and senior management team in place, ABM is 100%-focused on helping its members meet the challenge of rebooting their business models. The new plan employs a cooperative approach in which ABM will partner with industry experts and other organizations to provide greater value—innovative thought leadership and a new suite of practical solutions—to members. New products and services will include industry research and actionable business metrics; education and training programs around new business models and how to execute on them; increased networking opportunities and focused leadership groups; and new events, many in partnership with other organizations and experts. I am confident that these services will result in a new level of value to, and engagement with, your organizations. I am especially pleased that ABM is on a new path just as we are emerging from these tough times, and I am excited about what the future holds, both for our industry and our association. Bill Pollak is president-CEO of ALM Media and the incoming chairman of American Business Media. He can be reached at [email protected]
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