Summit's new Customer Solutions Group offers improved segmentation

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Before taking charge as senior VP-customer solutions at Summit Business Media recently, Jeff Patterson attended the company's national sales meeting in Denver. Patterson said he was struck by how enthusiastic the sales reps were about selling the company's products and services in a way that was based on solving customers' problems rather than selling ad schedules. Summit's sales force can now put that thinking to the test, thanks to the company's Customer Solutions Group. Summit, which covers the insurance, financial services, legal and investment advisory markets, introduced the group early last month. Patterson was tapped to lead it. The new unit combines several of Summit's businesses into one group devoted to crafting integrated marketing packages. Those businesses include ProducersWeb, a lead-generation program targeting the insurance and financial services sectors; Agent Media, a lead-gen tool for companies looking to recruit insurance agents; and Kirschner's, a market directory in print and online catering to property and casualty insurers. “By bringing these assets together in a single group, we're able to put them to work much more effectively to help customers grapple with the real-world problems that they face,” said Patterson, who prior to joining Summit was CEO of media consultancy Mile 21. “The unit was created to drive growth in the company, and we absolutely see this as a collection of capabilities for customers that can grow and can fuel the growth of Summit Business Media overall.” Summit is just the latest b-to-b publisher to establish a marketing services business, as traditional media products continue to lose their luster among buyers targeting vertical audiences. “It really is a significant change in how we define ourselves, and how we go to market, and engage with customers and communicate what we're able to do for them,” Patterson said. “Customers are fundamentally revisiting what they're doing in the way of marketing and the kinds of services that they need in order to accomplish their marketing goals.” The group, which represents 13% of Summit's revenue, also produces custom content like microsites and social-media channels, with direct-marketing capabilities in the pipeline. Another marketing area that Patterson is eager to cultivate is face-to-face events that are more intimate than conventional conferences. “The current Summit business has typically focused on larger, conference-type events,” he said. “We want to do roundtable events where our customers can have a deeper dialogue with the people they're trying to reach.” Having a custom solutions unit should enable Summit to change the perception of the company among prospects, Patterson said. “We're being considered now by companies that didn't previously see a "media company' as being the kind of solutions provider that can help them in going to market,” he said. “They now see we're a full-service marketing company that they can use in a variety of ways.” Patterson said the new unit will provide for better segmentation among Summit's various audiences. The company's database consists of 13 separate audiences such as insurance agents, brokers, retirement planners and corporate legal departments. The company's brands include Benefits Selling, Investment Advisor and National Underwriter. “Marketers are no longer executing discrete programs in siloed activity,” Patterson said. “Now they are looking for integrated communications in which advertising, lead-gen, customer and prospect recruitment and retention are all knitted together.” Josh Heitsenrether, director of marketing services for the Customer Solutions Group, said Summit is promoting the new unit through a comprehensive marketing campaign, including print ads in trade titles and online messaging.
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