How will B2B media businesses evolve?
Last week I chaired a B2B Media CEO Round Table on the future shape of their business for Renewd, a community of professionals in B2B subscriptions and events. It was a delight to chat around a table with a fabulous London city view – no zoom mute problems in sight!
We explored how B2B audiences are changing their behaviour, what this means for the product and revenue mix for B2B information businesses, and how their organisations will change.
We covered virtual events, delegate pricing, personalisation, research, RoI, content agencies, recruitment, hybrid and remote working and more. These are the highlights of the discussion, anonymised as the discussion was under Chatham House rules.
How is behaviour changing for B2B audiences?
The shift to virtual events has changed behaviour, and in person events won’t return as they were before. Audiences are choosier – they want to know what’s in it for them if they attend a virtual or in-person event. They have alternative ways to learn – and no longer need to travel to an event. They expect higher production values: quality content, produced to broadcast standard, with professional moderators and presenters, whether virtual or in person.
Most organisers have a ten-fold increase in attendee numbers for virtual events over in-person events albeit based on free access. Charging delegates for virtual events is challenging. However one organiser found a new, lower price point (£299 vs c£2000) grew overall revenues by reducing complimentary tickets.
Networking is harder to deliver on virtual platforms, with small scale round tables the most popular format. A shared interest in content is perhaps the best way to establish new relationships online. It is however difficult to replace the informal serendipity of in person events. An online community is a good introduction for building new peer relationships.
The battle for audience time and attention has intensified. The proliferation of digital events from both media brands and sponsors/vendors means fatigued attendees. Established methods of marketing (eg mass email) are less effective.
People appreciate personalisation. A training-led business asks a series of questions and then recommends certain learning modules in a more personalised pathway.
Now more than ever there is no substitute for in-depth customer research, via a third party or developing a skillset in-house. We need to understand the customer’s view of the world, their pain points and what will solve their problems. Stay platform neutral and keep researching as trends develop. Audience behaviour around content and events will continue to shift as we emerge from the pandemic, and the growth of remote working will permanently alter attitudes to business travel.
How will B2B media change their product/ revenue mix?
The starting point is customer research, and a willingness to deliver content, networking, data in whatever format your audience find useful. Consider setting up formal user groups and checking new ideas and wireframes regularly. It is increasingly important to demonstrate value and prove the RoI of your product to customers.
Many premium enterprise subscription businesses already invest in customer research. But it is equally applicable to B2B media more focussed on marketing solutions and event sponsorship. For business models combining reader revenue and marketing solutions, try to maintain a careful balance so readers don’t feel overloaded with commercial activity.
Commercial clients are now asking for more data and insights on leads. Some publishers have found B2B audiences quite willing to volunteer information on budgets and current vendors/suppliers in return for access to events or content. Others are investigating intent data, based on content read or downloaded, to assist commercial clients in their own marketing.
Establishing content agencies to create marketing content for advertisers to use across multiple media channels is a lucrative revenue source for some B2B media. The advantage is not only knowing the audience and editorial/design skill but also providing analytics and data to track marketing effectiveness.
How will organisations need to change?
Negotiating the move from fully remote working to “hybrid” working is challenging. Some are letting go of larger offices and moving to smaller premises, just enough to hold occasional team meetings. While a few are staying “remote first,” others are requiring staff to be in 2-3 days a week.
Consensus is that remote organisations are more challenging for junior staff and graduates as they miss out on informal learning and the social environment. One solution is investing in wide ranging training and development for graduates. Another is shifting company demographics away from grads and towards older, more experienced, and autonomous staff. Others believe virtual meetings allow junior staff to listen in to and learn from meetings they might not have previously attended in person.
Data skills will become increasingly important, replacing “intuition” with data in business decision-making.
Changing commuting patterns, work/life balance and the talent war is prompting “The Great Resignation” where staff are being offered new roles in a wider range of locations. B2B media may not be able to compete on salary levels, so need to put more emphasis on training and development opportunities. A sense of purpose or mission is also an important part of the employment offer. And a positive culture, with colleagues that staff enjoy working with, will be increasingly important for retention.
Join Renewd for more best practice and insights
Renewd is an open and free community of professionals in B2B media and information in the US, UK and Europe. As well as a lively online discussion forum, they run regular webinars and virtual round tables. Further London-based in person events are planned: sign up here for more information: https://renewd.net/
If you’d like to discuss how your media business can adapt and evolve to suit the new business environment, do get in touch for a chat over coffee (real or virtual).
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.