How can publishers understand and measure customer value in B2B subscriptions? In a round table for Renewd, I interviewed Matt Cianfarani, Executive Director, Digital at Mark Allen Group (MAG). We explored what he has learned in developing subscription products in healthcare and how this can be applied to other markets.
MAG is a privately owned UK based business media company, with 500 staff, 200 events and 100 websites connected to magazines in sectors including farming, manufacturing, engineering, telecoms, aviation, and healthcare. Community Care was acquired by MAG from RELX and serves UK social workers. CC Inform is fully digital and sold to local authorities to be referred to by their staff. It is on a legacy WordPress platform. BJN Inform is a new digital launch, on a mobile platform, linked to the British Journal of Nursing. It is currently in 10 NHS trusts and is used by nurses.
Purchaser vs user
Both products are sold almost exclusively to institutional public sector purchasers, local authorities, or NHS Trusts. The needs and requirements of the purchaser are quite different to the user (social worker or nurse). All through the product development and launch process, the team have had to separately research, design for and market to purchasers and users.
How to research customer needs
For BJN Inform, the team interviewed the purchaser, covering different roles/ stakeholders such as Chief Nurse, Librarian, and Learning Director. This identified major strategic issues, including the risk of staff making poor decisions and opening up to legal action, and the challenge over burnt-out staff, limited time for skills development and poor retention.
The team also interviewed nurses as end users. They wanted an easily accessible, mobile solution, with bite size searchable content, covering both clinical and well-being topics. Early career nurses may lack confidence to ask questions of senior nurses or doctors. Nurses like the idea of a “mentor in your pocket.” The MAG team offered small incentives such as vouchers to reward involvement in research.
In any market, it’s important to understand the use case and also the emotional needs of users. Another member of the group in a different market, noted that when they carried out new research, it overturned all their old assumptions.
Designing and developing product
A project team drawn from across the organisation reviewed the research and prioritised features that addressed key needs of purchasers and users. Since users had not made an active choice to purchase, the product needed good user experience (UX). It was designed for mobile first, with simple access via OpenAthens. It works on desktop, but most nurses are on their feet all day.
Content was adapted from MAG’s British Journal of Nursing but turning long articles into bite size content was more time consuming than expected. New content is added every month. The “minimum viable product” (MVP) was tested with groups of nurses.
The group discussed the issue of “mobile-first” B2B subscription products. More employees are now happy to use their personal mobile phone to access work-related information, and convenience and portability is paramount.
Setting the price
BJN Inform pricing is based on the number of FTEs in an organisation, whether they use it or not. This makes the price accessible for smaller trusts. Training and skills budgets for nurses are lower than for doctors.
The customer services team on Community Care evolved into the customer success team for BJN Inform. They visit purchasers regularly to ensure the product is being used, and senior advocates are encouraging nurses to access the information available. On CCI a retention tool allows purchasers to identify usage levels and skills gaps across the workforce. Zendesk tickets identify issues which feed back into marketing and sales.
How to measure value for customers
In short to medium term, it is all about usage. A third-party system, COUNTER, tracks how many staff are using the product and how often. Longer term plan is to track skills gaps and measure impact on retention levels.
MAG will learn from the first 10 NHS trusts then scale up. Can add similar modules on the same platform for other groups e.g. healthcare support workers. CCI will eventually move to the new mobile platform for social workers.
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Renewd International has been designed to create a space for sharing and discussion – for senior executives from businesses with international operations, or those with an interest in international growth strategies. Join us for virtual roundtables to share growth strategies, best practices, and business challenges, in a closed door environment. Get in touch with Helen Coetzee (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out more.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.
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