A Coordinated Effort: Serving Needs, Creating Revenue

by Dan Blank on June 5, 2009

In the past few weeks, I have been talking about product development in B2B media and publishing. First, we looked at how to put customer needs first, and then at revenue streams that publishers have at their disposal. Today, I want to extend this discussion by looking at how editorial, sales, and advertisers can coordinate their efforts to create sustainable revenue generating products that meet the critical needs within their industries.

Let’s start at the end, and work our way backwards. This chart outlines a potential lifecycle for product development for B2B publishers and media companies. When looking at this chart, you can think about a scenario where an editorial team wants to do a big feature about sustainability in their industry. Timelines for each role (journalist, sales, etc) start on the left and move to the right, from idea to execution.

Things to look for in the chart:

  • Waldo, of course.
  • How the editorial and sales process aligns. How can they better integrate their efforts?
  • The repeating theme I mentioned 2 weeks ago: "Listen. Listen. Do." So, for every point on the timeline that a publisher is providing a solution to their customers, you should see two different points that they are gauging the needs and behaviors of those customers.
  • That customers and business partners are active participants: not just consuming information, but interacting with it, the content creators & sales teams, as well as ach other.

This chart is organized from the viewpoint of journalists and content creators. In reality, it should be flipped, with the customers on the top and journalists on the bottom. Here’s why:

B2B content should be both a RESULT, and a CAUSE.

It is a ‘result,’ because content creators should be responding to audience need. Likewise, understanding the needs of advertisers and business partners is a critical first step. Next comes potential product options (the blue line in the middle in the chart above.) Finally, we come to the sales and editorial teams within media companies, coming together to address the needs of their various audiences.

It is a ’cause’ because the goal is not to simply "inform" an industry through reporting – but to become a partner who solves critical business needs for those they serve. This is not to imply that editorial content will lack creativity or be able to set the agenda – to identify topics or viewpoints that need to be addressed. But that should come after analysis, not as a constant stream of editors filling content buckets each month.

Obviously, this paradigm is just one of many that B2B publishers and media companies can use. Either way, I think that these are some of the key elements for potential models moving forward:

  • Publishers Should be in the Business of Solving Problems.

    Editorial and sales are a process of managing relationships and meeting needs. While writing an article or closing a sale is a key part of this – the goal is to have a measurable affect on the businesses they serve. This is why constant research and measurement is critical to drive business forward.

  • There Should be Multiple Product Offerings from Each Editorial Effort.

    Editors do an incredible amount of work for each article and feature they produce. However, they often lose the return-on-investment by focusing on a single product (an article), instead of building multiple revenue generating products that can sustain the business, and target the many ways their audience can consume the information that the editors are producing. A single effort can easily be extended to create several products, each with their own sales channel.

  • 70% of an Editor’s Job Should Occur After a Feature Launches.

    Editors are now marketers, and they have previously unheard of ways of connecting with and partnering with their audience. Likewise, measurement tools are now inexpensive and available, allowing them to understand both the nuances about the needs of those they serve, and to what degree their efforts meet those needs.

  • Solving Advertiser & Business Partners’ Needs is Essential.

    Advertisers now have many ways to directly reach their intended audience – and media companies are not always a part of that equation. This is a huge opportunity for publishers to understand the business goals of those business partners, and to assist in educating them and becoming an essential business partner. This is not just about serving an advertisement for them – this is about becoming consultants who can increase their business performance along very particular metrics.

  • "Reporting" on an Industry is Not Enough.

    There was once a time when "an industry wouldn’t report on itself." That time has past, as each industry is rapidly learning to do just that through websites, blogs, twitter, social media and virtual events.

    Advertisers and industry organizations are now direct competitors with media companies, providing training, information, news, and services directly to their audience and customers. For publishers and editors, this opens up an opportunity to not just report – but to get involved, assist in building their industries by serving advertiser’s and audience business needs.

    Especially in B2B media – people might now expect information to be free, but business solutions that drive revenue and make industries more efficient – that is (and should be) expensive. This is where the modern B2B media company will find their future.

  • Editorial, Sales and Marketing Teams are Partners in the Product Development Process.

    These three teams are each full of ideas, data, research, and deep connections to different parts of their industry; Each understands critical needs that need to be met; Each needs to partner early in the process of product development, to ensure that products are not just ‘good’ – but ESSENTIAL to those they serve.

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