Best Friends Forever: Why B2B Media is Perfect for the Web

by Dan Blank on July 30, 2009

I love magazines. There is something about reading Runners World, The New Yorker and Toyfare that completely engrosses me.

Of course, the magazines I spend the most time considering are business-to-business trade publications – especially my beloved Reed Business Information titles. It is endlessly fascinating to think about the differences between librarians who read Library Journal and engineers who read Control Engineering.

Even though I love magazines, and am fully aware of their usefulness among B2B readers, I have to say: it’s as if the internet was built with B2B media in mind – that’s how good of a fit I think it is. New media is perfectly aligned to the goals of B2B media – let’s count the ways:

  • B2B Media is About Niches Within Niches

    There is no niche too small for the business-to-business media world. And there is no niche too specialized that can’t be served with 19 trade publications, such as this list of poultry magazines. (though, none seems to be a daily)

    The key is identifying people who are passionate about their jobs, business, products, services, location, or goals. These people need to connect to each other, and likely, there are businesses that need to connect with them as well. Yes, these can be odd little communities, but then, B2B media is an odd thing!

  • The Web Empowers Small Communities

    Let’s just say my mom wanted to join a scrapbooking group within 20 miles of her home. Well, Meetup.com can help her find those groups (2 of them!) and if they don’t exist, it will also help her create one.

    Extending this to the B2B world – blogs to give indication of niches within niches. Looking at the list of blogs at Furniture Today gives you a sense of how many subgroups & subtopics exist within the furniture world. Or how about the list of blogs at Semiconductor International?

    Now consider how many tools are at your disposal to serve these groups: websites, blogs, webcasts, social media, forums, and so much more. B2B is about niches, and the web is about enabling connections within them.

    From a revenue perspective, this works well too. In the B2B world, business partners and advertisers are interested in reaching a very segmented population. If you can capture the attention of those folks, you can monetize that attention.

    B2B is less about scale, and more about targeting, and the web provides incredible tools to do this.

  • B2B is Not About Interruption

    As marketing guru Seth Godin tells it, too much of advertising is about interruption. In the busy lives of those served by B2B media, this just won’t do. These people are on the shop floor, in the field, helping customers, and busy juggling their business days. Advertising and revenue models that support B2B media can’t be about getting in the way. B2B is about quality, not quantity. It is about helping, not interrupting.

  • The Web Gives Businesses Smart Ways to Connect with Customers

    It’s always amazing to see the ways that businesses are switching from aggressive marketing driven tactics to more authentic connections with their industries and potential customers. In the B2B world, media brands can offer so much to help businesses make connections with customers through the web. Whether it’s detailed targeting, interactive products, or measurement of effectiveness, the web toolset is enabling business. The market size might be finite, but the value you offer can be exponential.

  • B2B is About Expertise

    B2B is about expertise in niche markets; it is about learning; and it’s about finding solutions. This goes beyond "information" such as product specs (although those are incredibly valuable), it extends to skill development, interpersonal connections, and creating greater process efficiency.

  • The Web Enables Solutions

    The web is a great medium for not just knowledge (an end product), but teaching (a process); for not just telling, but discussing. In a down economy especially, this is a critical piece to business and career success.

    For those businesses that have direct sales or customer relationships on the web, it offers detailed measurement of behavior and preference, and allows brands to better server their industries.

  • B2B is About the Network Affect

    B2B media is about helping, partnering, connecting, and creating value for others. It is about making an industry stronger. I can’t read a trade publication without seeing an incredible interconnectedness among manufacturers, vendors, distributors, users, services, products, and every person & business in between.

  • The Web Creates Connections

    The web is most compelling when it is not about broadcasting, but about interaction. You can see ideas being spread each moment whether it is a news item going around Twitter, or a viral video on YouTube.

    The web is about openness, and for each B2B group, this brings benefits to an industry as a whole. This makes it harder for one company to control communication and interaction, but gives opportunity to provide meaningful products, services, and solutions. People have more options nowadays, to truly stand out, you must do something remarkable. (another common theme from Seth Godin.) The web is an active, not passive, medium – It creates interaction. How can you be at the center of those connections?

  • jeffmiller

    Great post…especially about the global poultry. Believe it or not, your list did not include other poultry publications such as WATT PoultryUSA, Industria Avicola, Egg Industry or the enewsletters that serve the industry. It truly is a niche market that has an amazing amount of “content” available that is divided into numerous subsets…the Web is the only economical way of providing a distribution channel of such content.

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Jeff – How could I have forgotten “Egg Industry?!” 🙂
    These niches amaze me, and to your point, are filled with niches within niches. Have a great day.
    -Dan

  • johnwelsh

    Even the names of B2B titles, particularly some of the smaller ones, help since they often mirror key search phrases – Service Management, Security Management, Publican, Building.

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