What Consumer Publishers Can Learn From B-to-B

Consumer Publishers

As digital and data become coveted Holy Grails of the publishing industry, consumer media brands are pushing forward fervently. However, I continue to be amazed at how many consumer publications aren’t implementing some of the most basic strategies for lead-generation and basic cross-chanel publishing tactics. It struck me that business-to-business publishers are well ahead of many consumer publishers (there are exceptions, of course) in a variety of areas. Here are a few places where consumer publishers can learn from b-to-b:

Consumer Publishers

1. The E-newsletter. Many consumer brands don’t have e-newsletters. Yet e-newsletters have been a staple of b-to-b publishing since the mid to late ’90s. It shocks me that more consumer brands aren’t compiling email addresses or are just starting to do so. (I’ve worked with several publishers who simply don’t have email lists big enough to send out a newsletter and/or charge for advertising in it, as the database with email subscribers pales in comparison to the print circulation.)

And it shocks me even more that they don’t know what e-enewsletters can achieve or even what content to include. (This could be an entire blog post in itself, and may be the next one I write.)

B-to-b publishers know that e-newsletters are effective ways to engage with audiences on a more frequent basis in between print issues, and to “push” content out to remain top of mind. Newsletters also are effective tools for cross-promoting other forms of content—print magazines, books, conferences/events, webinars, apps, etc.—and the website, of course.

And, by not having e-newsletters, consumer publishers are leaving money sitting on the table—they can be significant traffic-drivers and revenue-generators in their own right. Imagine the engagement some audiences have with consumer brands, and the power relevant newsletters hold for both the publishers and their marketing partners.

2. Cross-promotion. B-to-b publishers have been masters of cross-platform promotion for years. They long ago discovered the value in engaging their audiences at multiple touch points. Print publications featured house ads for e-newsletters, website features, webinars, and any other related platforms. Print magazine tables of contents featured Web-exclusives, directing print readers to the related websites. And, websites promoted print subscriptions, newsletter sign ups, lead-generation efforts for data-acquisition, and more.

As websites have taken on their own roles in publishing organizations, they have become less of print-promotions … but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still serve to help push print subscriptions! I know of at least a handful of major consumer brands that don’t push print subscriptions from their websites at all. Seriously. You have to dig around to find out that a print publication even exists. Why?

All of your products that serve under a brand should work to promote each other—all the time. Websites drawing millions of visitors a month could convert at the very least thousands of non-paying web visitors to paying print subscribers. For many publishers, their websites still are the primary source of new subscriptions. The Web is a tool for discovery, and its where many discover your brand for the first time. Why wouldn’t you try to get them to sign up for any and all means to receive your content?

3. Data. Consumer brands, and companies, such as Meredith, have come a long way in acquiring and using data about their audiences. Still, lead-generation and profile-building (with everything from geographic to demographic and professional information) have been the practice of the b-to-b world for much longer than the consumer world. Consumer brands could do well to investigate what some b-to-b publishers are doing to incentivize their audiences to share valuable information about themselves.

The Myth: That’s Not My Market

I remember coordinating speakers when I directed the Publishing Business Conference, and whenever I would line up a b-to-b speaker, some consumer brand executives would say, “Well, that doesn’t really interest me.” I told them then, and I’m saying it again now, it should interest you.

And there’s a flip side to that coin as well. I remember when I asked John Sateja, then vice president of Consumer Reports, to keynote the conference. Both b-to-b and consumer publishers commented, “But Consumer Reports doesn’t accept ads; how is this relevant to us?” It was relevant because Consumer Reports is a master of paid content; paid content, at the time, was just a sparkle in the eyes of many publishers, but it would soon become the aspiration of many previously advertising-reliant businesses looking to diversify.

Lessons often hide in unexpected places. In the publishing industry, there is so much overlap that isolating yourself in one segment or another will simply … well, leave you isolated. There is much to learn from all walks of publishing life. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes a little wider.


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