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5 Truths of Audience Monetization - 2/3/2015 -


5 Truths of Audience Monetization

Do your advertisers see your sales team as data and solutions providers ó or more like sellers pushing legacy media products? Here are five strategies to help association publishers make more money in 2015 from their member and audience data.

By Brett Keirstead

Many association publishers have emerged from their 2015 strategic planning and budgeting processes with the rallying cry: "We need to better monetize our data!Ē The goal is an improvement that promotes audience engagement and growth, more effective sales presentations with advertisers, and diversification of the associationís media products and revenue mix. But like most grand plans, success comes from action, not words.

If monetizing your audience data is on your associationís plate for 2015, there are several truths to consider before you take action. But before getting into those, letís define data and monetization.

In todayís diversified publishing world, data represents the sum total of all the demographic, behavioral, and contextual information a publisher can collect on an individual audience member across its print, digital, email, event, mobile, and social channels. The consolidation of this rich set of information into a single place that can be easily accessed for use across the enterprise is typically called a unified audience database.

Monetization in publishing can take many forms:

  • Increasing ad rates (online, offline)
  • Expanding custom media, services
  • Lowering subscriber attrition
  • Improving user engagement
  • Introducing paid models
  • Direct data licensing
  • Adding live/online events
  • Growing list rentals

A unified audience database, coupled with a specific plan of monetization, can yield exceptional results for association publishers. To capitalize on this opportunity, here are the five truths you should consider as you tackle data monetization in 2015.

Truth 1: Quantitative data monetization projects encompass both revenue increases and cost reductions. Monetization is about more than just revenue. When laying out the economics of your audience data, consider not only the revenue side but also the cost components. It has been proven that savings abound when publishers take the initiative to better organize their data and systems. Solid data monetization ROI can be achieved in a few short months by eliminating redundant systems, reducing data entry and search times, eliminating third-party telemarketing and append costs, reducing email expenses, lowering event marketing costs, and even slowing rates of sales attrition.

Truth 2: Qualitative aspects of a data monetization initiative will have a material positive impact. Qualitative impacts are as important as quantitative. While direct measureable ROI is important, donít underestimate qualitative gains as well. Ask it this way: What is the ROI of salesforce.com or your content management system or even PowerPoint? The correct answer is that these tools are essential parts of running your business in the most effective manner possible. Having your audience data unified and readily accessible is as foundational a business tool as having your content organized in one place. It helps you feel more organized, consultative, savvy, and collaborative.

Truth 3: Spend your time arming those who get it and supporting those who donít. The association publishing industry is in a state of transition on how it presents the value of its content, audience, and services. Your salespeople are on the front lines, tasked with communicating this new vision of the modern association publisher to prospective clients. Unfortunately, many salespeople are old-school relationship oriented and lack a data-driven mindset and approach to sales. Comments heard from association publishing teams include:

  • "I love this idea of data-first selling, but can you imagine {insert name} trying to explain this to  his/her customers?Ē
  • "The concept of an audience-first, cross-brand, cross-product sales presentation is awesome, but   I just canít see that happening here.Ē
  • "There is no point developing a unified database because in the end, our salespeople will just sell   products first anyway.Ē

Savvy data-centric sales organizations and leaders donít spend endless cycles trying to get everyone up to the same speed. For those salespeople who embrace data-first selling, empower them with as much information and tools as you can. For those that donít, pair them up with a subject matter expert who can balance their strength in building relationships with a partnerís deep understanding of data. In the end, your best will become stronger, and your weaker will be coached and supported to provide measured results.

Truth 4: It only takes one unique insight or one published success to have a ripple effect on momentum. One of the secrets of big data is that ultimately it is little data that drives audience personalization and promotes the highest level of engagement. In other words, itís not the big data itself ó but the hidden gems of insight that come from it ó that yield maximum results. To that end, smart association publishers realize that pinpointing the little data within the big data is where the value lies. Ideas that yield results include:

  • Using your audienceís topical interests to earn a first meeting with a highly desirable new advertiser
  • Cross-comparing subscribers in your print magazine with readers of your digital e-newsletter to yield two new lists for audience development
  • Looking at subscribers by geography and their specific titles and job functions to yield a great new idea for an in-market event

The most successful people in publishing focus on single-use case information strategies ó not grandiose plans for big data analytics. Large amounts of ubiquitous data are everywhere. Single, unique insights that are personalized to your association and your audience are what turn data into results.

Truth 5: Your reputation and value to a client can change, if you teach them right. Media buyers have been taught by publishers for hundreds of years to purchase products a certain way. They have been ingrained with the idea of time and space selling such as buying a quarter-page in a print-centric world, buying a 480 x 960 banner ad in a digital world, or buying a 10 x 12 booth at a trade show. It is reinforced every day through the proverbial media kit, which just perpetuates the idea that you have products, ads, frequencies, rates, and generic member or subscriber volumes. The perception of your association and its media products has to change, and itís up to you to facilitate that process.

Unfortunately, this legacy causes most corporate and agency clients to think of your association in terms of its products, instead of as a data and solutions provider. Research from the Conference Executive Board indicates that as much as 57 percent of the selling process is completed prior to the actual buying cycle. This means prospects are heavily influenced and pre-educated on their perception of you and your association before you arrive. To counter this trend, sales models such as The Challenger Sale (Dixon and Adamson) have arrived in B2B to help you re-train prospects to fully understand the value you bring to the table. The fact that prospects only see your team as legacy ad sales people and print magazines shows the client doesnít always know best.

A strategic plan to better organize and monetize a publisherís audience data provides great promise in 2015 and beyond.

Brett Keirstead is vice president, sales at Knowledge Marketing. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for summarizing his organizationís webinar on this topic for our members.


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