5 ways publishers can harness subscription technology to grow

The right technology is vital for market research publishers to grow their business via subscriptions and build a quality service for subscribers.

Digital technology continues to drive subscriptions growth

During the pandemic, streaming services and news subscriptions boomed, and publishers with already successful digital subscription services thrived.

Online video streaming services, for example, reached 1.1 billion for the first time, and companies like Netflix experienced historical growth. According to Zuora, a subscription management company, subscription revenue for publishers grew by 16% in 2020.

Subscriptions may have been around for years, but it’s digital technologies and subsequent changes in consumer behaviour that drives continued growth. As a result, how publishers of market analysis deliver research is also changing.

The pandemic made it even more apparent that publishers can no longer depend on advertising or selling one-off reports or data for growth. Being subscriber-first brings benefits, including less reliance on more fickle revenue sources.

But moving from a transactional to a recurring revenue model, or improving on an existing service, requires the right publishing technology. It should enable publishers to develop a relationship over time that moves subscribers from one-off trial transactions onto a subscription.

From transactional to personalised: The four types of commercial relationships for high-value market analysis products

Here are five ways Publish Interactive can help niche publishers to develop subscription services and enable subscribers to maximise usage:

  1. Shift focus from acquisition to retention

Subscriptions enable a research publisher to forecast the minimum monthly income accurately. This brings assurance and a shift in focus.

With predictable monthly revenues, the sales team need not be preoccupied with making sales to meet core revenue targets. Their time can be better spent developing customer relationships and finding opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell, based on usage data built into the Publish Interactive platform.

  1. Tools help users gain maximum value from their subscription

For an individual subscription to be worthwhile, the user must feel that it benefits them. It must help them do their job better and save them time.

Workflow tools such as search, snippets, and clippings help users achieve this with simplicity and ease. These tools also allow the publisher to understand subscribers better and develop content and services that meet their needs.

  1. Deliver more personalised content

Technology gives publishers the flexibility to serve various customer groups, each with different requirements. It enables them to offer users several ways of accessing content, encouraging them to deepen their relationship with the publisher.

It enables publishers to manage subscriptions but also allows them to give content away for free, perhaps on a trial basis, and allows transactional sales too.

4. Build subscriber trust and deepen relationships

Once a relationship is established, it becomes easier to find out what else they and their employer may need. Often, an individual will act as an advocate to help publishers win greater trust within their organisation, which supports the growth of a subscriber base within that business.

This is when the quality of a subscription software can really make a difference. It can help develop a lasting partnership with customers by allowing them to access new services quickly and easily.

5. Gain a new understanding of subscribers

The most valuable aspect of adopting a subscription model is how it enables publishers to reach a powerful new understanding of subscriber behaviour.

Analytics underpins every aspect of an intelligent publishing platform. It enables a subscription model to exist, but more importantly it adds value to that subscription, or alerts the sales team to declining renewals.

“Subscriptions may have been around for years, but it’s digital technologies and subsequent changes in consumer behaviour that drive continued growth.”

Edwin Bailey

Director of Marketing, Publish Interactive

There is huge opportunity to drive subscription revenue

The pandemic has favoured digital publishers with high quality and trustworthy content. Importantly, delivered with the high level of service that consumers have come to expect from all digital services, including research firms.

With the right technology partner, publishers can confidently take advantage of the continued growth in subscriptions and build a subscriber-first business.

Read the whitepaper: Becoming a subscriber-first market analysis provider

Mastering a subscriber-first approach to content categorisation

Supermarkets are masters of categorisation because they think like their customers. Putting yourself into the shoes of your subscribers is the key to creating a robust and relevant taxonomy.

Supermarkets understand how to group items so customers can easily find what they need (and don’t need). Whilst perusing grocery shelves you might notice that most products have logical positions. Eggs in the baking aisle, fruit and veg grouped together, bin bags placed alongside cleaning products… the list goes on.

However, you don’t expect to find seasoning packets in the meat aisle, for instance. They’re not in the same category. But the clever people running the store know that a customer buying chicken may also buy Fajita seasoning on impulse.

Supermarkets have a deep understanding of their customers and there are complex psychological considerations behind the placement of every product. They study consumers continually so they can respond to even the slightest change in behaviour. Supermarkets even monitor the weather.

Who are your subscribers?

The weather may not affect how your subscribers search for content, but the time of year could. There may be other factors that influence how they search for content, such as their job roles and external market conditions. Just like supermarkets, publishers of market analysis should be acutely aware of these behavioural and contextual factors and categorise their content accordingly.

Andrew Woods, Content Analyst at Publish Interactive, explains that different subscribers have different levels of engagement.

“At one end of the spectrum are subscribers who are time precious. They just want to find what they need quickly and will become impatient with a complex category tree,” he explains.

“At the other end are those subscribers who spend a lot of time on your site looking for information. They may find a complex category tree more valuable.” Consider how engaged your customers are and how they prefer to discover information.

Which sector your organisation operates in can also influence how complex your category tree needs to be. “Subscribers of a well-established, broad pharmaceutical publisher would expect the category tree to be organised in a certain way. These organisations are almost forced to have a more complex category tree,” says Andrew.

“In contrast, niche publishers tend to have smaller category trees. When deciding on categories, consider whether you are baked into an industry and need to follow convention so as not to confuse subscribers. Or are you a niche publisher that can have a smaller and simpler category tree?”

Internal and external analysts are also a good source of information about your content and subscribers. They can provide insight into the current and future publishing strategy, and how subscribers search and use your content.

Taxonomy Definitions

Categories

  • Categories are used to collect similar reports into logical groups that resonate with subscribers’ interests and reading habits
  • They help users filter report lists and understand what topics are covered in the report library
  • Categories define a report either in terms of its content or the type of report
  • Categories determine the structure of the content portfolio.

Tags

  • Tags are labels used to describe the specific details contained within a report.
  • They help users find individual reports rather than groups of reports
  • Tags help users with keyword search and identify notable mentions.

Tag Sets

  • Tag sets allow you organise tags into distinct themes and contextualise individual tags.

“The full value of your content can only be realised when subscribers can easily find relevant information via categories or site search. Make it easy for subscribers, and they’ll be better engaged and more likely to become advocates and long-term loyal customers.”

Andrew Woods

Content Analyst, Publish Interactive

Test & Learn

We recommend that publishers don’t get too bogged down in the detail of their category tree during the design stage. Because ultimately, you won’t know if it’s effective until it’s been tested with subscribers. Like the supermarkets, you can continually tweak and change your categories once live, using subscriber feedback.

“You need subscribers to be using your taxonomy to gather feedback. When they’re using your site, you can see how they discover content and what’s affecting them getting to content,” adds Andrew.  “If searches are culminating in subscribers not finding content that’s useful to them, this is an indication that your category tree needs tweaking. It may also be necessary to carry out end-user education to ensure they know how to use search parameters correctly.”

“The full value of your content can only be realised when subscribers can easily find relevant information via categories or site search. Make it easy for subscribers, and they’ll be better engaged and more likely to become advocates and long-term loyal customers.”

5 steps to category mastery

A top-level category is the general master group into which all other categories fall. Sub-categories flow out of top-level groups, delivering an increasingly specific set of subjects to form a category tree.

No two category trees are the same so there are no rules to follow. But to give your category tree strong roots, Andrew recommends taking a subscriber-first approach and following these five steps:

  1. First draft: create a first draft based on what you know about your subscribers, their expectations of your organisation, and how they interact with your content.
  2. Sense check: share with stakeholders, and invite some of your customers to review it.
  3. Gather feedback: revise your categories based on feedback from internal stakeholders, including analysts.
  4. Soft launch: put your category tree live for a test period to gather feedback. This should include analysing data embedded in your content delivery platform, and conducting user research.
  5. Launch: amend taxonomy and go live. Book a second review point between 6 and 12 months after launch.

Content Search: The customer success superpower

Intuitive front-end search and usage data are powerful tools in the sales armoury for market intelligence publishers. These capabilities enable account managers to adopt a customer success rather than a sales-led approach to growing accounts and renewing subscriptions.

Every touchpoint with subscribers is a chance to nurture relationships. Yet, many account managers miss these opportunities because they don’t have the tools that deliver the insights identifying the value for subscribers.

Content search and usage data enable you to better understand the value each subscriber attributes to your products. Importantly, you can use this information to help subscribers unlock more value, resulting in deeper and longer-lasting relationships.

Answer subscriber queries without contacting an analyst

A content query is one scenario where you could use front-end search to grow an account.

Subscribers frequently ask account managers to help them find specific reports or information. But they’re not analysts, so they must refer these queries to someone who is. This incurs a business cost, and subscribers may need to wait hours or days, particularly if an analyst is in a different time zone.

With access to high-powered content search embedded in the Publish Interactive platform, you can answer more of these queries yourself. You can also use the opportunity to show subscribers related content that may be of interest but not apparent by the report titles.

“With Publish Interactive, you can search the knowledge base quickly and easily to demonstrate the broad range of topics, which might not have been apparent from the report titles. This gives clients a direct insight into what they can buy.”

Edwin Bailey

Director of Marketing & Product Strategy, Publish Interactive

Use data to initiate value-led conversations with subscribers

While front-end search enables you to help subscribers find the right product, usage data delivers insight into how they access and use the content.

For example, perhaps you notice that a subscriber only accesses your products, or conducts certain searches, at the end of the month. Maybe they are using it to inform end-of-month reports or beginning of the month plans?

Using this information, you can now open a conversation with them to discover more about how they use your products. You’ve also created the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell services that they’d find useful during the other three weeks.

Identify up-sell and cross-sell opportunities

You’re more likely to uncover new opportunities to grow revenue when you have in-depth knowledge about subscribers. Science and Medicine Group (S&MG) agree that usage data generated by the Publish Interactive platform enables their account management team to transform customer engagements into further revenue.

“The strong usage reporting abilities of Publish Interactive are probably one of the most useful elements harnessed by the sales team to both cross and up-sell customers to additional products in our research portfolio.” Devin Holland, Former Director of Business Development, Science and Medicine Group

Using analytics, the S&MG team can monitor and identify the number of reports accessed to see which content areas are of most interest and who is requesting access.  They’ve found that the more insight they have, the easier conversations are with clients.

Turn renewals into routine admin tasks

Ultimately, front-end search and usage data give account managers the power to nurture long-term relationships based on customer success.

When subscribers have confidence that your service meets their needs and provides tangible business benefits, renewal becomes a routine admin task rather than an annual renewal call or account check-in.

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Securing high-value content: How to ensure the right content doesn’t fall into the wrong hands

As thieves try to steal expensive content and customers ignore the terms of their subscription licence by ‘sharing’ with colleagues, securing paid-for published reports and data must be a priority for market analysis firms.

As a publisher of market intelligence, imagine the following scenario. Coca-Cola*, one of your largest corporate accounts, purchases an enterprise license for your annual overview of the global soft drinks market. The report is delivered to them as a PDF, and you assume it is being used internally as per the stated licensing agreement. However, you soon learn that Pepsi* are using data in presentations and business reports that could only have come from one place: your annual overview of the global soft drinks market. But you know that Pepsi didn’t purchase a copy!

Often in this situation, content is not shared with malicious intent: many customers simply have a laissez-faire attitude to licensing and sending a report to a friend in a rival organisation is often done thoughtlessly due to the ease of sharing PDFs. In other instances, it is done deliberately to steal revenues and undercut the publisher’s hard work. Regardless of intent, both forms of distribution are financially damaging for publishers.

*(disclaimer: Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been referenced purely for illustrative purposes and this example does not reflect on the integrity of their employees!)

Production Costs

Business information’s value is unquantifiable, but the content’s price reflects the production costs for a niche market, the expertise of the author and the cost of research and data collection.

Syndicated market research reports are undoubtedly highly valuable products. Every report is produced by several teams, from the authoring analyst (or analysts) to editorial who ensure factual correctness and consistency, followed by production who work on design, layout, and quality control. Sales and marketing teams then join the fold to decide how to package and sell the content. This process involves many people, many hours of work, and significant expense to the publisher.

Securing this painstakingly produced, high-value content is at the forefront of any provider’s mind and is increasingly relevant as cyber-security concerns seep into our everyday working and personal lives. Content is extremely easy to steal or lose control of in a complex and ever-changing digital security landscape. Publishers should be aware of the common security hazards, and solutions, that regularly trouble providers of market intelligence.

Copyright Theft

At its crudest, copyright theft is stealing, re-packaging and selling, usually at cut-price, the same content publishers have spent weeks or months putting together. Copyright theft is a growing issue in the B2B publishing community, as with increasing regularity, organised networks work together to obtain high-value content, remove any references to the actual copyright owner from the report, dataset or video and market it often for a fraction of the price.

One industry figure posting in the Renewd online community, a network for subscriptions professionals and B2B publishers, identified over 80 pseudo-information firms working together to disseminate copyrighted material and shockingly found over 90 examples of their content listed on 11 individual sites. Networks of this nature will grow in number and become more sophisticated in their tactics, so publishers must be aware of this threat.

Solution: Vet all purchasers of your content – ensure that buyers input some personal information before making purchases. If, for example, an individual is trying to buy a $4,000 report and has no associated company of note this should raise alarm bells.

Mass Sharing

In a similar vein to copyright theft, mass sharing involves the downloading of licensed content and distributing without the permission of the publisher. Often unlicensed distribution of content is committed by one of your loyal (or so you thought) subscribers rather than an anonymous denizen of the internet.

There are 3 main forms of mass sharing:

  1. The internal sharer – occurs when a registered user downloads a whole report and uploads it to their corporate intranet or internal knowledge centre.
  2. The external distributor – this offence arises when a user shares content with friends outside of their organisation.
  3. The home drive saver – involves fewer people but still takes the content out of the publishers’ possession and could evolve into the other two distributors in the future.

Commenting on this type of threat, Edwin Bailey, Director of Marketing at Content Catalyst, who has over 20 years of experience in licensing content said; “Content delivered as PDFs via email is most at risk to this form of theft, and although publishers may have DRM systems in place these can be easily bypassed via password sharing or manipulation of the PDF document’s properties. Most subscribers are, of course, reliable and trustworthy. However, it only takes one user to bypass these rudimentary safeguards before your content is freely passed around another corporate account without your knowledge.”

Solution: Invest in a content delivery system capable of tracking content usage and managing access rights. Analytics and licensing allow greater control over usage and enables site administrators to keep tabs on potential rule-breakers. Having settings that prevent users from downloading whole reports offline can also be an effective preventative measure.

“Most subscribers are, of course, reliable and trustworthy. However, it only takes one user to bypass these rudimentary safeguards before your content is freely passed around another corporate account without your knowledge.”

Edwin Bailey

Director of Marketing, Content Catalyst

Corporate account sharing and fair use policy

Fair use policies have often been a sticking point between publishers and clients. Breaches of fair use frequently come in the form of password sharing amongst colleagues. Corporate licenses are granted with certain limits – a common restriction being the number of users associated with the account. Once the company reaches the pre-agreed number of users accessing the provider’s content, the client should move to the next pricing bracket and be charged a higher fee for access.

For example, a corporate team buying an account with 20 registered users when there are 100 members in their department should be flagged as a risk. If unregistered customer employees then ask the publisher’s analysts or salespeople content-related questions, this is an obvious sign of unauthorised access and may confirm the suspicion of password sharing.

Solution: Tracking IP access is a handy way of getting a sense of the number of devices accessing your site. Again, usage analytics, particularly those related to log-ins and geographical location are vital: if you can see that a certain account is logged in 24 hours a day with constant activity, it’s possible to deduce that the password is not just being shared amongst direct colleagues but across multiple time-zones – a major breach of fair usage policy.

Password breaches

In June of 2021, the largest ever password data breach was leaked – 8.4 billion passwords in total were compromised1. This problem is not sector-specific, but the sheer volume of passwords leaked every year makes this an issue publishers should be wary of.

Tom Gibbs, CIO at Content Catalyst who has been at the forefront of keeping Publish Interactive secure, explains that “the ubiquitous threat of data breaches means publishers should strive to implement security via a combination of best practices and a robust tech ecosystem.” Five security features he recommends that publishers should consider to ensure content security are (these are also all features of the Publish Interactive platform):

  1. 2-Factor authentication – reduces the chance of password sharing among colleagues and external attackers as only permitted IP addresses will receive entry codes.
  2. Password age – a setting that allows site administrators to enforce the frequency that users must reset their password.
  3. Trusted domains – restricts which email domains can access the site.
  4. ReCAPTCHA – this widget will ensure bots are unable to register to your site.
  5. SSO integration – with providers Okta and Microsoft Azure AD, facilitating better password practices and more secure log-in systems.

Solution: Invest in subscription software or a content delivery platform that has a range of features designed to counteract and reduce the threat of content breaches. It’s also important to sign-up to specialist password protectors, such as LastPass for your internal employees and if you are sharing passwords over email, ensure you use encrypted password services, such as PW Push.

A more secure future

Publishers must ensure the security of their content – the myriad of threats can be hard to keep up with, but with the right technology, secure best practice policies and the diligence of employees to monitor and track unusual activity, your painstakingly produced content can be kept safe and secure.

1https://www.itechpost.com/articles/105916/20210608/rockyou-2021-breach-exposes-8-4-billion-passwords-check-now.htm

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5 practical ways B2B research publishers can increase subscriber personalisation

Consumers are increasingly expecting personalised digital experiences – but how can B2B publishers embrace this new trend?

A study by Accenture found that a massive 91% of consumers are more likely to make purchases from brands (whether that is a new pair of shoes, a luxury holiday abroad, or even an annual B2B subscription package) that provide personalised digital experiences.1

Digital giants, such as Spotify and Amazon (think of all those personalised mixes and wishlists) have been the personalisation trailblazers, but other digital providers are catching up as demand grows and the digital landscape becomes increasingly saturated.

In the B2B publishing world, understanding subscriber usage, tracking content preferences and buying history, as well as on-site behaviour are vital metrics for the creation of unique, personalised digital experiences.

Although technical challenges are a common issue associated with personalisation, they can be overcome.

But this begs the question: which features and technologies can publishers practically implement on their digital platforms to make users feel like a unique individual rather than one part of a homogenous mass of subscribers?

1. Reading Lists

Just as Spotify attempts to condense your eclectic music taste into one easily digestible ‘Daily Mix’, publishers can similarly curate personalised reading lists for their subscribers.

Lists are collated based on the information provided when subscribers sign-up, including:

• Job title – a reading list could be titled ‘other CTOs are reading…’ for example.

• Company industry

• Geographical location

• Subjects of particular interest

The same Accenture study, Making it Personal, referenced above found that 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to enable a personalised experience, so do not be afraid to ask subscribers for information to enhance the personalisation experience.

Information gathering does not stop here, however. As new subscribers browse and consume content, their usage data and behaviour can be tracked and collated to compile a personalised list, displaying the licensed products of most relevance to them. Consider the similarities with Amazon and many other online shops which use customer buying and search history for on-site marketing ammunition.

If, for example, the user is accessing content continuously updated to reflect live market developments, similar reactive content not yet read could be suggested or added to their in-platform reading list.

2. Upsell & Cross-sell

This usage data can equally be leveraged for unlicensed content to create further personalisation points. Examples of in-platform behavioural usage data leveraged for cross-selling purposes include:

• Recently viewed products (both licensed and unlicensed)

• Most favoured content formats

• Behaviour of similar user personas

• Buying habits – does the user tend to buy products as part of a subscription or one-off purchases?

• Device data (more on this later)

Equipped with this data, marketing sites or content delivery systems can push similar products available to buy outside of existing subscriptions, often in the form of widgets on the site’s homepage or alongside licensed reports.

Example cross-sell widgets

Recent advances in machine learning and analytics technology have expanded the breadth of trackable data metrics and improved the interpretation of this data. This allows site administrators to automate the recommendation process, improve its accuracy, and reduce the cost of these ‘similar products’ recommendation systems.

Ultimately, if subscribers can see the extent of relevant content outside their subscription package, the publisher’s value is enforced, and further purchases will be encouraged.

3. Flexible Licensing

Underpinning this promotion of both unlicensed and licensed content is flexible licensing technology – a crucial asset publishers must utilise as part of the personalisation process.

Licensing facilitates the creation of trials to entice new users to sign-up, time-limited access to unlicensed content for existing customers, and the formation of user-specific content packages based on subscribers’ exact requirements. The flexibility now afforded by licensing technology is allowing publishers to create truly unique content packages.

Licensing enables the greatest degree and flexibility for personalisation – we covered this topic in detail in a recent article of ours:

“Underpinning this promotion of both unlicensed and licensed content is flexible licensing technology – a crucial asset publishers must utilise as part of the personalisation process.”

4. Device Optimisation

Moving beyond licensing’s role in the personalisation process, the device that end-users access content on reveals much about their behaviour and requirements.

Mobile access might, for example, tell you the user is regularly on the move rather than chained to their desk, so will need bitesize, concise content rather than dense, text-heavy market reports. Short-form content or regularly updated news content can then be pushed to these users rather than those who predominantly access via a desktop.

Equally, desktop users may value visually engaging content that can be displayed at its full potential on a large screen – PowerPoint-authored content could for instance be recommended to these users.

Optimising your mobile offering with either a dedicated application or a mobile version of your website with the same functionality as its browser-based counterpart is also key. Omnichannel consistency will strengthen your appeal amongst all user groups and again increase personalisation levels.

5. CTA’s and Landing Pages

User-specific landing pages are labour-intensive and require cross-departmental collaboration, but can increase conversion rates by up to 10%, according to research by the BCG.2

Creating unique pages for specific user groups with relevant calls to action, such as special offers, free trials or early access to a newly published report are powerful personalisation strategies. Using the data collated during the subscriber sign-up process and on-site behaviour, unique digital experiences can be created for segments of your subscriber base.

Looking Forward…

B2B publishers must embrace the personalisation revolution. Strengthened customer relationships, increased revenues, and improved renewal rates all await those B2B publishers willing to invest time and money into creating unique user experiences. With growing expectations amongst all consumer groups for personalised experiences, this is an exciting time for those B2B publishers able to embrace the personal rather than the general.

How publishers can create personalised user journeys using flexible licensing technology

Flexible licensing technology is now crucial for publishers looking to create highly targeted, tailored user journeys.

Managing customer access rights to high-value content used to be inflexible, insecure, and impersonal.

Broad ‘all or nothing’ packages were the sole purchasing option for prospective customers and publishers relied on the trustworthiness of their subscribers to abide by licence terms. However, technology now enables B2B publishers to offer secure, highly flexible licenses to help convert trialists to subscribers, drive upsell opportunities and create dynamic, tailored content bundles.

Fuelling this shift is the adoption of content delivery platforms and specialised licensing technology capable of delivering highly flexible, adaptable systems of access management. Advanced content licensing systems create seamless user journeys for customers – both prospective and existing – with clear upgrade paths to expanding the breadth of their licenses and subscriptions if implemented correctly.

Licenses can now be granted for content as granular as a single report section, function on a time-sensitive basis or control access to certain content formats, such as the often-sensitive underlying data behind charts and graphs.

The specificity available is transforming how publishers sell their content, revolutionising the way subscribers interact with market analysis and facilitating an automated, personalised user journey.

Trial access

The first stage of the user journey is invariably the trial stage – a stage often possible, but with fewer options available, on outdated content delivery methods but now commonplace and highly adaptable to individual user requirements.

Time-limited trials can be created for new prospects visiting and browsing a publisher’s website for the first time or for existing customers looking to expand their current content packages. Consequently, publishers deploy trials as a form of lead gen for new prospects and as one facet of the customer success process.

Granting existing subscribers free access to content outside of their subscriptions is a powerful way of strengthening client relationships and demonstrates the value of a publisher’s content as the breadth of relevant analysis available to users is displayed. Aside from benefits related to customer success, there are also clear commercial benefits. Encouraging fee increases as subscribers become dependent on temporary trial-access content naturally leads to additional subscription module purchases.

Track & trace

Considering the new user journey again, it is important to note how trial accounts can be marketed to as they navigate through the platform.

Once new users have created an account and log in as part of their trial, they will browse through a publisher’s digital content offering, discover content from across their portfolio and have access restricted to any reports or datasets outside of their limited trial license . As this restriction of access occurs, user behaviour is tracked to create personalised marketing and unique special offers for these trial accounts, encouraging a full subscription purchase.

The dual forces of licensing and analytics, working together to manage accessible content, track user behaviour, and feed this behavioural data into marketing, is a powerful strategy for progressing triallists to paying subscribers.

 

How licensing and analytics work together to support trial progression

User-specific content packages

Once the trial is over, the triallist has a decision to make: to purchase a subscription or to look elsewhere for business-critical analysis.

If the decision is to purchase, this is where advanced licensing technology really comes to the fore.

Content delivery platforms and specialist licensing systems can now segment content and create highly tailored subscription packages based on the new subscriber’s exact requirements.

With the ability to grant access to individual chapters in reports or whole libraries of content and manage the length of time users have access to products, the possibilities for both publishers and subscribers to create customised content programmes are endless.

Futuresource Consulting, a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting firm, faced the challenge of working with a ten-year-old system, which made it ‘difficult to change licenses’. However, after adopting Publish Interactive with its advanced access management features, this changed. James Edwards, Marketing Executive at Futuresource, summarised the improvements to their access management capabilities by explaining, ‘the flexibility it offers, in terms of the ability to create different unique access rights, is game-changing’.

Following the integration of CRM or eCommerce software, licenses can be granted without any salesperson or account manager involvement.  The journey from an initial website visit with limited access to freemium content to a fully-fledged subscriber can therefore be entirely automated if integrations are implemented correctly.

“The flexibility Publish Interactive offers, in terms of the ability to create different unique access rights, is game-changing”

James Edwards

Marketing Executive at Futuresource Consulting

How B2B publishers use software integrations to enhance customer experience

Integrations are essential for B2B publishers wanting to deliver information to their subscribers in a timely, coherent manner.

How do we define integration? Fundamentally, it is the process of bringing together two pieces of software into a single, holistic system to solve issues with siloed data and isolated platforms.

It is a process present in almost all digital platforms, websites, and applications – and the world of B2B publishing is, of course, no exception.

For publishers, the rewards associated with 3rd party (often SaaS) integrations include richer engagement and simpler interactions with subscribers, a seamless user journey between platforms and the streamlining of authoring, editorial and commercial processes. Essentially, it is a process designed to enhance the quality and usability of a publisher’s digital offering and make life easier for both the publisher and their subscribers.

But in practice, what integrations can B2B publishers implement and in what ways can these enrich the customer experience and meet business goals?

Phased approach

The simplest, quickest, and most cost-effective form of integration is the addition of a link or button that connects a publisher’s marketing website to their research library and gives customers access to the informative content, intuitive workflow tools and interactive features available in their portal.

The flexibility of integration affords the option of quickly launching a content portal with a simple integration. Later, connections with the marketing website can be deepened as business conditions permit.

These deeper connections include integrations with CRM systems, eCommerce plugins, analytics dashboards, and marketing automation software, which, if done right, will work together to create a frictionless, seamless reading experience for the end-user and an intuitive administrative process for the publisher.

Mark Chadwick, Product Manager at Publish Interactive elaborates, “Integrations help to remove time-consuming manual tasks that often cause a delay in users getting the information they need. For example, an integration that automatically applies a license to a report or subscription as the customer makes a purchase means the customer can access the data and insights straight away. Or, if usage data is integrated into a CRM account, managers can understand a customer’s engagement level, without having to look elsewhere”.

One customer that successfully integrated its CRM system with Publish Interactive is Everest Group. The IT and engineering services research firm seamlessly integrates with Salesforce to ensure individual users were provided with relevant content access in an efficient manner.

Open, easily navigable content

Implementing a cohesive suite of software integrations also provides a flexible content delivery framework for both the end-user and the publisher.

For example, deeper integration between the marketing and content delivery platforms enables users to search for content on either site. Depending on the publisher requirements, the search functionality can then either direct users to product landing pages on their content portal or to product pages on their website. Metadata for individual products can be stored on a secured content platform and extracted with an API to populate product pages on an SEO-optimised marketing website.

“Integrations help to remove time-consuming manual tasks that often cause a delay in users getting the information they need.”

Mark Chadwick

Product Owner at Publish Interactive

Publishers can also provide access to their research library without the need for registration. Gated, premium content can be created and uploaded within a framework for those without a subscription so prospective customers can understand the depth and complexity of the publisher’s offering. This open site model gives publishers two options: allow new users to search first then ask for registration once they have found relevant content available for purchase or take prospective customers to their registration page prior to enabling search.

If CRM or eCommerce systems are integrated into this process, the user journey from an initial website visit with limited access to ‘freemium’ content to a fully-fledged subscriber should be a seamless one without the need for either sales personnel or account managers to manually grant access to these new users.

This flexibility creates fluidity between these integrated platforms, allowing publishers to test different content delivery processes and decide on the most suitable one for their business needs.

SSO access

As users move between these two interconnected platforms, there must be an integrated, unified identification tool ensuring users are securely and seamlessly travelling between the two sites.

Single sign-on (SSO) is a user authentication service that enables customers to access related, yet still independent web applications using just one set of login credentials and allows for frictionless navigation across an organisation’s digital offering. If a publisher has more than one website, or already uses a CRM system as the single point of customer truth, then SSO is recommended.

Tom Gibbs, Director of Operations at Publish Interactive expands on this point: “SSO ensures ease of access, whilst Publish Interactive’s extensive suite of APIs allow publishers to create, manage, market and provision content through specialist CRMs, marketing automation platforms and CMS”.

The key benefits of integration:

  • Branding continuity across all online assets
  • Cross and upsell opportunities within the platform
  • A seamless user journey across websites
  • A platform for premium content
  • Quick and simple functionality for new content
  • Offers a phased development approach

Examples of Publish Interactive’s API integrations

INTEGRATION WITHOBJECTIVE
ILLUSTRATIVE BENEFITSEXAMPLE 3RD PARTY INTEGRATION
EDITORIAL & RESEARCH
Survey dataDisplay survey data & charts alongside textual analysis.Diversify content offeringMarketsight
Content Management SystemEasily manage, access, & publish web-based content.Streamline the authoring, production and editorial workflowKentico
MANAGEMENT/IT
Login systemsProvide a seamless user journey between different platforms.Enhance the user experienceOkta
Analytics DashboardsTrack content usage.Understand subscriber usage
Data-driven planning of future publications
Google Analytics
MARKETING & SALES
eCommerceAllow customers to make purchases of reports or datasets without having to contact a salesperson or account manager.Increase new business opportunitiesWordpress
CRM systemEnable sales & account management teams to manage customer access.Manage subscriber licensing
Work on upsell / cross sell opportunities
Hubspot
Salesforce
MarketingAutomate marketing operations & connect with existing marketing site.Promote published content
Drive new business opportunities
Marketo

Why publishers need customer success teams to ensure great renewal rates

Speakers at a recent industry conference on b2b subscriptions highlighted the importance of customer success in engaging customers and driving higher subscription renewals

A recent study that identified the top emerging jobs using data gathered from LinkedIn found Customer Success roles to be the number one fastest growing role in 2019 and comfortably in the top ten in an identical 2020 study. Reflecting this emergence, we heard further evidence of the growing importance of customer success teams (CS for short), and the value they bring to customers and colleagues alike at the Substribe Summit, an industry conference organised to showcase the value and power of subscriptions.

Good customer success requires cultural change

Alex Farmer, VP of Customer Success at Cognite, a SaaS company supporting digital transformation in heavy-asset industries, and Kate Forgione, Co-Founder of the Customer Success Network, an online network for CS managers, led a conference session that emphasised the foundational approach required to incorporate CS teams into organisations. Rather than simply re-assigning job titles to pre-existing salespeople, CS teams must develop from structural personnel and procedural changes – starting with the company culture.

This cultural shift can only be delivered when there is a universal, company-wide buy-in and this shift must be reflected in the ways that all client-facing employees are measured and incentivised. In other words, shoe-horning in a new CS department or simply renaming existing job roles will not ensure a successful CS team.

Nick Blunden, President of fashion media company The Business of Fashion, translated this into practical terms and outlined the need for CS teams to have their ‘own reporting, KPI’s and focus’ to distinguish them from renewals and sales teams.

Success & sales teamwork

Despite the need for distinguishment between the teams, another recurring theme from the conference was the necessity for a close, but clearly defined relationship between sales and CS teams. Alix Fennoll-Wattinne, formerly the Head of Customer Success at recurring payments platform GoCardless, examined how both teams must clearly define how deals are handed over, so must know:

  • The role each contact plays within their company,
  • What to expect from each contact or persona, and;
  • What constitutes ‘success’ for the company and individuals within the company.

Farmer and Forgione went further still and emphasised that sales and CS teams must be ‘best friends’ as both teams, not just the CS team, will work together to meet their customer’s goals and ensure a long and successful working relationship.

CS teams need to have their ‘own reporting, KPI’s and focus’ to distinguish them from renewals and sales teams.

Nick Blunden

President, The Business of Fashion

Understand value to the customer and help them realise this

Speakers at the Substribe Summit also outlined the critical role CS teams play in helping customers realise the value of their organisation’s product. Nick Blunden discussed how The Business of Fashion organise webinars to demonstrate the value individual businesses gain from their content, build customised content programmes with bespoke content feeds, and run tailored workshops for customers.

All these initiatives can be spearheaded by CS teams to ensure customers are guided on a journey to maximise the value they receive from their purchase. These initiatives also lead to an improved TTV (time-to-value) rate, a term referenced by Alex Farmer during the conference to measure the time taken for customers to find success following the purchase of a product or service.

Map out desired outcomes

Helping your customers understand the value you provide must be a joint effort from both the purchaser and the seller said Richard Butterworth, Commercial Director of the market intelligence provider Chemical Watch. He explained how they produce a ‘customer value plan’ at the beginning of each relationship. This covers questions such as:

  • What are their desired outcomes?
  • What does success look like for their business?
  • What value are they receiving from our content?

This process is replicated during renewals and helps Chemical Watch track and monitor customer progress. Farmer and Forgione similarly covered this process by highlighting the importance of allowing key clients to take some ownership of the product roadmap by CS teams listening and onboarding their suggestions and ideas.

Kellie McMillan, Client Relationship Manager at Content Catalyst, agreed with these sentiments. “We organise regular catch-ups with all our clients not only to keep them up-to-date but to listen carefully how they use our software,” she said.

A signed customer contract and an arbitrary figure next to a salesperson’s name on an office whiteboard is not the end of the customer engagement process. The success of customers, and implicitly the publisher, depends on a reciprocal and continual partnership between publisher and customer.

The future of b2b subscriptions conference organised by Substribe was held over 5 days at the end of September and beginning of October 2020

How a technology market analyst firm revolutionised its publishing workflow by ditching the PDF

Delivering high-value content via their online publishing platform improved their editorial workflow efficiencies and pleased customers.

An independent analyst firm for workplace communications technology market was struggling with an outdated editorial workflow system. The research business which covers markets for technologies such as enterprise video, meeting room collaboration and audio-conferencing had a labour-intensive and dated process for its analysts to create and produce reports and briefs.

The firm, which produces around 100 market reports and up to 20 industry briefings each year, made content available to its subscribers through a custom-built publishing system heavily reliant on PDF.

The management realised that for the system to continue to meet the needs of its users, it would have required a significant investment and an increasing level of technical expertise and support.

The firm decided to seek out an alternative solution that could enhance its production process and the way subscribers accessed and interacted with its research content.

Partnering with Content Catalyst and adopting its leading publishing platform Publish Interactive enabled the research firm to bring efficiencies to its editorial workflow and also deliver content to subscribers in a more interactive manner.

Bringing efficiency to report production

Prior to implementing Publish Interactive the analyst firm published all its material in PDF format. Not only did publishing in PDF make research production unnecessarily longwinded, but it also limited the ability of subscribers to re-use the information they had paid for.

“The process was very analyst intensive,” said the firm’s senior analyst. “We do the research, put it into Word, which was semi-templated, but required extensive formatting. We’d then convert this to PDF and upload that document for publication. We knew our publishing process was arcane, as individual analysts were involved in lots of surplus activity. “Adopting Publish Interactive to power our new publishing portal has completely transformed the way we produce content,” he added.

The firm’s analysts now save considerable amounts of time by either authoring reports directly in-platform or uploading fully templated Word documents. Uploading is simple, requiring just a couple of clicks to automatically create interactive content that is ready for editorial review and publication.

“Every single attribute of the Publish Interactive experience is an improvement on what we were previously doing.”

Senior Analyst at a leading research and advisory firm

Delivering a better user experience

Finding a solution that delivers content in a user-friendly ways online and to mobile devices had also become a significant requirement. The old solution only supplied reports as downloadable PDFs and was not responsive to the device on which it was accessed.

“Initially, we viewed the value of our research being just the insights in our documents, but we now realise the value is both the content and how it’s distributed,” said their senior analyst.

Now, all research is made available as interactive content, making it quick and easy for subscribers to locate research that answers their questions.

With Publish Interactive powering the publishing system, users can also make use of smart workflow tools to save and share everything from a vital snippet of information to a whole chapter or report. They can then easily download and re-use information or compile their own bespoke reports in just a handful of clicks.

The response from subscribers ranges from them telling us it’s a welcome update to glowing praise,” remarked the senior analyst.

Edwin Bailey, Director of Marketing at Content Catalyst said; “Because Publish Interactive is a SaaS solution, this leading analyst firm now benefits from a great content management and publishing platform that is in continual development, regularly updated and fully supported by our experienced team.”

The firm’s Senior Analyst added; “Every single attribute of the Publish Interactive experience is an improvement on what we were previously doing.”

The company profiled in this story has been anonymised. 

How publishers can efficiently run multiple brands from a single platform

A publisher running several digital brands on a number of different systems risks workflow inefficiencies and higher production costs

Simplify client management

Running multiple digital publishing brands through a single content and client management platform simplifies and speeds up administrative tasks, freeing up time and valuable resources.

The pain points associated with running multiple clients across disparate systems is removed as the same managerial tools are applied to all clients. Publishers are empowered to manage each client equally well and run operations with greater efficiency and oversight.

Offer service consistency

A platform delivering the same content formats and workflow tools across multiple digital brands enables the publisher to offer a common standard to all its customers. Useful functionality, familiar products, valuable tools and high service levels across all brands helps bring service consistency to a publisher’s portfolio.

“Making it easier for clients to understand our entire Power & Renewables content portfolio – and to find and access content for themselves – contributed to growing ‘per user’ engagement levels”.

Matt DaPrato

Product Suite Director, Wood Mackenzie

Create sales opportunities

Using a single platform to power multiple publishing brands enables a publisher to make new content available to subscribers. Through search results and appropriate marketing, a client of Brand A can be made aware of relevant content available via Brand B. Enabling subscribers to access relevant content outside their licence can help generate additional revenues, improve subscriber satisfaction and helps build engagement across a portfolio.

For example, energy market analysts Wood Mackenzie used Publish Interactive to pull together a number of research offerings. Matthew DaPrato, a Product Suite Director at Wood Mackenzie points out: “Making it easier for clients to understand our entire Power & Renewables content portfolio – and to find and access content for themselves – contributed to growing ‘per user’ engagement levels”.

See how the Publish Interactive platform can help your publishing company run multiple brands from a single platform, book a product tour to be guided by an expert.

Read the customer story:

How an energy industry consultancy merged three research products into a single platform

 

Becoming a subscriber-first market analysis provider

Understand how niche research firms can use technology to successfully shift from a transactional model to recurring revenues

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