Think like a SaaS business: the new mindset for publishers of market analysis

The business information and SaaS industries have a lot they can learn from each other. We take a look at how publishers of high-value subscription content can adopt SaaS ways of doing business.

It is no secret that cloud computing services have transformed the world of software and given rise to the booming Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry. What might comes as a surprise, however, is the sheer size of this burgeoning sector: Gartner forecasts that software-as-a-service solutions will generate revenue close to $141 billion in 2022 – a 25% increase on the 2020 figure1.

SaaS negates the need for physical distribution of the software and customers typically pay a subscription fee – often monthly – to access a continually updated application.

A similar revolution has taken place in the business information and market analysis sector. Technology has changed the way information is consumed beyond recognition in a relatively short space of time; a hard copy printed document or PDF now seems antiquated compared with today’s digital experiences.

Subscription propositions to high-value content and data are now completely entwined with technology.

This got us thinking. If publishers can harness technology to better serve their customers, can some of the management techniques prevalent in SaaS businesses similarly be adopted to drive better business outcomes?

We see convergences in the way that SaaS and high-value content businesses are managed and have identified five SaaS management techniques that publishers should use.

User-Oriented Solution

The iterative nature of software means components can be added in chunks and the software seamlessly updated. At each iteration, design modifications are made, and new functional capabilities are added.

With this process in mind, it is best to think of published, paid-for content as a portfolio of components that may require regular updating so the end-user can view the content in its entirety, rather than adopting the concept that content is made up of discreet reports.

When viewed from a subscription perspective and as an opportunity to upgrade the customer, service becomes a golden opportunity to engage with customers and increase profitability.

“Flexible subscription models pave the way for stronger customer relationships and are the most reliable way to continue adding value. If customers continually see the value a company provides for them, they will continue to pay for it,” explains Mitali Mookerjee, Managing Director of Publish Interactive.

Adaptable pricing and packaging strategy

The SaaS delivery model affords businesses more control over how they package, deploy and manage their offerings while also giving customers more flexible pricing models.

Flexibility in packaging is the secret to subscription pricing. Any credible SaaS business is product and customer-centric, offering a broad range of options to meet customers’ bespoke needs.

Market analysis publishers can similarly offer highly personalised subscriptions based on their subscribers’ exact requirements, providing them with the content of most value for their business, whilst identifying upgrade paths for future upselling opportunities.

“Flexible subscription models pave the way for stronger customer relationships and are the most reliable way to continue adding value. If customers continually see the value a company provides for them, they will continue to pay for it”

Mitali Mookerjee

Managing Director at Publish Interactive

Think monthly, not annually

Publishers have seen a boom in digital subscription revenues during the pandemic, as users spent more time online and sought out new, easily accessible content sources. The convenience of digital subscriptions is now evident and consumers of business information have discovered their appeal over the past 18 months.

This is why publishing businesses are starting to consider using Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) as a measure. As perhaps the most important financial metric of any SaaS subscription model, MRR helps make accurate financial forecasts based on user subscriptions.

It is a KPI that gives accurate information on whether a publishing business is developing and gaining momentum or plateauing.

A publishing company that thinks like a SaaS provider places more focus on the value of a customer relationship over time as the business model is one of recurring revenue with the opportunity for increased yield (spend/customer). The difference is the switch in focus to recurring revenue rather than an annual target – through offering a recurring service on either a monthly or quarterly basis rather than annually.

When implemented correctly, SaaS is a business model that provides customers with an intuitive, tailored experience and arms the publisher with a business model that encourages upgrades, concise revenue forecasting and a customer-centric mindset.

Five SaaS management techniques for publishers

1. Use MRR to measure success
Monthly recurring revenues (MRR) is a SaaS businesses’ mantra as the accumulation of existing and current business will drive an upward MRR trajectory.
Contrast the MRR approach to the annual subs number that most publishers use. The key difference is to remember that your customers are engaging with you all the time and not to be forgotten until the next annual renewal.

Top tip: Think about how your customers interact with your service on a monthly basis
2. Your research is a service
Once upon a time the tech industry used to sell a CD / download with an annual user licence (remember all those MS Office disks?) and sales were expressed as units. The move to selling software-as-a-service on a monthly / annual term with continuous updates and (no more versions!) has created different business models. The same approach can be taken with market analysis and research. Rather than selling individual reports and then bundling into a subscription, why not think about a continuous service with regular updates to constantly engage your customer.

Top tip: Think about what your customer wants from content on a daily basis
3. Bake in dependency
The best SaaS products become so embedded within the user’s business and workflow that customers cannot contemplate leaving. This makes renewals procedural and revenue forecasting straightforward. Can a content business achieve the same? Design your product to be essential and need-to-have, rather than nice-to-have.

Top tip: Ensure customers never have a reason to leave
4. Use Roadmaps
All software companies have a roadmap outlining their proposed improvements and new features. Typical roadmaps, which are often public, evolve on a quarterly and annual cycle as customer feedback drives product development. New features (and enhancements) are rolled out regularly which in turn gives the customer a feeling of great value as they are getting more for their money.

Top tip: Give your customers an idea of how the product will evolve
5. Develop an upgrade path
Most SaaS products have a clear upgrade path for customers, where users will pay for advanced features or increased storage limits for things like data or projects. Over time it is hoped the adoption of more features or higher limits will increase recurring revenue and users have a compelling reason to buy.

Top tip: Give customers a compelling reason to increase their spend

Closing the deal: The life science market analysis firm harnessing Publish Interactive to grow sales

ScienceandMedicine

Science and Medicine Group’s sales team rely on Publish Interactive’s customer intelligence features to understand subscriber behaviour and content engagement

SMG

Science and Medicine Group, Inc. is a leading research and advisory firm serving the life science and diagnostic industries. It owns a proprietary, international community of more than 55,000 scientists and biomedical researchers to provide insights that grow businesses and move markets.

Revenue-generating insight

Science and Medicine Group uses the Publish Interactive platform to publish and deliver between 50 and 100 market reports a year which account for around 30% of the firm’s revenue. The market analysis firm benefits from a software system that not only enables it to attract new customers but also for the commercial team to have solid insight into customers and their use of high-value content.

Devin Holland, Science and Medicine Group’s Director of Business Development, finds that the Publish Interactive system successfully helps drive customer growth and create cross-selling opportunities. The platform enables the sales team to glean invaluable client insight through user analytics, allowing them to quickly transform their 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,” he said. “The site enables us to monitor and identify the number of overall reports accessed, to see which content areas are of most interest and who is requesting access to them. The more insight we have, the easier the conversation is with our client,” added Devin.

“Understanding customer research trends using Publish Interactive’s enhanced analytics capabilities means we can continually fine tune our offering to build trust and reliability, to further reinforce our position as one of the leading research resources in the life science industry.”

Simon Hodson
Devin Holland
Director of Business Development
Science and Medicine Group, Inc.

High returns & reaping value

The usage stats reporting is also something the sales team leans on heavily for leveraging the value a customer has gained from using the platform. This is particularly effective when approaching clients regarding subscription upgrades or renewals. Even during the 2020 pandemic, Science and Medicine Group had over a 90% subscriber retention rate.

Devin explains: “Having the usage stats to show clients the value they receive from Science and Medicine Group’s content – which is usually between four and five-fold their spend – as a resource for their work is incredibly valuable and often makes a potentially tricky sales conversation pretty easy. We are able to make data-driven arguments that buying our content is a necessary part of our clients’ (now more limited) budgets and means that, if required, we can use this data to justify the price they pay for access. For example, we are seeing the same scenario across many clients where a department has purchased Science and Medicine Group’s content but it is actually being used by their whole organisation. Usage data is vital in justifying an acceptable fee increase for company-wide licenses.”

Devin added: “We find that using the platform for our own internal use not only generates revenue but also gives us a significant competitor advantage. Customer intelligence really is pivotal for the purpose of driving our future growth. Understanding customer research trends using Publish Interactive’s enhanced analytics capabilities means we can continually fine-tune our offering to build trust and reliability, to further reinforce our position as one of the leading research resources in the industries we serve”.

Success benefits

  1. Successfully help drive customer growth and create cross-selling opportunities
  2. Enable the sales team to glean invaluable client insight through user analytics
  3. Quickly transform customer engagements into further revenue
  4. Use analytics data to justify the price paid for access
  5. Using the platform for internal benefits also gives a significant competitor advantage

Tags

  • Content Licensing
  • Sales
  • Upsell

Build or buy? Why in-house development of B2B publishing platforms rarely meets expectations

One of the key questions for B2B publishers is whether to build proprietary content platforms in-house or work with an experienced supplier. Edwin Bailey, Director of Marketing, assesses the risks associated of in-house development versus outsourcing.

In a competitive digital marketplace, efficiency is king. The right publishing solution is about timely access to authoritative research, data, and analysis to ensure that, as a research or an analysis firm, you’ve got the winning edge.

Add the invaluable ingredient of high-quality content as well as a suite of intuitive, user-friendly tools for simple and quick interactions, and that edge grows further still.

However, the critical question is, do you develop in-house or outsource? With so many variables to consider, we explore why building a proprietary system might not offer a feasible solution for anyone looking to gain competitive advantage.

The C Factor

Perhaps the biggest factor of all is cost. A publishing platform – in-house or otherwise – is in continual development, so surely removing the burden of developing a proprietary system while trying to constantly keep pace with the rapid progression of technology is a no-brainer?

Outsourcing not only removes initial capital expenditure and externalises the costs associated with development risks, updates, and over-runs but also ensures the availability of best quality technology at a fixed price. Outsourcing also paves the way for cost certainty, accurate budgeting, and the freeing-up of capital for use on other opportunities.

Streamline

In short: focus on what you’re good at. As a research or an analysis organisation, use your resources wisely and do not sway from your core competencies. Running a large internal development team solely for your publishing platform is, let’s face it, a costly distraction from your main business.

Outsourcing your publishing platform also offers you the flexibility and agility to respond to critical opportunities.

“It doesn’t matter how good your content is – if technology compromises its ease of access, both customer experience and competitive edge will dissipate.”

Time to market

Building a bespoke in-house system to match your business’ exact requirements and customers’ expectations is a bit like the holy grail. For one, your end-users may already be familiar with high-quality publishing platforms used by other providers and the high benchmark is therefore already set. In short, you are setting yourself up for a fall, perpetually stuck in development hell with technology that is fast becoming outdated.

‘Basic’ in-house amendments could routinely take four to six months and all those coding ‘tweaks’ will become increasingly difficult to manage, allowing your competitors to eclipse you. Any system that can’t rapidly implement new features made necessary by the wider technological ecosystem will quickly become obsolete.

This level of development and creativity demands big responsibility – as is managing the constant investment needed to fund the enterprise. Does your firm have the time and energy for this?

An outsourced solution will reduce implementation time and ensure industry-leading user and publisher experiences, as well as allowing research and analysis firms to publish reports quickly and easily.

And it doesn’t matter how good your content is – if technology compromises its ease of access, both customer experience and competitive edge will dissipate. A research or analysis firm’s platform should enhance content, as well as make it easy to find, understand and export in various user-friendly ways.

Sales impact

Creating a system that can actively help publishers improve sales can take years of development. Content Catalyst has been developing its content platform, Publish Interactive, for more than 12 years to the point where new partners can see tangible sales benefits within weeks. How long would that take if they were developing their own systems? The time frames are incomparable.

Furthermore, a publisher’s entire portfolio is also made instantly available, enabling researchers to find required information quickly and easily, leading to greater and prolonged use. Content analysis can help firms quickly identify popular content with great revenue potential, pinpoint any content gaps, and target content at specific users. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities are also enhanced, including the encouragement of ad-hoc buyers to become subscribers.

Freedom to thrive

Business information providers should ask themselves: do they want to invest time, money, energy, and focus equipping themselves with technology for tomorrow, or should they leave those tasks to the experts and concentrate on making their research the best it can be?

For further information, access our guide to choosing a publishing system:

Choosing the right research publishing software

Download

Tags

  • Digital Transformation
  • Management
  • Sales

Four Building Blocks for High-Performing B2B Subscriptions

  • Management
  • Subscribers
  • Subscription Renewals

3 reasons why data visualisation tools are the future of market analysis content

  • Analyst Workflow
  • Content Management
  • Management

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

 

Optimising High-Value Subscription Renewals: How market analyst publishers can use technology to retain subscribers

Your job as a publisher is to ensure your subscriber gets excellent value from your content. Prove this and your customer will be eager to renew.

Email me the handbook

This guide is for market analysis publishers and high-value business information providers. Our best practice guide looks at how publishers can:

  • Use usage stats play a vital role in renewals,
  • Demonstrate content value to clients,
  • Build and maintain close user relationships,
  • Offer a point of marketplace differentiation.

The 1,800-word guide includes real-life examples of how research publishers have applied technology to make content more accessible and improve renewal rates.

Contents

  • It’s no longer about individual sales, it’s about relationships…
  • Make annual renewal meetings procedural
  • Run multiple brands from a single platform
  • Build closer customer relationships
  • Be the point of differentiation in competitive markets

If you sell information to a business audience, then this free best practice overview is for you.

How moving to a subscription model helps research firms fix costs, remove revenue fluctuation, and then grow big…

The great benefit of a research business shifting from a transactional model to one based on subscriptions is that it helps the firm know its basic monthly income and be reassured that revenue will reoccur in the months to come, but often the cost-saving benefit and positive effect this can have on future revenues is overlooked.

Fixed costs = no headaches

The move to a subscriptions model usually means the adoption of a new piece of software through which the process, along with many other client-friendly functions, can be managed.

The selection of this new technology can be a vital decision and, often, can be the difference between a research firm’s new business model thriving or floundering. Use of the right SaaS system can keep your client relationships bubbling along nicely and help you know your costs into perpetuity.

How does it do this? By removing all the uncertainty associated with building an in-house solution.

An established serviced solution doesn’t have to be developed, tested, then managed and upgraded as it becomes old fashioned. A high-quality system will be in constant evolution; with upgrades and fixes applied each month, with no extra cost, with no downtime, and without the publisher having to build an expensive in-house team to support the technology.

Licencing a serviced software solution to manage research subscriptions takes all the risk out of this investment – and more importantly, it helps refocus research businesses around their core tasks of creating and selling research.

In fact, the challenge of running a research business is simplified; it no longer has to be about managing the technical elements to provide research, it instead becomes refocused on increasing the value of the research publisher’s relationship with its clients.

Know your income, build on that income…

With all clients on subscriptions, and all costs known upfront, a research publisher can begin to accurately forecast its minimum monthly income.

What this does is bring assurance, and with it comes a shift in focus. If your sales team isn’t worried each month about meeting report sales quotas, naturally attention will shift to the cross- and upsell opportunities, as these are now the avenues to build on those monthly revenue subs.

Once customers are into that ‘account journey’ process, publishers can then develop the relationship, build a unique offering for the customer, sell them further packages and access, and move them to the point where a full subscription is both necessary and vital.

The long term in salesrooms therefore becomes: what can I do to improve the offering to this client? How can I deepen this relationship in a way that will only make the service we offer them better than last month?

That’s no longer a salesperson and a target; that’s a working relationship with the aim of growing the customer offering in the knowledge that, thanks to the fixed costs of the business, every additional bit of income created is additional profit.

Trends in High-Value Research Publishing

Beyond transactions – how understanding user behaviour creates competitive advantage

Email me the handbook

From knowing how content is used to understanding its value and context, publishers of high-value research face a number of varied challenges as they look evolve their businesses for the digital economy.

Reduced customer budgets, new and alternative content types and increasing competition from lower cost producers all contribute to an increasingly difficult trading environment through which publisher need to navigate.

In our Trends in High-Value Research Publishing 2019 whitepaper, we explore how B2B publishers should respond to ensure they remain relevant to customers.

We look at the ‘Three Kings’ of research publishing: data, content and context – and examine how publishers should consider each of these from their customers’ viewpoint as part of their move to create the stronger and long-lasting relationships needed to deliver reoccurring revenues and future value.

How a SaaS publishing platform helps research and analysis firms retain clients and increase revenue

The basic way business information firms win trust and turn prospects into customers is through the provision of high-quality research and analysis – but beyond this win, what steps can they take to ensure customers retain their enthusiasm and belief in the service they are being provided?

To put it simply, how does a research and analysis business keep surprising and delighting its customers beyond simply supplying good quality information?

Here at Publish Interactive we work in collaborative partnerships with our research and analysis clients on this very issue. The solution, we’ve found, isn’t complicated – it’s simply a matter of pairing our unique, highly-customizable technology with consultancy tailored to the specific needs of our individual customers.

Improved technology = happier customers

If we look solely at how retention rates can be improved and revenue encouraged upward from your existing customer base, then a technological solution starts to look all the more inviting. Getting more from your existing customers could be as simple as enhancing the way you supply them with information.

Instead of supplying your customers with a PDF report that is time-consuming to read and difficult to extract information from, why not integrate that content into their workflow?

A smart publishing system can turn a whole report into a series of chapters and content snippets that researchers can search through easily. Finding data or analysis only then takes as long as entering a term and clicking the button for the results. Once the researcher has all the necessary information at hand, a smart publishing technology should allow them to compile this content, then author and export their own bespoke reports – all without having to go through lots of tiresome copying and pasting into traditional authoring tools.

Once technology is engrained into a researcher’s workflow in this way, it encourages greater use and further engagement with a publisher’s content. Then, if your technology is good, customers can add comments and share those with colleagues as well as creating quick, custom reports on-the-fly that help fuel day-to-day discussion.

Happier customers = sales potential

When greater engagement (as demonstrated above) is coupled with good search, it can make a publisher’s whole portfolio more visible and useful to customers. Imagine also a search engine that allows you to highlight key, related, or recently published content – that’s a great cross- and up-sell opportunity right there.

Instead of focusing solely on single sales, features like this can encourage multiple report purchases and even makes it easier to introduce a subscription-based model for those researchers that find your platform integral to their day-to-day tasks.

Gaining end user info

The more you’re able to understand about your end users’ interests, the greater your ability to guide them to relevant content – which raises the question: what kind of actionable information can they provide you?

  • Account health – have they logged in recently? Have they left? Who are your ‘at risk’ users?
  • Engagement – what’s their access pattern over time? How much time do they spend on the platform?
    What kind of bounce rate do you get from users? Or from different content sets or formats?
  • What kind of content are they searching for, accessing and downloading?
  • What haven’t they already viewed that could be relevant?
  • How many users have you converted from single sales into subscribers?

Additional publisher benefits

A good publishing system makes life easier for your customers by embedding the content and various access tools they’ll need into the heart of their working day – but benefits of a system like this aren’t exclusively the preserve of your customers.

A high-quality publishing platform should allow easy editing of published content, freeing the author’s time so they can focus on improving quality and generating additional material.

In addition, usage stats should provide valuable information that can be used in customer analysis to further improve content production and marketing promotions.

What about buying-in a solution or in-house development?

It’s likely any business information provider who developed their own publishing system or bought-in software could find improvements to their customer retention and satisfaction rates, but we think they might quickly run into a whole new set of problems.

Here at Content Catalyst we have been developing the Publish Interactive platform for more than 12 years. In fact, that’s all we do! Our every effort is spent constantly refining and improving the way the publishing platform works for our customers, and their users too. But this only really works because of our close collaborative approach. By working directly with our clients we can customize our technology to their specific requirements.

This process of continual refinement comes as part of the package to help keep our customers supplied with the most up-to-date technology possible; but if you were to buy software, or develop it, your firm would continually be managing upgrade projects to stay relevant. That’s expensive, and so is employing a tech team to run it all.

A serviced software solution lets you know your long-term costs, helps you stay at the cutting-edge of technology, and ensures you can win new business.

How Edify Digital Media uses Publish Interactive’s analytics to refine its offering and drive sales leads

theSauerReport is the world’s leading authority on hides and skin prices. Since 1985 it has provided daily raw material prices to its customers alongside market trends and information on the leather industry.

On acquiring it, publisher Edify Digital Media knew it had a great product but how would it properly equip the report for the digital age?

The report ran on a basic website with an outdated design. A daily update was emailed to subscribers, but it wasn’t protected by a login. Premium information was easily forwarded to non-subscribers. Equally, there was no incentive to visit the website and no way to measure user stats.

Edify Digital Media needed to ensure customers could access the information in the simplest way possible and enable a business model based on the provision of smart digital access to its highly valuable content.

Partnering with Publish Interactive enabled Edify Digital Media to make use of its smart content management and publishing system to power the new website it would create for theSauerReport.

‘Commercially, analytics is the most useful feature…’

Edify Digital Media’s update of its online portal ensured subscribers would benefit from useful new features and functions, while also enabling it to attract new customers and, for the first time, understand how its content is used.

“On the commercial side, analytics is the most useful feature,” says Maria Wallace, co-founder of Edify Digital Media. “I particularly like the email alerts that come directly through to me to say someone has looked at a certain report marketing page which can then be passed to the sales team to follow up”.

“As publishers, user analytics is valuable as it provides us with information relating to what content is of most interest (so we can produce more) and with warm sales leads for possible subscription upgrades or new business opportunities.”

“Through the site,” she adds. “we’re able to monitor the number of overall reports accessed – as well as analytics on specific reports – helping us to remain focused on the content of most interest to our subscribers.”

Enhancing the customer experience

In addition to helping Edify Digital Media understand more about its customers and their use of content, the move onto the Publish Interactive platform enabled Edify Digital Media to broaden the range of content it offers to subscribers. It has added a Knowledge Centre and a section for in-depth reports.

“Besides being quicker and easier to use, the new system offers subscribers a number of useful features such as the download and custom report feature, advanced search functionality and, through Dataviewer, the ability to interact with data sets,” adds Maria.

“Content is created directly within the platform, which saves us time and is convenient,” Maria adds.

“Only those with a login can access content, which helps protect our subscription business model. We can also license individual reports or report groups, which provides greater flexibility when it comes to selling.”

In addition, Maria says, Edify Digital Media can publish content in ‘private mode’, enabling it to offer a consultancy service for individual customers alongside the tiered subscription model it uses to manage access to its principal content.

Evolving the business model

Edify Digital Media now has around 800 stored reports and creates around 265 new pieces of content each year. Easy access to this content and its suite of user-friendly workflow tools help keep renewal rates high and subscribers happy with the service.

A recent customer survey found that 80% of subscribers make use of the quick search feature to access content they need from across theSauerReport in the shortest possible time.

As the business grows, adds Maria, as do the commercial opportunities within the platform. Rather than simply offering theSauerReport, the opportunity exists to evolve into a ‘report store’ where users can search and access reports by different industry sectors.

Tags

  • Analytics
  • Sales
  • Subscribers

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

Guide