Informa Markets

3 Ways B2B Giant Informa is Reinventing Lead Gen

With more than 500 trade shows and exhibitions that in a typical year generate more than 60 percent of its total revenue, few companies have borne the brunt of COVID-19’s impact on events more than Informa.

But the way forward is turning crisis into opportunity and Informa is aggressively creating new businesses out of its existing events model and the enormous cache of audience data those events create.

At our recent Business Information and Media Summit, Informa Markets chief digital officer Jason Brown, who leads a newly created group called Informa Markets DNA, showed how the company is finding new revenue by leveraging event audience data into a new take on lead gen that not only creates revenue in the interim but promises to elevate the value of Informa’s live events when they return (replays of that session are available in the BIMS archive and AM&P Network members can reach out to me at mkinsman@siia.net for a link).

“We were hit hard with corona, but on the back of that, we’re working hard to look at alternative ways we can generate revenue from a similar mix of audience,” says Brown. “We’re not seeking to replicate what a show would do but instead offer year-round engagement with buyers and sellers which will mold itself to physical trade shows when they come back over the next 12 months.”

Three-Part Combo: Online Marketplaces, Authenticated Data and Audience Extension

Informa’s new approach leverages three components—Online Marketplaces, Authenticated Data and Audience Extension—that work together to generate data, convert that data into highly detailed and actionable intelligence and ultimately leverage that intelligence and Informa’s scale in connecting buyers and sellers across its own properties and beyond.

Online Marketplaces are enhanced versions of the show directories that Informa produces for its live events. Customers can use the online marketplaces to search products and suppliers, discover new products via a recommendation engine, make connections, create a virtual “walking” or favorites list and register for other Informa physical and virtual events.

“We let attendees figure out what they want to do,” says Brown. “It’s not about driving traffic to physical shows but creating engagement for 52 weeks a year. We’re allowing buyers and sellers to connect now without the ultimate destination of a physical trade show.”

The online marketplaces also provide Informa with “zero party data” where users offer direct insight into their interests through their use of the marketplaces, which helps Informa create the next component—Authenticated Data.

Identity and Buying Intent

If the top of the buyer funnel is about generating awareness, the bottom of the funnel is about decision and action. Informa is offering its customers authenticated data that shows not only who a lead is but also their buying intent.

“We take our first party data, the third-party data that we can buy or borrow and the zero-party data given to us by visitors and our audience when they are specifically after something and combine that information together to create something called authenticated data,” says Brown.

Getting the data right is the most important part. Informa aggregates its full spectrum of audience data into a data lake, including event registrations, online behavior and third-party data from services such as Bombora. Informa then uses that information to build a picture of a user and create an intent score.

“If we do all of that correctly, our gray cloud of a data lake becomes a green cloud of known buyer status,” says Brown. “That’s where we can say who our buyer is and where they are in the funnel.”

“Right Person, Right Time, Right Message”

Audience extension—reaching customers not only on your own branded properties but beyond—is something Informa and other publishers have been doing for years (and it’s why social platforms have become such an existential threat to publishers). But the addition of highly targeted, highly accurate data makes Informa’s audience extension efforts even more powerful.

“We ask our clients what kind of customer they are looking for, then we work with several third-party companies to find that lookalike audience and present a marketing message,” says Brown.

This is something Informa has seen success with particularly in the ag vertical, where it runs events such as the Farm Progress Show. “We can take a farmer, find hundreds of thousands of other farmers just like them, find whatever device they are on and target them with a message,” says Brown. “Right person, right time, right message.”

“Giving You the Needle, Not the Haystack”

And while audience extension is about scale and Informa still sells many traditional lead gen projects (including CRM feeds, webinar series, email promotion, programmatic remarketing, geo fencing and market intelligence reports), providing access to qualified buyers is the ultimate goal.

“We don’t want to give you access to 9,000 people; we want to give you access to 12,” says Brown. “Customers say, ‘don’t give us the haystack, give us the needle inside it.’ If you do a webinar today, you might get between 200-500 attendees and that’s great, but you’re not sure how qualified they are. Here, we are talking about creating a qualified buyer and then working with clients to create a webinar for 20 people, but a very distilled audience of 20 people who have shared with us their intent.”

Changing the Ways Leads Are Sold

Traditionally, publishers sell a sponsor on a content-driven program such as a webinar, then hand over the audience list to that sponsor. That’s a risky and outdated approach for both publishers and sponsors, according to Brown.

“The current model in many places of giving away the crown jewels of our data is not a good business model,” says Brown. “The danger in handing over those leads is that they can be abused quickly. Files also start aging from day one—and not like fine wine but like moldy cheese. As soon as you hand it over to someone, their journey in that buyer funnel may have changed the next day.”

Informa is moving away from selling leads as part of a one-off sponsorship and instead offering an annual subscription, which includes,

  • continuous access to fresh data
  • ability to count, segment and modify criteria for best data selection
  • intent scoring
  • ability to create a sales pipeline that feeds directly into the customer’s CRM

Informa also enables subscribers to Bring You Own Data, in which customers can give the publisher their data and Informa will cleanse it, authenticate it and attach an intent score for the customer’s own audience.

“Instead of bundling and packaging programs, this is an annual program that you can subscribe to and we can present different layers and opportunities to you,” says Brown.

Not for Everyone

It’s an approach that requires a skillset and an infrastructure that not everyone—including both publishers and advertisers—can take advantage of. Informa has developed a criteria for assessing markets and clients that could benefit, which include,

  • an active digital market
  • a sophisticated digital sales team on the client side
  • market pricing
  • a client with existing audience data

“The markets need to be fairly advanced. We look at whether they are buying on social, on Google, how much are they spending with us and can we convert what they are spending elsewhere,” says Brown. “We’re not selling Webinars, we’re selling access to data. We need to work with really smart digital salespeople who we can train to cross-sell access to data.”

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Behind Questex’s New ‘Modern’ Information Model: Combining Content, Data and Events to Go to Market Faster

Editor’s Note: Join Paul Miller at our virtual Business Information & Media Summit on Dec. 2 for a look at The New Go-to-Market Strategy: How Questex Launches Products Faster, Better and More Profitably. Join the discussion as Paul shows how Questex aligned internal assets to create a more efficient structure and leverages data to drive the entire process. Register here. 

In June, Questex announced the creation of a “modern” information services model that leverages audience data to tie content and events closer together to create a year-round customer engagement framework.

And as publishers scramble to make up for lost event revenue amidst the pandemic, the new approach also gives Questex the ability to launch new products and go-to-market at accelerated rates (think virtual events being produced over the course of a few weeks, rather than a full year, as with a live event).

Questex debuted the new approach with its Fierce Life Sciences group, aligning the Fierce content business with ExL Events, a Questex division acquired in 2016 that produces events in similar markets such as life sciences, pharma and healthcare, but until recently had operated as a separate business from Fierce.

Tying events more closely to digital isn’t a new idea but one that hasn’t been well executed, according to Questex CEO Paul Miller [pictured]. “On a personal level, we’ve been talking about this for many years—how we combine different types of content and data and use learnings from that to bring together the community,” he adds. “We’ve almost gotten there a couple times in our past lives but not quite.”

 

Miller points to live events tacking on an online directory or virtual floor plan. “There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s not a real translation. Those of us coming from a digital background say, we’ve got all this data on content consumption, wouldn’t it be great if we use that to pull together conference programs around what’s trending.”

The Immediate Payoff

The new approach paid dividends almost immediately as Questex shifted to virtual events, with Fierce and ExL coming together to produce the Virtual Clinical Trials Online on April 22-23. The virtual event attracted over 2,000 registrants with 50 percent generated by the FiercePharma content websites. The sponsors saw over 600 booth visits and there were 2,800 downloads of content providing strong sales leads for the vendors.

“For the first time, we had complete collaboration between ExL and the Fierce team based on content, speaker recruitment and reporting on what’s going on at the event,” says Miller. “We’re thinking, let’s do things differently. If something is really trending, let’s change our conference program and launch it quickly, taking a couple weeks to plan rather than a full year.”

Elsewhere, Fierce is working with Arizona State U to launch a new virtual event in July for the education tech marketplace called Remote that will focus on how institutions are adapting higher education in the coronavirus era. The event already has “many thousands of registrants and high-level sponsors,” according to Miller.

With 70 percent of its revenue coming from live events prior to the pandemic, Questex hasn’t avoided a major revenue revision or the significant lay-offs that came with it.

But the Fierce group is up 20 percent year-over-year and there’s early evidence that the model can pay-off across the entire organization, including Questex increasing the overall number of webinars it produces (up from 199 in all of 2019 to 347 through May 2020), while its American Spa business capitalized on the CBD craze by launching a CBD-focused virtual event over the space of just four weeks, securing a quarter of a million dollars in sponsorships.

A Second Attempt at Reinventing B2B?

In many ways, the new Fierce approach borrows from Questex’s first attempt at reinventing the B2B media model with The Beauty Experience, a content and marketing platform that the company launched last fall for its beauty industry vertical that upended the “search and click” way of scrolling through websites by enabling users to choose specific content tags that they want to follow, which then serves up relevant content.

The idea was that the data produced by the feed and follow approach would help program events, identify prospects for sponsors and create opportunities to serve users beyond the events itself. Unfortunately, the Beauty Experience Event, scheduled for March 7, was one of the first to be canceled due to COVD-19.

“Beauty is a pro-sumer market and we learned a lot of lessons from that community, says Miller. “Social is really important there and we were able to get very good in the social world, seeing which keywords work and using artificial intelligence to personalize the journey. Unfortunately, we were not able to see that come to full fruition due to the event cancellation and some market dynamics in the beauty sector.”

Getting There: Culture is the Biggest Obstacle

While Questex needed the right tech infrastructure to get the right data into the right hands, Miller says that getting beyond perceived cultural differences between Fierce and ExL was the biggest challenge.

“We were dealing with two different cultures that hadn’t been integrated and the team didn’t do a lot together,” says Miller. “Fierce thought it did this, ExL thought it did that. But did they really? The fact of the matter was, they needed to be doing stuff together.”

While COVID-19 has been the bane of B2B publishing, it has helped Questex pushed through some of the inertia that would have held up change in the past.

“In terms of collaboration and bringing these groups together, I have to say the COVID situation helped us do this more quickly than we normally would of,” says Miller.

Miller credits Questex’s ability to break down siloes and get groups working more closely together to its Centers of Excellence, in which experts across the company come together to produce best practices in a variety of areas including audience and database, content, customer experience, and product, with topics ranging from protecting customer privacy to identifying where the customer is in the buying cycle to hosting virtual events to which headlines work best and why.

“The first thing is you need to do it to make the decision on what you want your internal core competencies to be, which is easier said than done,” says Miller. “Usually, you’re saying collaboration gives you more of a competitive advantage than really deep product knowledge. We combine the two—the markets work with the Centers of Excellence by saying ‘Our audience wants this, our advertisers wants that’, and the Centers of Excellence say, ‘OK, we have that over here, which parts work for you and what do we have to create as new?’”

Having that expertise on hand has enabled Questex to move quickly. “Someone asked, how have you pivoted so quickly to virtual events?” says Miller. “We just did it, but in essence we didn’t just do it because we have six people on our team in our Centers of Excellence who were part of creating the first scalable virtual events about a decade ago.”

People with different skills connecting together online and working on the same project, remote working and freelancing concept

How Events Are Finding New Revenue (and Securing Budgets for Rescheduled Shows at the Same Time)

As events originally scheduled for the first and second quarters of 2020 migrate to a fall season already packed with existing conferences and trade shows, preserving original budgets is no sure thing.

Two clients of M&A advisory firm Grimes, McGovern & Associates are creatively leveraging new webinar strategies and membership programs to not only drive new revenue and secure sponsors and attendees for their rescheduled live events, but keep their valuations intact as they explore sales to new owners.

“At first it was the March events but within a week it became apparent that April and May were in jeopardy too,” says Marlon Wurmitzer, Senior Associate at Grimes, McGovern & Associates. “The sole owner of the business, who also runs the conferences, had to act quickly because we are in the middle of trying to secure the sale of his company. Because of his ability to scramble quickly, he has created a revenue stream that will increase the value of the organization.”

That company produces more than 20 events with 300 to 600 attendees and revenue of $50,000 to $200,000 each across the emerging technology, digital infrastructure and commercial real estate markets.

To produce revenue now, as well as preserve sponsors and attendees for events shifting to the fall, the company created an hour-long “Daily Webinar” featuring one or two sponsors paying between $1,500 to $3,000 each. The webinars feature thought leaders from both sponsors and end-user organizations and are free to attendees—provided you are a ticket holder to a future live event.

Another Grimes, McGovern client is hosting weekly webinars that are sponsor-curated, with free access for all current subscribers. Sponsors pay between $7,500 and $15,000 for each webinar and the company is planning to transition subscribers to an annual membership program to receive exclusive access for this type of content at a later date.

“Sponsors have been receptive as long as the pitch takes into account the grave situation that we are all going through at this time,” says Wurmitzer. “Value needs to be demonstrated. In terms of attendees, this has shown us that there is an absolute need for value and insight during this time of crisis.”

The two event companies are generating between 200 and 400 attendees per webinar and projecting $20,000 to $50,000 per month in new revenue over the course of the next three months.

An Opportunity for Smaller Events?

Wurmitzer says the future is extremely bright for smaller event organizations, more so than larger ones. “If a company has had to cancel a sponsorship to, say, one of the bigger Data Center Conferences companies like Gartner, DCD, Microsoft or AWS, they may find themselves with extra sponsor money available in 2020 on a ‘use it’ or ‘lose it’ basis. Smaller event companies are poised to benefit and they are beginning to hear from potential sponsor that they never secured before, for their fall events.”

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5 ‘Radical’ Event Reimaginings May Actually Make Dollars and Sense

Getting a seat at Time’s new invitation-only event requires membership in the recently launched Time 100 Membership program — which means paying a fee unless you are a VIP. One of the four tiers is called Rising Stars: For $1,750, businesses send a selected employee to the conference. Patron-level members and former Time 100 honorees also may nominate Rising Stars.

That all sounds a little elitist, but the point of you “qualifying” people to attend your events—making it extra-special—rather than the other way around is becoming more common. (“You’ve been invited” usually gets my attention.)

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“Make it a little difficult for people to attend the conference. Make it aspirational,” writes VR Ferose, SVP and head of SAP Engineering Academy, in a recent article in Forbes titled 5 Radical Ideas to Re-Imagine Conferences. “This is one way to create demand. Have a simple questionnaire; ask why people want to attend the conference in the first place.”

That is part of his #1 reimagining that he calls Curate the Audience and Not Just the Speakers.

Benny DiCecca, formerly head of Wellesley Information Services and now CEO of World Congress Research, used to speak in those terms. “Are you asking [your audience] the right questions? One question we weren’t asking was, ‘Are you willing to pay to go to an event to learn on this topic?’ There is certain information that people would open up a checkbook and some people would not.” Are people willing to travel, he added. What would they pay for?”

Here are Ferose’s four other event reimaginings:

2. Share the Unsung Hero Story. “Imagine that you invite a speaker who came fourth in an Olympics and missed a medal by a whisker. Such a speaker would probably have more insights for the attendees than a medalist would… We often forget that handling failure is more important than handling success. We need to celebrate the non-celebrity.”

We do tend to think more about our successes than our failures, but some of the best talks I’ve seen have come focused on some shortcomings. Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning movie producer, recently told about the time he lost for Best Picture. He was so sure presenter Sidney Poitier was about to announce Apollo 13 as Best Picture that he stood and reached for his speech. Poitier announced “Br…aveheart” instead of “Br…ian,” and Grazer sat down defeatedly. But he was consoled by real-life astronaut Jim Lovell, who told him “I never made it to the moon either.”

3. Don’t Focus on the Frills. “When a conference is all about free T-shirts, stickers and lots of giveaways, be a little skeptical,” Ferose writes. “While a bit of nudging is always helpful, overdoing it can be counter-productive. Remember all those lanyards, plastic covers for IDs, plastic bottles, and other swags we got from various events over many years?”

Especially in these environmentally conscious times, turning your attention more to a community project can attract more people or give them something more tangible to remember. “Audiences have an innate want to be a part of something,” said Nina Gomez, head of operations, Singapore, CWT Meetings & Events. “They don’t want be on the sidelines anymore, they want to be a part of something bigger.”

4. Plan for Impermanence. “Have a flexible instead of a fixed agenda. It allows people to remain engaged throughout the event, instead of their choosing only sessions that interest them. Some events even invite the audience to build the agenda in real-time… Always have an element of surprise mixed into the agenda.”

I’ve been to many Q&As after plays, movies or talks. Some should end quickly but others you want to keep going. I wonder if you could do this at publisher events. Leave a cushion of say 15 minutes at the end of sessions. If attendees want to leave, they go and network outside. But if the session is really dynamic, they stay, ask more questions, talk more. And maybe a popular session the first day should be repeated the second. Film festivals often leave the last day for Best Of or Most Popular encore screenings.

5. Make it More Democratic and Inclusive. “I have attended many conferences where there was a panel discussion on how to tackle homelessness,” Ferose writes. “Everyone on the panel had the right intentions and had thoroughly studied the subject. But imagine if they had invited a homeless person to the stage and got his perspective… Having representatives from all sections will make conversations more inclusive and authentic.” We’ve talked about doing more panels for SIPA 2020 to add more inclusiveness.

SourceMedia Rebrands as Arizent, Preps Launch of New Membership Business

Eighteen months after SourceMedia named Gemma Postlethwaite its new CEO, the financial information company today unveils a new name: Arizent.

The new brand is intended to convey the company mission of helping to raise up and advance the financial industry as well as professional services such as accounting and HR.

“We’ve been bringing employees and customers along on our journey for the past 18 months,” Postlethwaite tells Connectiv. “We asked, what do we look like on our best day? How do we unlock our value? There is no sense in changing the name just for the sake of it. The essence of our value proposition is how we unlock actionable insights and analysis for our communities, business growth for our customers and personal growth for our employees.”

Like many of its peers in B2B media and information, the former Source has long contended it’s no longer just a media company and the new name helps emphasize its focus on delivering interlocking content, research, networking and more to its audiences, while selling integrated programs across the collective DNA of its more than 40 brands that span live events, peer-to-peer-networks, subscription services and media.

“The term ‘media’ is no longer adequate to describe the breadth of our value proposition,” says chief strategy officer Jeff Mancini. “Our communities are no longer content to be just passive consumers of content. They are looking for a broad range of insights and analysis that spans research, live events and peer interaction. The same is true for our marketing clients. In order to sell integrated programs, you need to talk about what you do differently. The value we bring today is not just through an IAB standard banner or a 10×10 exhibit at an event.”

As part of the rebranding strategy, the team broke down the three pillars that defined the company, including,

Transformative Ideas. “SourceMedia’s editorial brands have always stood out – and won awards for – their independent authoritative journalism. By investing more in original research and analysis, we can go really deep into coverage of ideas that are disruptive and transformative, such as AI and technology, that are moving the financial services sector forward,” says Mancini.

Community. “We then rally leaders around those ideas,” says Mancini. “We have over 20 live events plus new peer-to-peer networks.”

Redefining Industry Standards. A roll-up of Arizent’s benchmark products, such The Most Powerful Women in Banking, Best Banks to Work For, Best Fintechs to Work For and Rising Stars. “All these programs are research-backed and represent what we believe is redefining the industry standard,” says Mancini.

Arizent to Launch New Leader Membership Network in March

One of the most significant new initiatives for Arizent will be the launch in March of a new leadership network that will build off the framework of the company’s 17-year-old Most Powerful Women in Banking Awards as well as other gender inclusion programs.

But rather than just offer networking opportunities for a single demographic, the new program will include leaders throughout the financial services industry and offer members access to exclusive content and research, as the group collectively advances a common goal, like greater gender diversity.

The network features a corporate membership structure that enables members to participate in year-round programming, which will culminate in the latter part of the year with the Most Powerful Women in Banking Awards as well as the launch of a new summit (the name will be announced later in the year).

“We will be working on tangible things, such as getting more women on boards, helping to solve the pipeline problem of getting new talent into financial services and the summit will be the moment when we bring the most senior members together to report on how we are doing,” says Postlethwaite.

Marketers will also be able to participate in the network, not to be in sell mode but to be “champions of change” by offering resources such as data and training to the group, according to Postlethwaite. “For example, an executive search firm can sponsor one of the board events but their duties will not just be to thank everyone for coming but to make sure that every woman leaves that meeting with her resume done,” she adds. “Those are the very practical, tangible deliverables that we are looking for.”

While Postlethwaite won’t reveal pricing for the new network, she says the program represents a completely new business for Arizent at a totally different price point than traditional B2B subscriptions or media. “This starts to deliver on the promise of a community,” says Postlethwaite. “If you actually look at what it takes to build a community, not everyone is doing that. This is what we stand for and why we matter.”

More Growth, Less Niche

Overall, Arizent is seeing significant growth in its subscriptions and events businesses. “We’re fortunate that we have sizeable subscription asset, we have a sizeable events business and we have a great media business,” says Postlethwaite. “Over the course of the last 18 months, the team has been elevating the conversation with our media clients and turning them into true solutions clients.”

Postlethwaite says Arizent will see significant revenue growth in 2020 and that growth will stem from a focus on a community-first approach. Where page views once ruled Arizent now expects to grow subscriptions, events and new community plays like the networks. From there, marketing services becomes more effective due to a quality over quantity engagement strategy.

“You can now show up in a newly defined community that’s much broader and less niche,” adds Postlethwaite. “If you’re in banking, you shouldn’t just be in American Banker, you should be in all our brands. That’s where the growth is on the media side.”