The True Value of CRM in B2B Media Publishing
Trying to run a B2B Media publishing business without a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is like trying to pull a cart without a horse. It does not work! And the reason is that in this business, it is all about the data and the data is all about the customer – the readers and decision makers, and the CRM system is the central hub for everything.
It is universally recognized that it costs about 25 times more to get a customer than it costs to keep an existing customer, and so you can understand why B2B publishers are so focused on customer retention. And at the center of customer retention and the continuous improvement of it, is a full understanding of the preferences of each individual subscriber. What B2B publishers do with the CRM data and the insights it gives them, is the most fundamental part of the process.
Not All CRMs are created equal.
Not all CRM systems are created equal of course, so it is worth taking a moment to identify the important pieces. B2B Media publishers are multi-platform brands that offer a variety of products and services to their readers (and their advertisers), and so gathering consumer data from events, podcasts, social media, and self-service portals to tailor messages and communications is part of building community with each reader in all the industries that they serve. Just like an old friend.
A CRM system, among other attributes, must be able to collect and collate data from many external sources. Consequently, it should be operating in the cloud and using reporting tools that are typically not readily available with on-premises software. Since Apple and Google toughened data privacy policies, publishers are mostly reliant on their own first party data. And as many publishers are now operating with remote staff in many parts of the country if not the world, a cloud-based system makes even more sense so staff can economically access their data from any device at any time. It is mission-critical to collect as much reader data as possible, to provide rapid shared access to it, and to use tools that can analyze “Big Data.” A cloud-based solution is the only way to go.
The Centrally Managed CRM System
Having answered the question on “why” publishers collect reader data, we should look at “how” they collect data on each consumer. And the key component here is regular communications and messaging that ultimately allows the publisher to deliver a uniquely custom experience for each subscriber. It is accomplished by continuously investing in understanding their subscribers’ behavior. This begins at the moment of onboarding and continues with a thoughtful and well-planned message stream over the lifetime of the subscription. To do this, the publisher needs automated segmentation, campaign management, email, and messaging capabilities within the CRM system that are tightly integrated with the circulation and audience management portions of the software. And all this requires an integrated centrally managed CRM database.
John Lawson, Managing Director of knk Software UK, based in London says, “Making available the proliferation of consumer offerings that are necessary, and the day-to-day management of them is not practical nor technically feasible with multiple systems and potentially multiple providers for separate digital and print components. It must be automated, and it is what drives the engine of the subscription model.”
Lawson adds “Self-service subscription portals must be easy for customers to navigate. And to build trust, they should provide easy-to-cancel capabilities. The audience must be able to decide for themselves what they need, both in terms of content and pricing models. Publishers must be prepared to try out new models across a range of devices, channels and social media based on subscriber feedback and quickly adjust, adapt, or discard, as necessary.”
For example, publishers need to offer prices for different subscriptions of different durations for both manual and preferably auto renewal. Thus, flexibility of the offering (and therefore of the underlying technology) is vital, as is the media choice. Features might include the ability for a subscriber to choose a certain quantity of issues/books per month, of a certain genre, with links to online content, with access to back-lists (free or otherwise), with trial subscriptions and multiple payment methods, including credit. Engaging the customers in these kinds of communications, and making it easy for them to do so, develops the data – and the relationship.
Embracing New Technologies
Innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) drive greater efficiencies and even more automation across the sector. Media companies are betting on AI as a way of delivering more personalized experiences (and hence, more accurate views of personal preferences). Lawson says, “However, it is no use having AI recommendations if people can’t easily log in, pause subscriptions, or change billing details for example. And a system that offers its sales, marketing, and customer service representatives a single view of the customers across both print and digital has immense benefits.”
Large B2B publishers often need to manage subscriptions through a central purchasing function, where the account holder can grant entitlements to other individuals in the subscriber’s organization. The publishers must have the capability to see which individuals belong in which group, and map complex customer structures with identification, billing, and delivery requirements of each. The ability to view and identify these groups and their needs is important.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Reporting and KPIs are an essential part of the CRM system. Publishers need to evaluate early warning signals from potential lapsers or non-renewals, using usage patterns from the data. The system should recognize this and create alerts, prompting marketing to initiate remedial action. And the ability to communicate with all subscribers, especially non-automatic renewal subscribers, provides good receivables forecast. Annual Retention KPIs and Trial take-up data should be monitored – lapsers and leavers provide more consistently reliable information than joiners, and so should be carefully watched.
A good CRM system helps the publisher develop community with each subscriber. It is cloud operated, browser-based and is the pivotal central repository – for customer profiles for campaign segmentation and interaction history that supports personalized promotional campaigns in the subscriber’s preferred channel. It keeps the customer engaged and active throughout and is the conclusive driver of good retention.
Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash
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