B2B brands - from content publisher to media company

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Published Jul 10, 2019 | Written by Keith Errington

Over recent years we have seen the rise of B2B brands as content publishers, with the results speaking for themselves.

Content publishing works because B2B buyers are now researching their issues and solutions online. They are only coming to the vendor when they know what they want and how much they expect to pay for it. 

Around 87% of the B2B audience find content through a search engine – so if you are not publishing enough of the right quality of useful content to impact on search engine listing, you will not be in the running for a sale.

More and more B2B companies are creating and publishing content with the successful ones seeing great results. These companies are developing teams and departments to create this content.

Before too long they have effectively become publishers, employing writers and designers, using infographic illustrators, commissioning photographers or using stock photos, and doing pretty much everything a traditional publishing house would do.

Is print publishing the next step?

If companies produce eBooks, white papers, videos, podcasts, email newsletters, webinars and organise events, is it time for these B2B content publishers to take the final step and become print publishers?

For some of you reading this, you may think this a step too far. Over the past few decades haven’t audiences increasingly moved away from print towards digital media, delivered via the web and into their inboxes? And surely print requires too many resources, too much time, too much risk?

The thing is, most B2B companies that publish content already have most of the resources they need – after all, an eBook involves all the same steps as publishing a printed book, just not the very last step of printing (which someone else does anyway).

What about the decline of print?

It is true that newspapers have seen their readership plummet, with many going digital – partly or totally (such as The Independent) – or they have disappeared altogether. According to the PressGazette, there has been a net loss of 245 local newspaper titles between 2005 and 2018.

Although magazines have also suffered over the years, what is interesting about the market is that the more specialist, niche titles are doing very well with the circulation of many being higher than it’s ever been.

The very fact that people have moved away from print to digital media now makes print stand out as a luxury item – something special. Whilst the digital audience typically moves on after a mere few seconds, readers of printed material tend to linger over the printed page with something you can hold in your hands making more of an impression.

So there is still a place for the printed magazine, and with niche titles doing well, what could be a more niche market than your B2B buyers? 

The rise of the B2B Magazine

There have been many examples of the B2B brand magazine over the years, with many long-running success stories.

Perhaps the longest and most famous is The Furrow – a magazine first published in 1895 by the American company John Deere. John Deere is a corporation that manufactures agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery, diesel engines, drivetrains used in heavy equipment, and lawn care equipment. 

The Furrow is “an agricultural journal published in fourteen languages and distributed to farmers and experts in the industry in EU28 countries, Eastern Europe, CIS, the Near and Middle East, and North Africa. It provides to the reader a mix of current issues in farming with both local and international background, and best practice examples as well as exclusive news and facts on John Deere products and company strategy.” 

The Furrow currently has a circulation of around 1.5 million.

Another great example of a long-running magazine aimed at business (although not a brand magazine) is The Grocer which was established way back in 1862 and is, “The premier weekly magazine for the biggest industry in the UK - the food and drink retail sector. The Grocer caters to the entire industry, from directors of the large multiples to independent retailers, enjoying strong readership among growers, food processors and manufacturers, as well as key opinion formers and the national media.” 

Both attribute their continued success to knowing their market and understanding its needs.

Published by the Lincoln Electric Company, ARC Magazine is a B2B magazine available both online and in a printed version and is aimed at “for anyone who shapes metal in some form or another to push their envelope of choice – be it in manufacturing, art, entertainment, community service or some other passion – to new limits and new heights. In either a high-profile or modest way, either on the job or on the weekend, you're one of those people.” 

Stylish and entertaining, it’s a great example of what a B2B magazine about a possibly boring subject could aspire to.

Why do B2B magazines succeed?

What makes a B2B magazine succeed in a world where many print publications are failing to capture their audience’s imagination? For many, it’s providing the exclusive, in-depth, specialist knowledge that’s hard to come by anywhere else.

It’s really just applying the tried and trusted content publishing principles of knowing your target market – their requirements, their issues, their aspirations, and then writing easy to understand, in-depth content that meets that audience’s needs. 

Another factor is a consequence of the abundance of fake news, biased sources and unreliable information that is all over the Internet these days. B2B buyers are desperately looking for information they can trust from a reliable publisher. If in your content you can demonstrate a reputation for expertise and industry knowledge as well as establishing authority, then you will engender a trust which will make your content valuable. 

Making the move from content publisher to print publisher may seem like a big step, but it’s the natural next evolution in the content marketing story.

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Published by Keith Errington July 10, 2019
Keith Errington