A Degree in B2B: A Conversation With FatTail About How B2Bs Monetize

Lessons B2Bs Can Impart to B2Cs

When we split up the types of publishers out there in digital, we tend to group them broadly. You have your pubs originally from the traditional newspaper/magazine space, those that came out of broadcast media, your newer digital pure plays. We don’t tend to divide B2B pubs from B2C pubs—even though there are often massive differences in how those publishers need to develop their monetization strategies.

When we caught up with FatTail CEO Doug Huntington, he was keen to talk about what sets B2Bs apart, from an advertising perspective. This is, Doug said, a certain historical sweet spot for FatTail, which was plying its tech toward solutions for the B2B Network World way back in 2002.

Sure, B2Bs might be underrepresented in the monetization discussion. But it’s not for lack of good material. Anyone who’s worked with a niche B2B knows how creative these pubs have to be to make revenues. And as Doug explained, while there are areas where B2Bs have to catch up to their B2C peers, there are plenty of areas where B2Bs have valuable lessons to share.

Advanced advertising made simple: the sell side platform for guaranteed inventory.

BRIAN LaRUE: When it comes to the audiences and the user interactions B2Bs deal with, what are some of the monetization strengths B2Bs have?

DOUG HUNTINGTON: The first and the most obvious strength is the depth of their audience data. In many cases, they have email addresses, job titles, company type, size and location, the products they’re interested in—not just their cookie information.

The second is how engaged they are with their audiences. They tend to be smaller, more focused audiences, and the publishers are very good at fostering relationships with them through a a wide array of content marketing products—webinars, apps, blogs, focus groups, ebooks, newsletter, events, studies, white papers. The smart B2B sites tie all of this data together into a 360-degree view of their readership, and develop data strategies to drive deeper audience engagement.

And the third is their highly targeted content and deep domain expertise. For example, if you’re selling a new transradial diagnostic catheter, you are probably going to want to advertise on FierceMarkets’ Biotec site. What better place eto sell something like that?

This high level of engagement translates into the opportunity to build highly customized, hard-hitting marketing programs for their clients.

BRIAN: What data assets do you see B2Bs commonly sitting on, and what kind of help they need from their vendor partners to make that data actionable?

DOUG: Registration data has traditionally been siloed across media products. That’s brought together now in the DMP with cookie information, to provide a view of interest and intent. But increasingly we are seeing publishers decouple audience data from audience engagement, so they can monetize it separately. It takes a a pretty substantial business shift to recognize and take action on the fact that you don’t need to be a destination to monetize your data assets—but the economics increasingly seem to warrant this approach.

In fact, in some cases B2B publishers might be able to make more money selling the data segments to media buyers, to match against their audiences, than they would from advertising on their own sites. And they’re seeing data isn’t just a one-sale thing—it’s very dynamic. One area where they need help from partners is aggregating their inventory across publishers, so that they can provide scale to buyers, and another is packaging audience segments into something that buying systems can recognize and easily buy. They also need technology that helps them leverage data to improve meaningful connections with prospects through data-driven content marketing.

BRIAN: You’d mentioned B2Bs moving toward automating the sales of their ad inventory. How does that evolution progress?

DOUG: If your audience sizes are smaller, you have high CPMs, and a large number of products, some of which aren’t even priced on CPM. The challenge becomes: How do you take advantage of things like programmatic sales? The flip side is that because you have high CPMs and sell-through rates, using DSPs for audience extension makes a lot of sense and is something that many of our clients are aggressively pursuing.

Niche publishers have historically not viewed programmatic as a viable revenue channel, so in many cases they’re a little late to the party.

BRIAN: Where are we in that evolution toward automation and what’s driving it?

DOUG: This slow adoption probably has more to do with the fact that programmatic has historically been associated with low CPMs, and that most of the B2Bs were already doing a very good job of selling out their inventory through their direct sales efforts. What has changed is heightened pressure to execute campaigns programmatically or lose the deal. And I’ve heard some pretty staggering numbers to back this up. In the middle of last year, some thought by the end of the year 60 or 70% of their RFPs would request to fill programmatically, and that by the middle of this year it could be up to 100%. It’s hard to believe, but that’s the kind of pressure they’re under.

BRIAN: How do you see your B2B clients using audience extension right now?

DOUG: Audience extension has a high value to B2B publishers, perhaps even more so than B2C, because of the spread between the price where they can buy their audience and the price that advertisers are willing to pay for it. They’re doing it increasingly in conjunction with database management platforms, using lookalike technologies to figure out other audiences that share similar attributes with their indigenous audience, and then going after those audiences with their DSP.

BRIAN: What kind of tech are B2Bs adding to their ad stacks? What kind of solutions are they actively looking for?

DOUG: Anything that helps them enhance engagement, monetize their audience data and broaden their audiences, and anything that helps them with workflow efficiency.

There is a heavy push toward account-based marketing technology, which is all about getting the right message to the right person in the right company at the right time. That goes back to the notion of building highly customized ad campaigns for their clients.

Another thing that we are seeing interest in is being able to match their audience segments with the advertiser’s, so they can then forecast those audiences and sell them on a guaranteed basis. There is an enormous opportunity for high-quality publishers to distribute guaranteed, matched audience segments through electronic buying platforms. It lets publishers bridge the gap between the spot market being transacted on DPSs and the higher-value forward guaranteed market. That’s something FatTail is just starting to work through.

Another trend we’re seeing is B2B publishers teaming up to help sell each other’s inventory, to leverage their collective distribution capabilities and create increased scale. To do this efficiently, you’ve got to be able to capture line items from different publishers on a single client facing order and break them apart again so they can be processed separately through each publisher’s unique workflow.

BRIAN: What challenges do you see B2Bs having with private marketplaces, and what their tech partners might be able to do to help them manage those challenges?

DOUG: Scale, and the fact that private marketplace deals are not guaranteed from the publisher’s perspective, making it difficult to manage inventory across different sales channels. FatTail can help by offering a platform that helps publishers manage their programmatic assets in the same system as their direct sales assets. Think of it as one book of business, an ad book.

Also, B2Bs are looking to us to provide enhanced sales enablement capabilities to help their internal sales teams, who historically have excelled at selling print media, more readily sell digital inventory.

BRIAN: What are B2Bs doing in terms of managing data, investing in tech, and seeking out third-party relationships that publishers in other verticals can learn from?

DOUG: Account-based marketing technologies are really hot right now. We think a theme for the next few years will be layering artificial intelligence onto marketing platforms. With all of the data they have to sift through and all the different marketing avenues they have available to them to reach their audiences, it makes a lot of sense for B2B publishers to layer AI on top of their data management platform and account based marketing technology, to help them find patterns in the data that can be used to optimize marketing content and delivery. For example, what Salesforce is working on doing, with CRM, Krux, account based Marketing and AI is potentially very interesting for publishers in general, but particularly for B2B publishers, because of their deep data assets and diverse product set.