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02 Jul. 2019 | Comments (0)

Two trends are converging to create a new revenue opportunity for B2B companies.

As customer expectations have escalated, forward-looking B2B companies have adopted a services mentality. Whether they offer products or services, progressive companies are focusing on customer experiences in the hopes of building a relationship beyond a simple transaction. Many are shifting their models to be paid for successful outcomes rather than on product delivery, for instance, which requires both companies to collaborate and share data.

That’s trend one: the move toward services.

Trend two is the build up of editorial capabilities in B2B companies.

Over the past 10 years, B2B companies have led the movement of businesses acting like publishers, so much so that many of them have full research, editorial, and production teams in house. It has been no small task to develop this skill set and no small investment to maintain it. These teams have primarily been used to develop thought leadership and content marketing programs. The best of them have earned a reputation for creating credible content by focusing on the needs of their audiences, not on the products and services of their companies.

And thus a revenue opportunity: Knowledge as a service.

Businesses have an increasing need for dynamic access to expertise and specialized knowledge. Today’s emerging technologies can facilitate access through subscription-based services. Many B2B companies have the skills, credibility, and technology to turn what has been a cost center into a revenue generator – and to cement their customer relationships in the process.

When I worked at McKinsey & Co. we saw the power of this idea when we transitioned The McKinsey Quarterly from a closed-circulation print publication meant just for clients to a print and online bundled subscription service open to the public.

The service quickly earned enough revenue to fund The Quarterly’s growth from year to year, but the intangible benefits were even greater. By charging for our work, we put a market value on the knowledge that the firm had been giving away for free, raising the credibility of our content.

In addition, by competing in the open market, we had to continually raise the quality of our editorial product and innovate just like any media company competing for attention.

But we didn’t just raise the quality of The Quarterly. We raised the quality of all the content the firm created.  Why? Because The Quarterly modeled what could be done and recruited the best editorial talent to bring our plans to life. This standard trickled down to every practice publishing at the firm.

And the demographics we collected, the usage metrics, and the direct access to our readership gave the firm insight that informed both our editorial decision-making and our consultants’ knowledge base.

That small-scale experiment took place more than 10 years ago. We learned first hand how knowledge as a service could break down the borders between companies. And we learned how far quality editorial capabilities could be leveraged to both improve the content service and build deeper client relationships.

Today professional services companies are starting to digitize their expertise and content to serve their knowledge beyond traditional engagements. For professional services companies, this may be the core business model of the future.

For B2B companies with distinctive, specialized knowledge there is still more leverage to be had from their investments into content capabilities. There are new trends to lead.

  • About the Author:Jeff Pundyk

    Jeff Pundyk

    Jeff Pundyk is a Senior Fellow, Marketing & Communications Center at The Conference Board. He counsels B2B companies on their content strategy and investments, and is a Senior Advisor to the TMT P…

    Full Bio | More from Jeff Pundyk


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