Recently I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion on data-driven revenue growth at the 2023 JEGI/Clarity Media and Technology Conference which took place on April 24th in New York City. Speakers on the panel included industry leaders Paul Miller, CEO of Questex, Lisa Hannant, Group CEO of Clarion Events, and Matthew Yorke, CRO of Foundry.
Here are some key takeaways from the panel, which also covered key findings of our recent study, The State of Data-Driven Revenue Growth in Digital Information, Media and Events, conducted in partnership with JEGI/Clarity.
Different Revenue Streams…All Driven by Data
Although these companies have different mixes of revenue streams ranging from digital media, events to lead generation and data subscription services, they all are all finding new ways to use data to drive growth. And, their private equity partners have similar expectations when it comes to business performance and health.
- Questex’s revenues are split about evenly between events and digital media, and their use of data is critical to driving growth across the organization. MidOcean Partners, their private equity investor, is expecting and investing in organic growth. Because of this, board meetings are heavily focused on data than they have ever been before. Board meetings revolve around customer and sales retention, market share, and the distribution of customers across various business models and products.
Around five years ago, they kicked off a significant transformation by reorganizing their company into five distinct markets. These markets spanned an array of different industries, ranging from beauty marketing to life sciences.. Sales and marketing are now embedded within each vertical and other functions were moved to a Center of Excellence (CoE) that spans all their business sectors. Questex’s CoE facilitates the sharing of effective strategies and data between different teams, fostering a collaborative culture and allowing the rapid sharing of successful practices across the organization.
- For Clarion, live events contribute the majority of the revenue, with the remaining coming from media and marketing services for most portfolios. There are a few where there is an even split between events and media. Blackstone, Clarion’s private equity partner, expects value creation and business optimization across all business areas. The company has been using data to drive and meet customer expectations, especially during the post-pandemic era. Lisa uses the term customers to refer to the audience and attendees.
Clarion believes that exceeding customer needs and expectations is the key to delivering greater value for brands marketing to them. To this end, Clarion has shifted resources from sales to specialized marketing, optimizing the audience experience and thereby improving lead generation and customer retention.This shift has resulted in huge amounts of data being generated, how that data is being packaged and presented to brands, and the skills and technology required to drive this transformation.
- At Foundry, the vast majority of their revenue is from digital. And like Questex, they are using data more than ever before in team meetings, board meetings, forecasting and re-forecasting. Like Clarion, Foundry's private equity partner is Blackstone and is dedicated to driving profitable, sustainable, and predictable revenue growth, no small feat for a B2B digital media business. While Foundry’s mandate is to achieve value creation through various strategies - organic and inorganic, the Foundry team focuses primarily on organic growth to create greater value. To do this, they have to consistently and smartly use data to understand their business, customers, and future demand.
To drive sustainable, predictable and profitable revenue growth, Foundry underwent a massive company wide business transformation starting with normalizing, standardizing and templating products on a global scale. They are shifting to globally generated products, and using data to discern which products to retain or discard based on sales velocity and retention rates. Meaningful comparison and evaluation of product data across the audience, advertisers, engagements, and content now empowers much deeper customer understanding and intimacy and better, faster, scalable decisions that have a far greater impact.
Foundry created a global sales and marketing organization reporting up to Matt, and who execute against a system of globally managed products. For example, their events business is identical all over the world with the only thing changing is the number of attendees. Inventory management is also identical, which is a shift from some of the other B2B media companies I speak with who are using multiple inventory management systems across different brand portfolios and solutions. And, systems are unified and scaled across CRM, marketing automation, and other sales and marketing enablement platforms.
One of the big data-driven outcomes that has a significant impact on revenue growth is the ability to generate real-time, actionable, forward-looking reports and eliminate the “surprise” end of quarter close results.
Foundry is also implementing a Configure Price Quote (CPQ) system, a module inside the CRM, to regulate pricing, gain pricing power and boost revenue.
Carefully Monitor Churn
Our panelists’ companies are focused on reducing churn. According to our study, 71% of industry leaders feel that lowering customer churn will be a very or extremely important driver of growth for their company over the next 12 months. Yet, 8 in 10 say that doing so is challenging for their organizations.
How leaders on our panel are using data-driven approaches to improve customer retention.
- Foundry’s revenue data strategy and their investment in controlled, leading KPIs enables them to identify deal and customer risk across a few predictive factors: salesperson activity levels, customer purchasing trends, sales close cycles, and customer segment. Foundry measures churn at the country level and by product, and slices and dices the data by packing types, pricing levels, customer size and ACV. They use this information to understand their sweet spot and refine their product offerings which they can now do on a global basis.
- Questex is tackling churn prevention and renewals with a deep dive of data in CRM , which is used to forecast consistently. They focus heavily on renewals at shows and how those renewals measure against what happened “same time last year.” Questex incentivizes sales activities on renewals to ensure high retention rates. On the audience side, like Clarion, there are some areas where you want churn to keep active buyer participants fresh and new to the exhibitors. Or, you want to make sure that attendees coming back have new buying needs. This is where data becomes the fuel behind Questex’s retention strategy. Questex uses data to deliver on contracts: what exhibitors and sponsors expect in terms of pipeline development and expectations.
- Clarion uses churn data differently depending on the segment of their business. In their one-on-one matchmaking at events, they deliberately cycle through attendees to provide a new pipeline of buyers. Clarion is spending a great deal of time evaluating how to drive customer satisfaction levels on the audience side. Every time they get an increase in NPS or CSAT, retention on the exhibitor side improves and pricing power is gained.
91% of leaders in information, media, and event companies face challenges in identifying & mitigating revenue risk before it happens
Use Predictive Analytics to Drive Growth
In our study, 62% of industry leaders said that identifying and mitigating revenue risks before they happen will be very or extremely important to their company’s growth in the next year. However, 9 in 10 felt that doing so was challenging for their companies.
The leaders on our panel are finding ways to make it happen.
For example, Foundry uses a global instance of Salesforce to gather accurate data and predictive analytics, identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities. This approach enables prescriptive advice for salespeople and insights into customer buying patterns. To be proactive, they monitor margins and KPIs, aiding in decision-making about which products to discontinue or promote based on the velocity of sales and gross retention.
Some say that “predictive analytics” is our middle name at H2K Labs (although that would be a mouthful). Our Insightify platform, purpose-built for complex data needs of two-sided business models, helps companies in our industry leverage data across CRM, financial systems, CDPs, marketing automation, customer success, inventory management, event technology AND many other systems to grow revenue and address risks before they happen.
Do a Deep Dive on Pricing
- Pricing power can be gained by adding value to customers but doing so in organizations with complex data environments and many offerings requires best of breed technologies.
- By leveraging CPQ and introducing small price increases, organizations can gain some revenue wins without disrupting customer relationships.
- Pricing strategies should consider market dynamics such as inflation and value delivered to customers, which is also a data-driven exercise.
Build a Data-Driven Organization with a 360 Degree Approach
- Create global product templates, customer journey maps, sales processes, leading KPIs that can be measured and used to drive predictive and prescriptive insights.
- Achieve better results by aligning marketing and sales teams wherever possible.
- Consider specialized marketing resources with deep market knowledge to improve lead generation and customer retention.
- Incentivizing customer success managers to own customer renewals can effectively reduce churn and increase customer retention.
- Remember that automation plays a crucial role in streamlining lead generation processes, ensuring priority leads are efficiently followed up, and establishing a unified approach across dispersed teams.
- Arm your teams with new capabilities. AI-powered tools can prescribe upsell and cross-sell opportunities, identify gaps, and enable data-driven decision-making for sales teams.
Focus on the "Three Cs"
- Culture of Data-Driven Growth. Establish a collaborative culture within the organization to encourage cross-functional sharing of successful strategies and data-driven insights for driving revenue growth.
- Customer satisfaction: Relentlessly deliver high-quality customer and audience experiences (and leads) to reduce churn rates, increase customer retention, and strengthen pricing power.
- Continuously refine and analyze data. Regularly review and analyze data on customer preferences and the highest-value customer segments to enable personalized sales approaches.
By adopting these strategies, leaders can position their organizations for success in an increasingly competitive and data-driven business landscape.