Using Data Analytics to Drive Strategy for Corporate Customers

Let’s explore the question of how publishers might use analytics to better understand possibly the most mysterious customer group of them all: corporate customers. Publishers often suffer from a vague sense that there’s a land of opportunity in the corporate market, if only they could identify where it is and how to reach it. Meanwhile, their own direct sales to corporate customers, particularly Big Pharma, keep getting smaller and smaller as the industry consolidates, research budgets shrink, and corporate librarian roles are eliminated, replaced by purchasing departments that don’t really understand the value of a journal subscription in contrast to a carton of paper towels. Outside of the pharmaceutical industry, publishers don’t even know to whom they should be speaking. The anonymous, faceless individuals working on secretive projects in corporate R&D must need our content…right? Might analytics help us pull back the veil?

The anonymous, faceless individuals working on secretive projects in corporate R&D must need our content…right? Might analytics help us pull back the veil?

It’s common for corporate buyers, whether researchers or librarians or purchasing departments, to note that they can only justify paying for exactly what they need. It’s potentially easier for them to spend $10,000 on article-level purchases for only must-have articles than it is to spend $5,000 on a journal subscription where only a small percentage of the articles ever get downloaded. Think of it as micro ROI. For this reason, the traditional publisher license deal and title-level subscription models, both designed to meet the needs of academic libraries, just aren’t going to work for corporate customers much of the time. Don’t try to change that. Just figure out how your organization might do a better job providing the content corporate customers need in the format they need it and via a sales model that’s going to work for them.

Related Reading: Using Data Analytics to Drive Strategy in the Research Space

Again, let’s start by considering some of the decisions your organization may need to make in order to add more value for corporate customers and to drive sales:

  • What segments of the corporate market should you prioritize?
  • Should you attempt to increase direct sales to corporate customers, or is it better to work through intermediaries?
  • If you can sell directly to some segments, what should your sales model be? Do you need to hire additional sales people who specialize in those market segments?
  • Should you increase your publishing volume in certain areas of applied science in order to improve your value to corporate customers?
  • If so, are there key researchers in corporate R&D who should be involved, or with whom you should at least consult?
  • Are there other products or services you might provide to corporate R&D that are not traditional journals or books?

These are all big decisions, and analytics can help you answer many, but certainly not all, of the questions you’ll need to answer to make these decisions. Thinking broadly, you’ll need to determine:

  • What is the estimated overall market size and growth rate, not just for your organization but across the industry?
  • In what market segments are you strong, in terms of subscription sales, article sales, usage, and denials? Where are you weak?
  • Are there specific geographic areas where your sales and usage are particularly strong?
  • What are the top corporations using your content, what market segment are they in, and what other corporations in that segment are you not reaching?
  • What type of content is being utilized most frequently by corporate customers, and how should that knowledge impact your editorial decision-making?
  • How are corporate researchers discovering your content, and what does that tell us about how you might reach more of them?

When exploring markets that are less familiar, analytics can help you move beyond your initial state of ignorance and get you to a place where you’ve at least crossed some options off the list and made others a top priority. But your research shouldn’t stop there. With your numbers at your side, it’s essential that you get out there and talk to some of the key stakeholders at the corporations of interest. As much as the numbers might tell you, the people behind the numbers can illuminate even more.

About the Series

Analytics–everybody wants some, everybody agrees they’re incredibly important, but many STM publishing organizations just aren’t sure how to use them to positive effect. Looking backwards to see what happened in the past can be really interesting (or really boring!), but what does that tell us about what we should do right now, or what we should plan to do in a year? This is the first in a series of blog posts to attempt to provide STM publishers with some guidance on how best to use analytics–not simply to report on what happened, but to guide decision-making and drive impactful actions to achieve commercial and strategic advantage. To do that, we’ll put the focus exactly where it always should be: on our customers. Specifically, we’ll explore how to use analytics to better meet the needs of librarians, researchers, and corporate customers.

Author: David Nygren

David Nygren is the incoming Senior Director, Marketing & Branding at the American Psychological Association, where he will lead the marketing team responsible for marketing, branding, public relations and partnerships for APA’s Office of Publications & Databases. He was previously Vice President, Research Insights at Wiley, leading the global insights team that informed decision-making in every facet of the organization via analytics, market research and strategic analysis. He is a graduate of Fordham University in New York City.
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