Penton’s CEO David Kieselstein will be speaking at our inaugural B2B Media Strategies event this December. For more information or to book a place, click here<<<

In the B2B world, accurate audience data is simply the cost of entry. It informs a B2B publisher’s every decision and provides a roadmap as to what services and products they should be offering. Much of that data, of course, is limited to the vertical those audience members are interested in. 

But according to David Kieselstein, CEO of Penton, there are universal human behaviours which they see across their five verticals:

“We did very deep dives on each of our user groups and there was quite a lot of learning that came out of that to anchor how we were going to approach things, not just for each of the markets but also across them. It’s important to understand there are certainly specific flavours when you get into professional information services and verticals around what each market needs.

“But there are also basic, common, human behaviours that cut across all of them that are being created not just by what we do, but by everything that a user touches.”

Essentially, whether a particular audience is for any of Penton’s verticals of infrastructure, transport, agriculture, natural food & products, or manufacturing and industrial design, there are some behaviours that are ubiquitous to all consumers.

B2B media publishers have, of course, known that for a while. For instance, relationships have always been at the heart of B2B media operations, so the successful publishers have been those who fostered those relationships. 

But Kieselstein argues that B2B success depends on realising your consumers aren’t automatons solely interested in business information, but rather people who have endless opportunities for distraction:

“[There was] a realisation on our part that it is naive if anyone in professional information services thinks that their competitive set is other people who provide that information to users. It’s naive to also thing that users somehow take off their consumer hats and put on their professional hats when they consume the information and services we provide.

“Once we redefined that our competitive set was anything that can sit on a smartphone, because we’re fighting for share of attention and that can be as sophisticated as very high-end professional information services and it can be as pedestrian as Candy Crush Saga.” 


Despite that approach to competition, Penton is seeing 50 percent of its total EBITDA coming from events. That’s a continuation of the trend we’re seeing across the B2B game, where “experiential” is the name of the game. But Kieselstein argues that it would be madness for a modern B2B company to purely exist in that space:

“We realised that it wasn’t just what we were providing but it was how we were providing it… and when, all three of those simultaneous, we realised we… need to fit into their lives. So the idea of a mono-line business, as being an events business or being a digital business really didn’t hold.

We needed to do everything we could to be when they needed us.” 

So Penton is putting its content and services in the places its audience of 20 million professionals needs them most. As a result, Penton’s strategy is increasingly platform agnostic, to cater to an audience that isn’t bound to any single platform or device.

New opportunities

As with the rest of the publishing industry, the B2B media game is undergoing a period of rapid change. As a result, it’s very easy for publishers to get left behind culturally as consumer behaviour outpaces innovation. But at Penton, that issue is alleviated by a conscious decision to hire people to deal with that innovation dilemma.

Fully half of the executive team at Penton – and half of employees throughout the organisation – are new to the company within the last three years. That’s helped it to adapt to an era in which digital advertising is inreasingly under threat, but new money-making opportunities are presenting themselves. Kieselstein said:

“Our digital marketing services is bigger than our digital advertising business; it’s roughly doubled in the last three years. The ability for professional business information services to go at content marketing is an enormous opportunity.”

B2B publishing has been relatively resilient, as a result of publishers in that sector already having a strong grounding in using audience data. As Penton is demonstrating, it is possible for B2B publishers to continue to innovate while still retaining a focus on the audience relationships that made them profitable in the first place.

Penton’s CEO David Kieselstein will be speaking at our inaugural B2B Media Strategies event this December. For more information or to book a place, click here<<<