The B2B digital media landscape has changed demonstrably. Once fuelled by sponsorship and advertising, focus has shifted towards measurable performance and demand generation. B2B digital media and marketing services entrepreneurs now have to adapt their models, or risk being squeezed out of the market. Media companies who can get ahead of this trend are reaping the benefits, but those who do not may be faced with a ‘burning platform’.
“A lot of sponsorship and advertising is geared to brand marketing objectives and has struggled to maintain share in a space that has increasingly moved to more performance-oriented activities – driven by the macroeconomic environment and its impact on marketing budgets,” said John Webb, Senior Adviser for Collingwood.
“Marketing directors and CMOs are having to do more with less and are consequently laser-focused on ROI – and we know that performance-driven marketing, by definition, gives a better steer on ROI than other activities.
“At the same time, we’re seeing companies increasingly invest in new technology, and martech especially, so that on one side they’re driving more of those efficiencies to optimise marketing spend, but also striving to create more personalised customer and audience experiences. Those technologies are fuelled by data so marketing spend is moving towards activities that can generate data that flow into those technologies to further power experiences.”
As a result, digital media and marketing services businesses are starting to see the demand for more traditional activities dry up and face increasing competition.
On one side of the equation, search and social media behemoths can maintain their proportion of spend precisely because they’re performance-driven; on the other side, agile, disruptive players built around data and leveraging AI and machine learning are entering the market and can unlock the data to be able to generate insights of a much more rapid and precise nature.
This is then turned into more direct ROI via targeting, user journeys, demand prediction, and nurture to conversion in a very measured way.
“In terms of the competitive threat and the pressures digital media businesses are facing, we’re also seeing a rationalisation of the number of partners clients want to work with,” said Webb.
“They’re tending to work with fewer partners but are doing more. However, media partners must be able to prove they can deliver – ultimately – revenue. Traditional media players quite simply aren’t geared to that and activities are often built around more ephemeral objectives rather than performance.”

More sophisticated client–vendor offerings and diversified revenue streams are key

As Collingwood’s recent Media Acquisition Report detailed, investors looking to work with digital media and marketing services businesses want more sophisticated client–vendor offerings and diversified revenue streams that offer segmentation, compelling content and tailored campaigns, along with more sophisticated first-party data strategies and capabilities. All compelling reasons for entrepreneurs to move now to future-proof their businesses.
And the upside is that B2B digital media founders and entrepreneurs who are in a position to develop their offering and become more of a strategic partner, will have greater influence over client marketing strategy, be more embedded in their strategic aims, and be able to deliver an always-on approach.
“In working with media entrepreneurs serving a range of B2B niches, the Collingwood team consistently find that their clients (B2B marketers) are looking for more of a marketing services partner – from media companies rather than just a channel,” said Fergus Gregory, Managing Director of Collingwood’s Digital Media Practice.
“We’ve created the Marketing Services Maturity Model to provide digital media entrepreneurs with a structured framework to understand and navigate the progression of marketing services as digital media transforms.
“For businesses to survive in the new digital landscape, and be more attractive to investors / trade buyers, it’s about delivering more integrated marketing services and moving into the world of building a demand engine and ultimately, a marketing revenue platform that is always-on, embedded, and a must-have partner for clients.
“While larger media companies have the advantage of scale and greater CAPEX to play with,  entrepreneurs often benefit from being more embedded in their markets, being more nimble and less wedded to legacy business models. We are seeing some of the most exciting developments in this space being driven by entrepreneurs.”
Collingwood’s Marketing Services Maturity Model will be released early in 2024 at a series of invite-only roundtables. If you’re a founder of an independent B2B digital media business and want to find out more – as well as receive a first look at our full report before anyone else – then register your interest.