Opinion: Focused on cutting costs as a B2B editor? Stop. Focus on adding value

Andrew Snook.

Long before the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took hold around the globe, cutting costs was a priority for publishers and editors struggling to adapt to an increasingly digital world.

From the perspective of my years as a B2B magazine editor, I was recently asked to participate in an interview where the main question was, “How can a B2B editor cut costs?”

While I understand why the question was asked, I don’t think it’s the right question to ask.

Don’t get me wrong, cutting unnecessary expenses is certainly a good business practice to follow. However, the reality is that most publications at this point already operate extremely lean — that’s one reason they’re still around today. The better question to ask B2B editors is, “How can you create additional value for your brands?”

While publishers everywhere are putting on their own industry events, webinars and podcasts, building customized sponsored surveys and offering a wide variety of other value-added products (and these are certainly good things), I believe one traditional approach to adding value to your brand is being forgotten: the value of networking.

I’m not talking about travel in our current COVID-19 world, obviously that has been put on hold for good reason. I’m talking about the shrinking and sometimes non-existent travel budgets for B2B publications, where publishers don’t see the value of getting their editors out of their cubicles and on the road. In an effort to keep costs low, many publishers have wiped out almost all travel from their budgets. I don’t think this is the right call. Having your editor be boots on the ground not only makes for better storytelling, but it also adds a ton of value to your brands.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the past six years to work with publishers that understand this value. I was given significant travel budgets to travel around Canada and the U.S. to meet with interviewees on site for stories, and the experience has been nothing short of incredible. But that’s not the only reason I received my budgets.

While on the road, I’ve spent a great deal of my time building relationships with industry associations, meeting with advertisers and potential advertisers, and taking every other opportunity that’s come my way to be out in front of our readers.

Whether that’s been a last-minute flight across the country to attend an industry event or jumping in my car last-minute for an unplanned 10-hours of driving for a great story, I’ve made myself available whenever possible. One thing I’ve learned in my decade of B2B editing and writing is that the best stories and opportunities to represent your brands aren’t always the most convenient ones. As an editor, you need to be okay with being inconvenienced for the greater good of your brand from time to time. Not to mention, it makes the job so much more exciting!

So, to all my fellow editors I say, get up out of your cubicles, harass your publishers for some travel dollars and get out there and mingle with your industries. Just make sure when you ask for that travel budget, you get out there and earn it. Oh, and keep out of those five-star hotels, this isn’t a vacation.

— Andrew Snook is the editor for Rock to Road: Canada’s Aggregates & Roadbuilding Magazine; The Scoop: The official publication of the Alberta Sand & Gravel Association and the owner of Snookbooks Publishing, a content creation company. Snook is also the former editor of Canadian Forest Industries, Canadian Biomass, Crane & Hoist Canada and has written for dozens of other B2B publications in Canada and the U.S.