Schibsted markets corporate subscriptions for Aftenposten

By Siri Holstad Johannessen and Madeleine Reuterdahl

Schibsted Norway

Oslo, Norway


In a world where most products are digitised, the newspaper subscription is no exception.

Schibsted saw over time that more companies cancelled or reduced the number of subscriptions of the print newspaper edition without realising they could switch to a digital subscription. This was combined with a generational transition within the business world, where a business could have both Baby Boomers and Generation Z in the same department for the very first time. The traditional way to consume news had changed.

To meet these new expectations in the market, Schibsted created a new division with unique solutions only for the corporate market. Aftenposten Bedrift (“Aftenposten Business”) became both a new product and a new department. Through a sales force, marketer, and product developer, it would both sell and retain old subscribers, generating new business subscribers and create new B2B solutions.

How to build a brand category for a low-interest B2B product

The marketing strategy was developed to help sell a B2B product without a brand category. The term “corporate subscription” existed, but hardly any had previously linked it with media purchases. Therefore, building brand awareness in the first campaign was prioritised. The goal was to achieve unsupported brand awareness of 6% during the first year.

For Schibsted, which has several brands in the B2B market, the main investment was made so Aftenposten would be the first brand to launch the brand campaign, with the intention of later implementing the insights to the rest of the portfolio.

We hired Deloitte to research the purchase motivation in the target audience. What could motivate companies to invest in a low-interest product like a corporate subscription to a newspaper?

The sales team also noticed there was a high price sensitivity for corporate subscriptions. The expectation that a digitised product would be less expensive than an analogue version became a challenge. The product was, therefore, considered an investment for the companies because the quantity increased in the process of changing from a few print subscriptions to digital access for the entire company.

Deloitte also discovered companies within knowledge-intensive companies would always invest in products that raised employee competence and could elevate work tasks. Based on this information, both target groups and their motivations were set for our product in the B2B market.

How to confuse your target group

The first campaign’s main focus was to expose as many companies within the target group as possible to the logo so we could increase brand awareness for Aftenposten Bedrift. The campaign’s call-to-action was to generate traffic back to the Web site, where companies would be able to read our unique selling points (USP).

The first campaign did not achieve Schibsted’s goals of attracting explaining its offer to its corporate audience.
The first campaign did not achieve Schibsted’s goals of attracting explaining its offer to its corporate audience.

On the Web site, they could get in touch for a price offer through a detailed interest form. We tried using humour around the target group’s motivation for needing the product, so we would differentiate ourselves from other, more serious B2B products. We played with the opposite of having an oversight, which would be employees who literally live in their own bubbles.

The campaign generated good traffic back to the Web site, and the ad created the attention we wanted. But the visitors spent little time on the Web site and only half of them read more than one article. The number of leads through the interest form drastically decreased during the campaign, and, in the first top-of-mind measurement, it showed 0% increase in unsupported brand awareness. Why did this happen?

New ways to communicate and achieve lead goal

A little surprised by the results of the first campaign, we had to figure out what happened before we could plan our new campaign. These were the main challenges we found:

  • The target group thought the brand name “Aftenposten Bedrift” was a product, not a brand. They thought Aftenposten had made a separate newspaper only for businesses.
  • This and the fact we did not differentiate the products from B2C compounded the confusion.
  • The target audience didn’t understand our solution for their motivation to buy the product. How would a newspaper make employees wiser? Wasn’t reading news a leisure activity?

We quickly understood that, if we were to persuade companies to invest in a low-interest product, we had to peel the onion. How could we simply communicate the solution to their motivations? And at this pace, should we still be investing in long-term brand awareness?

We decided the next campaign should generate leads by communicating the USPs more clearly to the right decision-makers. We then decided to change the whole marketing strategy. But first we had to do a reassessment regarding our brand name, our product, the Web site, and the target audience. What could be improved?

Rebuilding the marketing strategy

It quickly became clear companies believed Aftenposten had created a new product for businesses, but they were confused by the Web site when they encountered B2C sales posters.

We created a matrix to evaluate different brand names against each other and figure out where we wanted to place ourselves in the market. It was tempting to call the product “Schibsted Bedrift” (Schibsted Business), because it gave us the freedom to sell more products than just subscriptions. However, this would also require even further brand awareness building and would be a long-term solution.

We also wanted to “warm up” the meeting rooms by communicating our product benefits instead of the brand name itself. Therefore, we ended up with a solution closer to Aftenposten bedriftsabonnement (“Aftenposten business subscription”), which was most self-explanatory, and landed on Aftenposten — for bedrifter (“Aftenposten for companies”).

That way, we could piggyback on Aftenposten, one of the most known and liked brands in Norway and Schibsted’s biggest subscription newspapers, and communicate more accurately the right decision-makers. The name was user tested and the target group finally understood the concept.

Getting the product’s name right was an important step.
Getting the product’s name right was an important step.

After changing the name, we wanted to differentiate ourselves more clearly with our products. The product before was basically that a company would get a lower cost-per-subscription by buying a larger quantity, and we would facilitate and implement the purchase. The companies were limited to choosing only one product at a time — either a digital subscription, the paper edition, or a digital subscription with a paper edition on the weekends.

The sales team noted that if the companies could choose how they preferred to consume the product, we could tailor-make a company subscription package with their desired brands. In addition, very few companies had an overview of their current total media purchase. So the sales team also noted that, by giving them trial periods, they could both reveal what newspapers the employees actually read and pinpoint exactly how many had read the newspaper.

With a trial period, they could remove the confusion and come up with a specific price offer for the products the company actually needed. And, as a little bonus, the conversion time in some cases was reduced by 50%.

Therefore, we decided to remove the B2C products from the Web site and focus on how the companies would consume the newspaper, then make them choose how many newspapers they wanted to subscribe to. We also decided a trial period would be the next campaign’s CTA.

The first Web site was created based on a calculation that the target group had nine-month conversion time. On the Web site, we published articles on how Aftenposten — for bedrifter could increase employee competence and how our newspaper could elevate work tasks.

We thought if a business spent nine months deciding to invest, the experience would be perceived as more professional if we acquired relevant information about both their needs and the company itself. But since very few used the interest form or read the articles, we had to change the user experience design on the Web site.

Since we also discovered the conversion time dropped drastically with trial periods, there was no longer any need for additional information retrieval. In short, we created these new features:

  • Shorter interest form: By segmenting the interest form according to how many subscriptions a business desired, it got a tailored-made USP for their company because a company of 100 employees would have a different need than a company with nine employees.
  • Removed products from the Web site: Instead, we discussed how the company would like to read the newspaper through informational videos and articles. We asked the companies if they needed news access all day or just during working hours?
  • Moved solutions up: We created customer cases with well-known companies proving how corporate subscriptions could increase companies’ expertise and be used as a work tool for all employees.

To ensure the Web site was easier to understand and navigate for the target group, we also user tested the Web site before launch. Luckily, we received a good user response from Norwegian managers in larger companies. They found the information they were looking for, understood what we were selling, and understood how they could buy the products.

Before the sales team entered the meeting room, they always had to persuade or get through two different stakeholders. They had to go through procurement and finance, human resources and communication, or, in several cases, both. Although all of these positions were in the segment of professions within knowledge-intensive businesses, they had different ways of being measured in relation to the type of work they did for the business.

We decided the next campaign should warm up the stakeholders for the meeting room, instead of only generating traffic to the Web site. We chose to split the target group in two into something we called “hard and soft values.”

The hypothesis was that HR consultants would get completely different goals to achieve from their managers than what the procurement employees would have. Therefore, we made USPs for two different audiences.

To make it even clearer, we gave the two target groups different personalities:

  • Target group 1: HR and communication (soft values): “I want to raise the skill level of the company’s employees by giving them new work tools so they can make wiser decisions together.”
  • Target group 2: economy and procurement (hard values): “I want to cut costs and streamline the company’s purchases.”
The new campaign featured targeted messages for specific audience segments.
The new campaign featured targeted messages for specific audience segments.

With a clearer brand name, a differentiated product, a user-tested landing page, and a narrower target audience, we were ready for a new campaign. We managed to simplify the USPs we wanted to communicate. In addition, we could meet target audiences with a more focused message. As a last change, we created a clearer brand identity. The branding manual had a unique orange colour, and we recreated the concept to be more innovative, different, and something that caught attention.

The USPs were simplified (from words the target audience found confusing like “work tool”) into different messages customised by the targeted segment. Purchasing and finance segments were met with these USPs: “save money with a corporate subscription” or “only one invoice.” HR and communications segments were met with these USPs: “easy management” and “find the corporate subscription best suited for your business.”

In addition, we wrote different native articles aimed toward each target group. In one, one of Norway’s largest electronics store chains offered testimonials about how it saved both time and money with Aftenposten — for bedrifter. A government-run department shared how it improved the well-being, service, and digitisation process for employees with our product.

Native articles introduced the brand to specific audiences.
Native articles introduced the brand to specific audiences.

Results from new campaign and marketing strategy

As with all firsts in marketing, it is difficult to put the results of the campaign into a hard matrix. However, we set some qualitative goals and KPIs for what we wanted to measure during the campaign.

  1. Generate business leads.
  2. Get customers to spend more time on the Web site.
  3. Communicate the USPs more clearly to each target group.

The results of the campaign were, fortunately, positive. We received 106 business leads during the campaign period. But what we finally managed to achieve was reaching the right stakeholder in each company, which saved us considerable time used on meetings. One example was that a chief officer manager in one of Norway’s largest companies contacted us and wanted a meeting to start a sales process.

More than 81% of people read more than one article. The response to the first two objectives therefore indicated we achieved the final goal: to communicate the product benefits more clearly.

We could concluded that segmenting the target group and exposing them to different USPs worked.

One of the most positive effects for the campaign — even though several of the sales processes are still ongoing — is that after the campaign, we had more potential business leads in the pipeline than ever before. And as all marketers know, the more business leads you have in the pipeline, the bigger the chances are of getting a sale.

About Siri Holstad Johannessen and Madeleine Reuterdahl

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