In 5 years, every B2B company will become a media and have a content flywheel to earn their market’s trust and attention so they can drive inbound revenue and win on brand. That’s how we see the world, and that’s what we help companies achieve.
But not every media company is the same, and B2B CEOs need to decide which one fits their needs and objectives the best.
There are two different types of media companies that B2B companies can become: internal and external. In this article, we will help you understand both types, audit their respective pros and cons, and give you a few examples of what situations each one fits the best.
Let’s start by explaining what internal vs external media companies are:
Internal Media Companies:
Very simply put, internal media companies have their content flywheel under the umbrella of their core business.
Okay, that wasn’t as simply put as I meant – let me try again: let’s say your company is XYZ LLC; an internal media company would have all their content under XYZ LLC.
A few examples:
Influence Podium is our core business brand. That’s where we make our money. We leverage an internal media company: our podcast is called Podium Stories, our articles live on our website, our LinkedIn and Twitter content are all under the CEO of Influence Podium’s brand. Everything is under the Influence Podium umbrella.
A few other examples: Slack has all their content under Slack, Salesforce has it under Salesforce+, Docusign has it all under Docusign, etc.
Internal media companies are the most common type – we’ll talk about why and the pros and cons in a sec. But before that, let’s talk about external media companies.
External Media Companies:
External media companies are completely different – the content flywheel is a fully separate brand than the core business’ brand.
Following the example from before: if your core business is XYZ LLC, an external media company would have their content flywheel under ABC LLC. That content brand would exist independently of the main brand.
A few examples:
Zapier has content under Zapier, but their main media brand is under Makerpad. Stripe has Indie Hackers, Outreach has Sales Hacker, Hubspot has The Hustle, Microacquire has Bootstrappers.
Some of these are acquisitions –and that’s often the biggest use case for external media companies–, but some are built in-house, like Microacquire’s.
Now, let’s talk about the pros and cons of each alternative and how to decide which one is the best fit for your company.
PROs of Internal:
- Business Model: by connecting your media company to your core business, you create a tighter handoff from the attention and trust your content generates to inbound revenue. It’s also easier to quantify the impact your media company is adding to your core business since it all lives within one brand. This PRO is very meaningful as companies will be under pressure to demonstrate that becoming a media is a net positive, even if long term. Internal companies make that easier, especially in the early days.
An example, Slack has a great internal media arm – it all lives within Slack’s owned channels (website, socials, podcast, etc). If you consume Slack’s content, you clearly know how to take the next step: sign up for Slack. Consider Boostrappers, Microacquire’s media company: different brands, different names, different sites, different content channels, etc. What’s the next step after you love Boostrappers? It’s harder to know that it’s to sign up for Microacquire.
- Brand Equity: two plays here: 1) your core brand already has equity. By creating content under that brand, that equity is passed to your content as well vs. a new brand that starts from zero. 2) all the new brand equity that your media company creates is added to your core brand. And it compounds over time.
- Simpler Acquisition: if your goal is to get your company acquired, not having two separate brands but a more stronger core brand will be beneficial. It’s easier to see the value and see how the content reflects into the core business success than try to estimate the value that the external media company brings to the core business. We’re not M&A experts, but that seems like a logistical nightmare.
- Teams and Processes: if we talk implementation (this is assuming you build this in-house), it’s easier for the team to see everything under the core business brand vs two different brands. Operationally and logistically, you’re not breaking the team up. Culturally, you’re also not creating a divide.
PROs of External:
- Market Oriented vs You-Oriented: creating an external brand forces you to create content that the market cares about, not content you care about. Indie Hackers is owned by Stripe: Stripe’s content under the Stripe brand focuses on, well Stripe. But no one would consume Indie Hackers if they only focused on Stripe. If you want the external brand to win, you need to create content for the market vs for your own incentives, which ironically is a good thing.
- Creative Concepts: following PRO 1, if you create market-focused content, you’re also forced to be more creative content. You need to innovate on your content concepts, channels and avenues if you want to win that fight for attention, while internal brands are often under less pressure because they don’t live by themselves.
- Public Perception: because of PROs 1 and 2, the market perceives independent brands as less salesy and more unbiased – even if they know they’re owned by a core brand. Content under Makerpad is seen much more made for the market than content under the Zapier brand, which we all know it’s produced with the idea to sell us Zapier. Bootstrappers is perceived to be made for “the love of bootstrapped startups,” but if that same content was published under Microacquire’s blog, it’d be perceived as promotion for Microacquire.
- Risk Management: separating the brands means less compounding effect, but it also means that if the external media company brand doesn’t work, your core brand doesn’t take a hit. Not all your eggs in one basket or, in this case, a brand.
Which one is the best fit for you:
- they’re not exclusive – you can do both. Just because Zapier has Makerpad doesn’t mean they don’t have a content engine under the Zapier brand. Or Stripe. Or Outreach. Turning your B2B company into a media company has to be treated like a product roadmap (if interested in this, read this article). You want to consistently stack up new initiatives over time, which means internal and external should both be on that roadmap – just on different timelines.
- In most cases, we recommend starting by building an internal media company. It’s a lower hanging fruit and will produce more data-driven wins because of what we discussed before (tighter revenue model, more quantifiable sales pipeline, easier implementation, etc.)
- If you’re acquiring a media company to add to your B2B company, we’d keep that acquired brand as their own brand in 99% of the cases. Unless something crazy has happened (scandals, negative brand connotation, etc.), you’re acquiring that brand because it has the attention and trust of your market. You don’t want to lose that brand equity by bringing it internally and losing the original brand’s power.
- Go for external media companies when you see specific attention market gaps that are being undercovered and need a market-focused brand (Microacquire is a good example here). There’s an opportunity that you’ve identified that deserves a media company in a space that is somewhat-but-not-really close to your brand’s core business but you still want to win it – then go e
You should turn your B2B company into a media company. How you do it should be a tailor-fit process, and hopefully this article provided some guidelines and different alternatives for you to think about.
If you’d like to chat with us and get some outside perspective, we can talk here.
Thank you for reading. You might also like this article on how we see the world at Influence Podium.