How Hanley Wood Is Building on Data

For many years B2B media companies had the luxury of a business model that changed very little, says Hanley Wood CEO Peter Goldstone. “You sold a widget, the widget was a four-color ad page, and you sold it a million times. Or an event booth — you sold that a million times.”

But “the world has changed,” says Goldstone. And along with it, so has his company. While Hanley Wood remains dedicated to serving the residential and commercial design and construction industries, how it goes about that task has evolved.

This is actually Goldstone’s second stint at Hanley Wood. He spent 11 years with the company before moving on to serve as president of Government Executive Media Group, the B2B division of Atlantic Media. Goldstone returned to Hanley Wood in 2012.

In the handful of years that Goldstone has been back, he’s led a quick-paced transformation that put data insights and marketing services at the center of the company’s business strategy and brought in new talent to support this shift in focus. With the old B2B model turned upside down, print media and trade shows remain, but as components of a much more complex media marketing landscape, says Goldstone.

Hanley Wood’s data resources enable it to see future market trends and make more informed marketing strategy recommendations for clients. In particular, Goldstone says the company’s acquisition of Metrostudy, a proprietary data platform for the residential construction space, was a “game changer” for the company. Where a lot of publishers traffic in behavioral and demographic data about readers, Metrostudy gathers primary market data. “We have hundreds of researchers that drive up to 200,000 miles every quarter to look at over 36,000 building and housing developments across the country. From that activity we collect a lot of proprietary data in in the building environment.”

Data acts as the guiding light for setting media and marketing services solutions, says Goldstone. “That has transformed the company dramatically. Where we used to lead with media or trade show sponsorship, now we lead with data.” What sets Hanley Wood above a strict data company, says Goldstone, is its connection to the marketplace through its dominant media brands. The cherry on top, says Goldstone, is the marketing services competency the company has built into a $20 million-plus business. Those services include everything from long-term consultative marketing engagements and website development to lead generation and content marketing. Hanley Wood is even getting into data-as-a-service, providing database management services and helping clients align customer acquisition, media, marketing, and events strategies.

As Goldstone reveals here, a big part of Hanley Wood’s evolution required the infusion of the right talent to compete in a digital- and data-oriented marketplace.

What has been most rewarding and what has been most challenging about change for Hanley Wood?
It’s been 100% rewarding because Hanley Wood has always had a valued leadership position in the category and what’s really rewarding now is the new products, services, technology, and talent that we’ve invested in are starting to attract new customers. They’re relying on us not just for media buys, but for agency work, for content marketing, for data and analytics. It’s powerful and you can feel the customer relationship getting stronger. That’s really rewarding.

What’s been tough is coming to understand that we have to change, that the next chapter of the company shouldn’t look anything like the last. And that means you got to make really tough decisions. We went from 35 print magazines down to 15. We’re still generating 3X the amount of content because we are leveraging digital platforms now. But it forced us to rethink the talent equation and technology investments.

Denis Wilson was previously content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzed and reported on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aimed to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.