Making Marketing Services Pay


Author: Rebecca King

Word count: 560

Time to read: 2 minutes

Evolving and scaling a traditional media company into a true marketing services business model is hard work. But the rewards of pursuing that journey are becoming increasingly clear. You can not only create predictable, recurring revenue streams, but also increase the value of your business. 

For Collingwood Advisory’s 2021 Media Acquisition Report, we interviewed corporate buyers and private equity (PE)  investors. Businesses that are able to deliver true integrated Marketing Services have become essential to their clients’ marketing and business development workflows, and this type of business model has overtaken exhibitions over the past year in terms of attractiveness to a broader set of buyers. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the value of having an integrated, multi-channel approach to the solutions you’re providing to your clients. Creating an ‘always on’ suite of products enables you to secure additional client budgets and win new customers.

Marketing Services business models now sit only behind Business Intelligence and Subscriptions/Memberships, with valuations at between 6-8x ebitda for a Scaleup business, and 10x for those of platform scale (£3m+ ebitda), compared to 4-5 for a traditional publishing model. So there is a huge opportunity here to build value in your business. 

What do we mean by Marketing Services?

We’re often asked what we mean by Marketing Solutions or Marketing Services business models.  Fergus Gregory, Collingwood’s Director of Scaleup Advisory, explains that a highly valued Marketing Services business is a business that delivers services that integrate into their clients marketing and business development workflows in multiple ways. It’s more than providing a series of emails at the end of a lead gen campaign, more than sticking adverts in front of a few people, more than setting up a shell scheme. It’s about providing a much more holistic experience to clients, and in some cases it’s using your ability to engage your audience to create valuable insights so that marketers can actually plan their strategy. 

There are typically 2 types of business model in this area. The first are events and trade show businesses who are now investing in year-round digital audience engagement (which is increasingly being seen as a must have in the events space). The second are traditional digital publishing businesses who are delivering multi-channel digital solutions and have figured out how to create a data-led approach to deliver outcomes for clients. Both are very highly prized by corporate buyers who have historically spent a lot of money investing in trade shows. Bringing new skill sets, talent and approaches into their businesses is something they are now looking to invest in. So if you are embarking on the journey to Marketing Services, or have already begun, you are creating more value than ever before. 

Let’s be clear, this is not about becoming a marketing agency. Because the one thing that differentiates you as a Marketing Services business is the fact that you own the relationship with  your audience, and that is absolutely vital in order for your clients to get results. But looking at some of the behaviours, talent and approaches you’ll need for this transformation, you could learn a lot from looking at performance marketing and creative agencies and how they operate, and adopt some of that into your business model. 

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  • Why Transition?
  • The Skills and People to Deliver the Vision
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Rebecca King Rebecca has over 17 years’ experience in global B2B media as a marketing and project management leader. She works with clients to develop creative marketing solutions and advises on how to build, strengthen and future-proof marketing strategies and functions. Her expertise lies in driving sales, transforming teams, and embedding tracking and analysis to inform data-driven decision-making. Rebecca was previously Group Marketing Director at Terrapinn, where she spent 11 years and was responsible for marketing to multiple sectors in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas and APAC. Rebecca is Collingwood Advisory’s CMO and works with our clients as a ‘virtual CMO’.