Politico Pro endorses Salesforce, SteelBrick for subscription sales

After implementing lead-to-cash software, subscriptions for Politico Pro content jump from 1,500 to 2,200 during high-profile election cycle.

During any presidential election season, news media have plenty of news and talking points to dissect. But when an election cycle features two presumptive nominees as politically polarizing as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, online media companies better have a way to maximize on the uptick in viewers.

Politico, one of the nation's leading political news websites, wanted to maximize its growth during the election cycle, both with ad sales and with subscriptions to Politico Pro, the site's in-depth reporting on more than a dozen policy areas and specific state coverage, with more than 200 reporters working solely on Pro stories.

For the six years Politico has been offering Politico Pro, the site has been using Salesforce to help manage the subscription-based service, but the sales process lacked a streamlined approach for tracking the multiple types of complex subscriptions that were offered.

"We had separate price points for different types of organizations, discounts as you increase users and discounts if you added different products," said Thomas McGean, business operations manager at Politico. "All these factors were coming together and the permutations of offerings were difficult to manage via an Excel spreadsheet. It was kind of like the Wild, Wild West with our offers. We were looking to help manage these permutations."

About a year ago, as both the Republican and Democratic primaries began ramping up, McGean and Politico adopted lead-to-cash platform SteelBrick, which recently integrated with Salesforce, to help process the variety of subscriptions for Politico Pro.

In its first five years, Politico Pro amassed about 1,500 subscriptions, McGean said. In the past year since implementing SteelBrick's configure-price-quote software, the site added another 700 subscriptions, nearly half of its previous total from the first five years.

It was kind of like the Wild, Wild West with our offers. We were looking to help manage these permutations.
Thomas McGeanbusiness operations manager, Politico

"We can easily manage our product portfolio in Salesforce, and that's one less burden when going to market," McGean said, adding that with the policy nuance that Politico Pro reports on, it can't entirely be contributed to an election season bump. "On the Pro side, the election doesn't have a huge impact. But we are ramping up for a big election without an incumbent and we're trying to improve ad sales capabilities."

With SteelBrick, the process became more streamlined for Politico sales reps, according to McGean. Rather than using Excel to try to coordinate subscription rates, all the information on the customer was in the SteelBrick platform and created an environment where sales reps could find the best rate. The new format also allowed reps to apply discounts within a certain threshold that didn't require management approval.

"Now that managers weren't looking at every contract, they could spend more time examining the contracts that matter," McGean said. "Having those rates in the system and not just in Word really helps the sales person at the end of the day."

In an era where media companies are having difficulty monetizing online views, Politico looks at the quality of its viewers instead of the quantity. Started in 2007, Politico has only existed alongside the internet, which helps with the company's mindset when it's trying to attract new subscribers and advertisers -- which McGean outlined as the next goal using lead-to-cash software.

"Rather than the traditional [key performance indicators] that a media company would look at like impressions or page views -- those things are still important to us -- we're more concerned with who is reading our publication," McGean said. "As a result, we're able to turn around and say, 'Here are the people reading Pro,' even if we're not specific with names, we can provide a targeted customer profile. I love my mom, but I don't particularly care if my mom reads Politico. We're looking for influencers. We want to be able to handle the advertisement billing similar to how we handle Pro."

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