For Wolters Kluwer, a publisher and information services provider to professional organisations, the onset of recession has been a mixed bag.
While some of its customers have gone out of business, its CCH brand, which sells to accountants, has been doing relatively well. That explains why the company’s revenue growth was effectively flat (+2%) in the last half-year. But that is not to say it is business as usual.
According to head of management information systems Mike Turner, the recession is changing which products and services customers are looking for. “For CCH, customers are looking for information around bankruptcy and foreclosures. For [Wolters Kluwer’s other brand] Croner, which deals in health and safety and employment law, they are more interested in redundancy than growth and acquisitions,” he explains.
To pre-empt these changes, Wolters Kluwer analysed historical data from the last recession, using marketing analytics software from the SAS Institute. “Luckily, Kluwer has been around in various guises for 40 years, and we hoard data,” Turner says.
“We ran a series of calculations on historic performance to find out how our customers changed their product purchases going into and coming out of recession in the 1990s,” he explains. “We saw that we could expect our health and safety business with construction companies to disappear. But we also noticed that in the past they didn’t just drop us as a supplier, they looked for us to provide information around redundancy.
"We were able to provide some specific offerings, such as redundancy assistance helplines, to those customers, and we’ve had very good take-up,” Turner adds.
The insight might seem self-evident, but many of the personnel who were around in the 1990s are no longer with the company, and the detail provided by the analysis helps the organisation make concrete, ‘fact-based’ decisions, says Turner.