Catching Up With B2B Giant Questex’s Chief Commercial Officer, Kate Spellman

May 21, 2024

One of the highest-profile and most respected B2B media companies in the country is Questex, the New-York-based publisher owned by the private-equity firm MidOcean Partners.

The company operates in five business verticals, including wellness, hospitality, life science and healthcare, and technology. It’s always represented prominently at industry events and is viewed among the leading innovators, with a strong senior management team.

That includes Chief Commercial Officer Kate Spellman, who’s known for driving rapid growth in media and information businesses. Her portfolio at Questex includes a focus on product development and monetization in the fast-changing data, technology, digital, and events ecosystems with a commercial view on products and monetization.

Naturally, a chief commercial officer is closely aligned with all sales, including advertising, so we were fortunate to get a few minutes of her time and her insights on the state of the business. Here’s a transcript of our conversation.

Fox Tales: On your bio page on the Questex website, you emphasize re-imagining and reshaping the media enterprise. 

Kate Spellman: In our industry, there has always been a focus on channel—meaning digital versus events. Even within these channels there are further breakdowns—websites, newsletters, white papers, conferences and tradeshows. In reality, we connect buyers and sellers and should be looking at this holistically. Where can we serve the buyer the best way at the right time, delivering the right content in the right context, and ultimately connecting to the seller?

Fox Tales: Why is that necessary?

Spellman: Realigning the enterprise is becoming increasingly necessary. We own a database through events and have a relationship with a buyer, so it becomes optimal to build a year-round relationship. This relationship allows us to understand and build trending and intent topics that resonate with our audiences. We can take advantage of our data and serve the right content not only through media but through our events, attracting higher-quality buyers. It also makes sense from a business perspective. Media feeds our first-party database. The information that we can collect on our audience allows us to build more products and deliver more leads, directly impacting revenue.

Fox Tales: Where are the challenges and opportunities for the next five years? 

Spellman: The audience is changing. It demands a better and higher-quality experience both on and off line. AI is and continues to be an unknown. It’s a disrupter, one that I think it is exciting, but will definitely create chaos in our space.

We are already seeing this through changes at Google, which is leaning more towards engagement than page views. This is great for us, as it all sits in the Questex wheelhouse. It’s all about audience engagement. And content is becoming more and more important. Additionally, first-party data is increasing in importance with new compliance and privacy standards. This is an opportunity for us, as we own our data. It also allows us to build new products. Making the shift from selling a product to understanding and serving the audience is more important today than ever.

Fox Tales: You’re one of the most accessible media executives we know, and consistently offer your executives as speakers at events. There’s a fundamental communications value in that, from my perspective. Tell us about what drives you—and Questex—to take this posture. 

Spellman: Thank you, Tony. You make it easy by keeping the community and communication going. That makes a big difference. It is important to network and share because the environment is changing so quickly. As these questions point out, the only way we learn is to share our experiences as a community and hear other perspectives. One of the highlights of these events is you learn from senior executives, but also from the up and coming professionals. These perspectives are invaluable.

Fox Tales: You’re a major supporter of SIIA Media (as is CEO Paul Miller). What’s your take on the importance of an industry advocate/hub? 

Spellman: The industry needs a connector, and SIIA has been at the center of this. Both Paul and I believe it is critical that there is this connection in order to discover, learn and grow. SIIA offers thought leadership, policy representation specifically around compliance (so important for all of us), networking and connections, including vendors, that you cannot find elsewhere. It also allows for partnerships and acquisitions that move the industry forward.

Fox Tales: You’ve been directly involved in virtually all of the major transformations in B2B over the last decade: Brand studios. M&A planning. Transactions, post-sale integrations, lead-gen and enhanced marketing services, and fostering internal excellence and recognition. Based on all these initiatives and experiences, what are the essential forward-looking lessons for executive media managers?  

Spellman: I have! And it has been tremendous fun being a part of this incredible industry for so long. The industry is constantly evolving and it’s important to keep learning, be curious, take reasonable risks, look at the new technology and talk to your counterparts. Attend SIIA!

Fox Tales: Tell us about the importance of advertising, from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

Spellman: This is a great question and it’s something that we practice at Questex. We all know decisions are already made by the time the buyer is ready to engage. Advertising at the top of the funnel allows an advertiser to reach prospects via a wide network. The top of the funnel establishes your brand. Moving down the funnel with the right content and targeting nurtures customers with the right message in the buyer journey. New technology is allowing for more of a real-time connection during the buying process—through seeing what buyers are searching on and off our own sites. It is easier than ever to target the right buyers and finally get to the bottom of the funnel with client ready leads.