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Danskin Creative Communications

Don’t Overlook Proven B-to-B Media

While the deer hunter, with binoculars fixed to his brow, anxiously scanned the horizon two hundred yards away, a beautiful five-pointer buck passed forty feet to his right then turned back into the woods, undetected. We are solidly implanted in the age of information, constantly scanning the distant horizon for the edge that will bring success and visibility over the competition.

The key to real success in corporate marketing communication is not to let that ambition lead us toward more intoxicating frontiers while neglecting tried and true solutions. Although the Internet and other developing marketing technologies have proven themselves as vital avenues for corporate marketing messages, the good old trade publications still represent the high road to your industry.

Because the World Wide Web continues to shed its baby fat, while moving forward with steady progress, the trade magazines have found ways to mature, as well, in most cases, developing their own online periodicals. Some of this maturing may be due, in part, to on-line competition. Most of this maturation, though, is due to pressures on publishers to provide more focus and education to their readers and more meaningfully segmented markets for their advertisers. With these forces constantly working, trade publications will retain a role as a primary tool for communication professionals for the foreseeable future, with or without a more powerful Internet.

Unfortunately, some companies have never learned how to take advantage of the trade media. In fact, some industry leaders dedicate negligible resources toward paid and free publicity. Sad, especially when you consider that most of the trade press is friendly toward manufacturers and suppliers and encourages participation on many levels. Some companies go a step further backward – they believe that all media are out to harm them. So, they avoid providing any ammunition. If you are one of the once misquoted gun-shy, consider this: a trade magazine editor in chief must fill pages monthly, in most cases, with meaningful, useful information. This information is limited to industry related news items and product/service information and editorial.

As market segmentation has narrowed the focus of these publications the number of information sources has shrunk. The result is that most editors encourage and rely on manufacturer participation, even when it comes to editorial, more so than in the past. Perhaps you’ve avoided the trade media path because you’ve simply never taken it.

Well, the good news is that it is simple to blaze your trail and results will be seen almost immediately. Here are some basics that will make your venture down this path comfortable and profitable. 

1) Identify Potential Messages. First, you should build a list of important products/services that are of interest to key customers and prospects in your industry. For instance, has your company manufactured a new product recently, or have you discovered a new use for an existing product? If your industry is broken into several segments, list those segments and categorize each message with that/those market segments, appropriately. The editor will prioritize submitted news releases by how receptive readers will be to the information, so make sure your messages are vital to his/her readers. Putting yourself in the editors’ and audiences’ shoes will help you determine what information warrants submission.

A good rule is to be more inclusive than exclusive. Simply keep in mind that editors are busy and receive piles of submissions every month. You don’t want to alienate editors who perceive your company submissions as frivolous.

2) Choose your media. The second step is to identify the key trade publications that serve markets in which your products or services are sold. List the top
three to five publications that serve each of those markets. This can be accomplished by surveying contacts at trade associations, or ask a few key customers which publications are most often read in their offices. Then determine the circulation (readership) of each magazine. Utilize the internet to obtain the telephone numbers of editors or circulation managers from which to order a media kit and complimentary subscription to the magazine (Warning: once you contact them, you will be receiving a call from your local advertising salesperson). Build a file containing this information. Another option is to subscribe to Cahners’ SRDS, which provides comprehensive information on these magazines, including key editorial and advertising personnel, editorial content, advertising rates, circulation, and special editions of all audited business publications, organized by market.

3) Write the News Release. If you don’t have access to a public relations firm, or marketing communications professional, a competent business writer will have to do. Two to three paragraphs for each news release are usually sufficient for getting key product/service characteristics across to the reader. Don’t include every detail. Editors will help to format your information before publication, so don’t fret.

Utilize a journalistic style, such as inverted pyramid, mentioning the most important information first, and then getting into more detail as you continue the news release. Be sure to include your company name, name of the contact person at your company, telephone, email and Web addresses. You can write a headline if you would like.

If you write the release to be published in a special section of the magazine, indicate that location above the body of the release. As an example, you could write “”for New Product Spotlight section.”" It is also very important to be consistent in your format – editors will begin to recognize your company’s news items.

4) Acquire Product Photography. Product photography taken for sales literature, advertising, point-of-purchase displays, trade show graphics, etc., can serve as an able ambassador for your written news releases. If your product has unique visible features that are best communicated by pictures, being published is much more likely if a photo of your product accompanies your news release. Most publications accept slides. However, a few still require prints, and the trend is toward electronic submission (jpeg. or tiff. files). You should be able to uncover the editor’s photography requirements within the magazine’s media kit, which should be available by mail or on-line. Otherwise, a quick call to the editor or assistant is necessary.

Finally, it is beneficial to review your complimentary magazine issues to get a feel for the quality of competitors’ product photography that is being published. Your photography, if at all possible, should match or exceed that quality level.

5) Follow up on your submissions. Editors don’t usually mind a friendly call to discuss your submission. They may not immediately recall reading the release – it may take two or three months before they get to it. Then, it is usually another month of production and printing before the magazine finally hits the street. You can see why patience is a necessity. Another good reason to call is to ask the editor specifically what articles he/she will be looking for in the future. You may uncover opportunities to participate in future features. Once you’ve opened a line of communication, don’t be surprised if the editor calls you occasionally.

6) Measure results. The final step is to scan the key publications for your published news releases. You won’t be able to avoid this meticulous step. However, you will get the hang of where to locate any published information after scanning a few issues of each magazine. Over the next few months, you will also be receiving response cards (a.k.a. bingo cards) from the magazine for readers who have requested more information about your publicized product or service. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for you to respond to these inquiries in a timely manner because they don’t show up until 2-4 weeks after the readers mailed it to the publisher, who input the date and sent out a lead sheet with mailing labels. This is why I suggest listing your web site or email address for those who require more information. Not all publishers will print this with your information, currently. Eventually, all will.

7) Report your successes. It’s hard enough to get support for a reasonable marketing communications program from most organizations. Do not forget this final step. Create a brief report depicting the fruits of your labor, i.e., what and how many publications ran the information you submitted, what are the markets and circulation of those publications, how many leads did each publication generate.

It is important to recognize that the landscape of trade media is changing along with the electronic age. As a marketing communication professional, it is important to take advantage of the right media at the right time. As the internet and other electronic marketing opportunities develop, your marketing strategy will necessarily evolve. For now, however, the trade publications remain a vital avenue for communicating the value of your company and its products. Utilize them well and often.

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