Some evidence print advertising can excel as a direct marketing vehicle

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In an era when proving marketing ROI is of paramount importance, it's no secret that many doubt the effectiveness of trade publications.

“Magazine advertising has this reputation that it doesn't work anymore,” said Paul Feldman, publisher of InsuranceNewsNet, an insurance industry trade publication.

But a recent campaign in Feldman's magazine indicates that readers do respond to print advertising. Matt Zagula, president of ZK Consulting, who helped create the successful campaign, argues that not only do business magazines work for advertisers, they have the power to outperform direct response mechanisms such as direct mail or the Internet.

As proof of his argument, Zagula points to the advertisement he worked on for Advisors Excel, a company that helps financial advisers market insurance products to their clients. The ad ran in InsuranceNewsNet and generated a better than 2% response rate, Zagula said.

“It just killed,” Zagula said.

In the January issue of InsuranceNewsNet, Advisors Excel ran a full-page ad and a four-page insert that offered a free book co-written by Zagula and noted direct marketing guru Dan Kennedy. The book, “Creating Trust,” offers advice on how to defuse a potential prospect's skepticism regarding the financial and insurance sector.

With the ad, Advisors Excel hoped to build its prospect list of financial advisers. It also hoped to attract some of them to an event it was hosting.

Zagula initially chose InsuranceNewsNet, because he thought the circulation of 50,000 reached the target market: financial advisers who sell insurance products to their clients. Zagula also believed that the editorial was a strong fit.

Additionally, he liked the consultative nature of the publication's business-side team, which suggested that, in addition to the page ad, Advisors Excel run an insert. The InsuranceNewsNet sales teams also recommended Advisors Excel include a 24-hour 800 number to collect responses in addition to a landing page on its website.

Zagula said the insert and the direct response copy made the magazine advertisement function essentially as a direct marketing piece. The insert, he believed, helped the ad's performance. “The magazine fell right open to that page,” he said.

The combination of the ad and the insert generated 1,184 leads. About 300 of these came in via the 800-number. About 60 also attended the Advisors Excel event, Zagula said.

He added that the respondents offered more than simply their name or email address. They also supplied their mailing address, the amount of money they had under management and other critical data.

Running an insert, Feldman said, “is the cheapest way to do direct mail.”

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