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IBM on advertising in e-newsletters

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IBM Corp. uses its own e-newsletters to build brand awareness and generate leads, but it also relies on placing ads in outside e-newsletters to reach those publications’ audiences. About 10% of its interactive marketing budget is spent on advertising in other companies’ or organizations’ e-newsletters that are directed at individuals at midmarket companies, said Christine Grasso Jacobs, program director of interactive marketing for IBM General Business Americas.

“It’s an affordable way to reach a targeted and engaged audience,” Jacobs said. “It also helps drive prospects back to our Web presence so they can find richer content on our site.”

Jacobs finds the right e-newsletters for ad placement with the help of SmartBrief Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based company that produces e-newsletters for many associations in a variety of industries, including health care, retail and telecommunications. Jacobs and her team also find many e-publications on their own through in-house research.

Jacobs offers the following tips for placing ads in newsletters:

1) Target your audience. Before scoping out the right e-newsletter, determine at the most granular level possible who you want your message to reach, Jacobs said. Determine if the prospects are decision-makers or influencers, and what department they work in—such as information technology or sales. Then scout for the best e-newsletters that reach those people within an organization, she said.

2) Find the right e-newsletter. Once you’ve identified the ideal reader, take a close look at the content of a particular publication and investigate its reputation before advertising in its virtual pages, Jacobs said. “A successful e-newsletter will get an engaged audience if its content is credible and interesting to the reader,” she said. “That’s where we want to be.”

3) Use targeted metrics to measure your return on investment. If you’re running an ad for awareness, look at click-through rates to your Web site or if there’s a response mechanism, capture the “hand-raisers” who express interest in more information, Jacobs said. “Then make sure you go back and nurture that relationship,” she said.

If you’re trying to generate leads, it’s important to capture data for sales staff to follow up on, such as the reader’s particular need and time frame for addressing that need, she noted.

4) Don’t be afraid to try new things. “The beautiful thing about online media, including e-newsletters, is they’re low-risk ways to test the validity of a particular tactic that could be part of an overall marketing program,” Jacobs said. “You can try something on a small scale, get some experience and, if it meets or exceeds your expectations, you can scale it up.”

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