These days, Tellabs, a marketer of telecommunications equipment, runs a minimal amount of print advertising in the trade press. Instead, it publishes a custom print magazine called Insight, which George Stenitzer, Tellabs VP-marketing and corporate communications, likens to a 16-page print ad that he sends out quarterly.
Tellabs produces the publication with editorial help from Penton Media's ConnectedPlanet website. In addition to relying on Penton for production help, Tellabs wants access to the media company's audience. The publication is mailed to ConnectedPlanet's audience as well as the circulation lists of some other telecom brands.
Stenitzer wants to reach this broad audience, but he is also concerned about circulation. He craves granular, immediate access to decision-makers who are in the market right now for new products. He believes b-to-b media websites can identify these buyers through analytics.
“I can't figure that out, but you can,” Stenitzer said while addressing a room full of b-to-b publishers at the American Business Media Executive Forum last month in Chicago. “I wish you'd sell it to me. It's extremely valuable to me.”
It's nothing new for b-to-b marketers to want access to a targeted audience from their media partners. In a survey conducted this spring by BtoB, three of the top four reasons marketers gave for using marketing services from b-to-b media companies involved audience: audience reach, audience knowledge and audience composition.
What's different is that the Internet and analytics have enabled even more precise targeting, and now marketers are demanding access to even narrower audiences.
Tom Nightingale, VP-communications and CMO of Con-way, a trucking and logistics company, wants more efficient targeting from b-to-b media companies. “I want to work with trade publications that have a disciplined and rigorous focus on specific target markets,” he said.
Nightingale complained that he's seen too many trucking and logistics media brands expand their audiences rather than home in on a particular slice. “Content is king,” he said. “I have no argument with that whatsoever. It's when you're taking that good content and applying it to a bad audience that content becomes irrelevant.”
Zurich North America, which sells insurance to businesses, is addressing this issue by building its own audience of customers and prospects. To develop this database, the company has relied heavily on the trade press. Zurich uses b-to-b media brands such as Business Insurance (published by Crain Communications Inc., the parent company of Media Business), Harvard Business Review and Risk Management for generating leads through such techniques as webinars and white papers.
“It's far and away the most cost-efficient thing we did,” Jeremy J. Ahto, Zurich's head of brand marketing-North America, said of the company's webinar program.
It's a straightforward lead-generation program. What's changed in b-to-b marketing, though, is how a company such as Zurich is handling the leads once it gets them. Instead of merely handing them off to the sales department, Zurich begins a long-term process of engaging with the leads, serving prospects and customers a regular diet of content—usually in the form of e-newsletters. The company has itself become a publisher.
“When [prospects] sign up for [a webinar], then they're able to decide whether or not they want to receive a regular stream of management communications from us,” said John Parker, CMO of Zurich North America Commercial. “We find that those prospects are twice as likely to buy from us after that.”
In his job, Tom Kennedy sees the trade press from a variety of angles. He is director-marketing and communications at Republic Financial Corp., a holding company that owns businesses in a variety of markets.
In the waste and recycling segment, where Republic Financial owns Al-jon Manufacturing and E-Z Pak Manufacturing, Kennedy believes in the effectiveness of traditional b-to-b media. “Even with things out there like blogs and social media, I think the trade press is still the clearest path to your target audience,” he said.
But for some of Republic Financial's other portfolio companies, Kennedy avoids the traditional business press.
For instance, Nortridge Software Co. does a large share of its marketing via search, because it sells a horizontal product used in industries such as automotive or healthcare. “We've been getting more bang for the effort doing Internet search advertising as opposed to running ads in trade publications,” Kennedy said.
In the engineering market, Tom Varney, head of marketing communications at Siemens Industry, is a believer in the ability of trade publications to reach the target market. “We're doing a fair amount of trade advertising,” he said. “It certainly is a key element in our marketing mix. It's about lead generation. It's about thought leadership. It's about awareness.”
But trade advertising isn't the only way Varney promotes Siemens Industry. His business unit introduced an online game earlier this year called Plantville in which players vie to be the best virtual plant operator. The game has been a huge driver of leads, accounting for 45% of the traffic to the Siemens Virtual Answers for Industry websites, Varney said.
But Varney said the trade press played a role in the promotion of Plantville. Plant Engineering wrote the first story on the game, hours before a press release was posted. Varney saw the power of the business press as he watched traffic roll into the Plantville site from all around the world.
Ted Kohnen, VP-interactive marketing at marketing communications agency Stein+Partners Brand Activation, said business media companies usually deliver a targeted audience. “Running a webinar with media partners, I've always found the trade venue to be able to offer up a good level of granularity [with leads],” he said. “I've always been happy with that.”
But Kohnen said that many business publishers haven't moved far past the webinar technique and are not pursuing new audience-building opportunities in the mobile and social arenas. “My overall assessment of trade publishing is that it's been stagnant for the last couple of years,” he said. “I haven't seen as much innovation as I'd like. What can we do through applications, mobile—specifically for the iPad—and social?”
Business media brands, Kohnen said, should offer more advertising opportunities on the iPad and other mobile devices. He also said he doesn't see enough trade publishers offering opportunities for behavioral targeting or retargeting with online display ads.
Kohnen's not optimistic about many trade publishers beginning to embrace these opportunities before competition absolutely forces them to. “I think they're going to need a push,” he said.