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Eight publications, one perfect marketing tool

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For business-to-business marketers, finding the perfect marketing tool is criticalÅ"but it can be ever so elusive.

To suit a marketer's needs, the tool must get across just the right message in just the right way. Then, it must reach the right people. Finally, the cost has to be rightÅ"not so low that it's too good to be true, but not so much that it breaks the budget, either.

In this issue, we honor eight publications as the Best of the Business Press, publications that marketers say meet all these criteria and more.

This is not to be confused with the American Business Press' Neal Awards, which honor publications for their editorial excellence. Those awards, which were given out at a ceremony March 4, look at one facet of trade publishing, albeit a critical one.

Our Best of the Business Press, on the other hand, focuses on several key areas of importance to our core audience, business-to-business marketers: editorial excellence, circulation, service to b-to-b marketing customers and the expanded opportunities they provide for those marketers.

And the winners this year: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Computer Reseller News, Control Engineering, Farm Journal, Fortune, The Industry Standard, Oil & Gas Journal and Telephony.

These publications target a diverse audience. Indeed, one media strategist commented on the fact that our list isn't dominated by high-tech trades. We chose to limit the winners in each category in order to recognize publications in a broader spectrum. While many high-tech publications are doing outstanding work, even more books are covering ``traditional'' business-to-business areas that all too often are overlooked in our zeal for the new and cool, i.e. technical.

Despite their disparate subject areas, all eight publications named in this year's Best of the Business Press have one thing in common: In a day of information overload, these publications stand out simply because they are embraced by their readers. Not only are they considered a must read, they are also a want-to readÅ"and that, for marketers, is a far more critical trait. It's a factor that cannot be measured by circulation reports or the price of a four-color page.

In fact, in discussing our Best of the Business Press picks with a media insider, I was told that one magazine in particular was so popular that executives hung on to it for dear life. ``I could walk out of their offices with just about anything,'' he said, ``as long as I left [the publication] where it was.''

That kind of loyalty, created through years of editorial quality and integrity, is priceless. (Believe me, an editor would kill for that kind of devotion from her readers.) Yet, for the price of an ad, marketers can buy into this mother lode.

While this kind of marketing tool is hard to come by, the fact remains that a tool is what you make of it. You can advertise in the best publication in your field, but it's up to you whether the readers will even bother to look at your ad. Your creative, your message, your whole marketing plan have to be the best you can possibly make them. A schlock ad will look even tackier in a high-quality editorial product; if your solution to that is to buy a lower-level publication, that's fineÅ"if that readership is really whom you're trying to reach. However, many marketers we talked to put cost third or even fourth on their list of criteria for making a media buy, adhering, I guess, to that old adage that you get what you pay for.

But just as you judge editorial quality, you should be focusing on your own efforts. Whether it's trade advertising or Web marketing or direct marketing or trade show efforts, the quality of your work is what counts.

The most critical factor in choosing a trade publication for an ad buy, marketers tell us, is editorial quality and integrity. Your work, no matter the medium, must be measured by the same standards. After all, if you buy, and read, a publication because you trust it and like it, your customers are most likely buying your goods and services because they trust and like youÅ"and they feel that way because of the message you send through your marketing, advertising and customer service efforts.

Part of this, of course, is judicious planning. You need to know who your customers are, and whether your list and the publication's list jive. Plus, you need to study editorial calendars to get the most for your money.

But when it comes to choosing the medium for your message, take a good look at the business and technology publications in your field. Once you've put your best efforts into your work, you need to place it with people who feel the same about their work. After all, you're not just buying space. With the right placement, you're also getting a lot of intangibles that, in the end, make up the perfect marketing tool.

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