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STUDIES: TRADE BOOK ADS HELPED BY MEDIA OPTIONS BUT BETTER TRACKING OF RESPONSE SOURCES IS NEEDED

By Published on .

The flood of alternative ways to interact with potential customers-online, via fax and toll-free phone numbers-is actually enhancing the effectiveness of trade magazine advertising.

That's the major finding of two studies conducted for Chilton Manufacturing Group, publisher of 15 industrial trade titles and a unit of Chilton Publications.

However, the studies also found marketers aren't properly tracking the source of these more-direct communications, leading to a false conclusion that trade advertising is losing steam.

PERCEPTION VS. REALITY

Chilton contracted with Martin Akel & Associates, Chester, N.J., to conduct the two surveys in June. In one, Chilton sought to measure how specifiers respond to advertising in manufacturing magazines. The other studied experiences marketers have had with responses to their advertising.

The results signal that marketers are suffering from a perception vs. reality problem that could lead them to make poor media choices, said Andrew Weber, senior VP at Chilton.

"There are all these different mechanisms that they have to track with fewer people, in most cases," Mr. Weber said.

The research shows that generating sales leads is the top priority for marketers, moving ahead of creating product awareness as the main reason to advertise.

TRADES MAIN SOURCE

Trade magazine editorial and advertising is still the predominant way buyers get their information, the survey says.

According to the survey, more than 70% of buyers look at trade ads 75% of the time or more, and 44% say they look at ads more frequently now than they did five years ago. Only 7% say they look at ads less than they did five years ago.

It also says that reader service cards-the traditional way of responding to trade ads-remain the No. 1 way customers request information from advertisers, with 42.2% saying they use these "bingo cards" frequently or very frequently.

Among advertisers, 49% say they are receiving more sales leads from bingo cards than they did three years ago.

But because customers often need quick answers, they're more frequently requesting information through immediate forms of communication-phone, fax and e-mail.

Toll-free phone numbers are listed on just about every trade magazine ad, Mr. Weber said. The use of fax numbers in ads has increased dramatically recently, and e-mail or Web site addresses are listed in about 30% of all trade ads.

Compared with three years ago, 61% of advertisers say they get more sales leads from these channels now, and 38.4% of buyers say they use these means more often.

MEASUREMENT INEFFECTIVE

That, Mr. Weber says, is where the problem lies: 90% of marketers track the source of bingo cards but, for the most part, they're not effectively measuring what generated the phone calls, faxes or e-mails.

For example, the surveys found only 79% of marketers say they track the sources of buyer phone calls on toll-free numbers. Meanwhile, specifiers say on average they're asked for their ad source only 25% of the time.

"[Toll-free] numbers are easy to track, but it's not something, we're finding in most cases, where the person taking the call is asking the inquirer, `Where did you find out about us?'*" Mr. Weber said.

As a result, advertisers are generating sales leads, but they don't know from where. That, Mr. Weber said, could lead marketers to make uninformed media choices.

Suppliers, he said, are throwing a lot of "naive money" at online marketing efforts.

"They're taking their eyes off traditional communication methods that do work," Mr. Weber said.

ONLINE SERVICES TRAIL

According to the Chilton survey, 33% of buyers are using online services or the Internet for business purposes. But the survey says magazine ads generate far more sales leads than online marketing, and the magazines leads are equal or better in quality than online.

For the buyer poll, "How & Why Buyers/Specifiers Respond to Advertising in Manufacturing Magazines," 1,000 names were pulled from the Chilton Engineering MasterFile to participate in the mail survey. There were 474 returns, for a 49.5% response rate, with 42 questionnaires undeliverable, unusable or received too late to tabulate.

In the supplier survey, "Response Trends Experienced by Suppliers to the U.S. Manufacturing Market," 1,137 managers working at companies that advertise in Chilton Manufacturing Group magazines were mailed questionnaires. Chilton received 329 surveys back, for a response rate of 29.9%, with 37 undeliverable, unusable or received too late to tabulate.

Mr. Reilly is executive editor of sister publication Business Marketing.

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