When Bill Tobin, president of online flower shop PC Flowers and Gifts, told his marketing people to buy an ad on Counsel Connect, they were hesitant.
"They said, 'This site has only 46,000 members,' " said Mr. Tobin, referring to the number of lawyers registered on the site, run by American Lawyer Media, publisher of American Lawyer magazine.
But Mr. Tobin knew what he wanted from the targeted placement. "Any college-educated male who makes $50,000 above the average income is going to buy flowers. I think an ad on Counsel Connect is a laser beam into our exact demographics," said Mr. Tobin.
And that's just the message that trade publishers on the Web are trying to get across to their advertisers: By offering marketers access to a self-selected, narrowly-tageted audience one click away from a buy, business-to-business publications on the Web are a good place to put their ad dollars.
STILL AN UPHILL BATTLE
But making that sell to advertisers -- especially nontechnology advertisers -- is still an uphill battle.
"They simply hadn't included online ad buying in their '96 budgets," said Barbara Johnson, president of American Lawyer Media, pointing to the perception among many traditional print advertisers that Web site banners are not very effective.
However, she said, "Happily that's changing in 1997."
The reason, say advertisers and their agencies, is more innovative programs offered by online trade publications, better customer service and increasingly sophisticated tools to show advertisers exactly what kind of response they're getting from their placements.
"It's not about getting the lowest rate you can," said Jocelyn Griffing, manager of media buying at Modem Media, a Westport, Conn., agency that specializes in online advertising.
"I look for sites that have quality content, growing traffic, attract people interested in technology, and have sufficient ad reporting and tracking tools," she said.
LION'S SHARE TO TECH BOOKS
Because most b-to-b ad spending on the Web at this point comes from technology and telecom advertisers, high-tech publishers get the lion's share of Web trade advertising. C/Net, CMP Media's TechWeb and Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.'s ZDNet are among the leaders in this arena.
"These are real valuable people from an advertiser's perspective," said Ms. Griffing, referring to the technology professionals who make up the audience of these publishing companies. "There is no waste. These people are going to buy XYZ products."
But even marketers at low-tech companies are finding that advertising on the Web sites of trade books that serve their target audience has unique advantages.
"For us, it's easier to track and keep count of inquiries over the Web, since it's all done electronically," said Shan Kirtley, marketing communications manager for Ditch Witch, underground trenching equipment that is manufactured by the Charles Machine Works, Perry, Okla.
Ditch Witch has strategically placed ads on the Web sites of trade publications serving totally different markets but targeting key customer groups.
To reach companies that might want to buy or lease Ditch Witch equipment to lay underground cable, Ditch Witch advertises on the Web site of Telephony, a telecommunications magazine published by Intertec Publishing, Chicago.
A VARIED WEB BUY
And to reach those in the construction equipment rental market, Ditch Witch advertises on the Web site of Rental Equipment Register, a trade magazine published by Miramar Communications, Malibu, Calif.
"You can't hyperlink in a print ad," said Mr. Kirtley, referring to the ability for users to go straight from the Telephony site or the RER site (http://www.rermag.com) to the Ditch Witch site, where they can get specific product information they might be seeking.
"If we get them into our page from one of these magazines, we ask them to fill out certain information that helps us with profiling and qualifying," he said. While Ditch Witch does not conduct electronic commerce on its site, it passes the online leads to dealers.
PC Flowers, which does conduct commerce from its site, is selling flowers to lawyers coming in from Counsel Connect. Mr.Tobin won't say how many, but he says he's encouraged by the numbers. Enough to show his marketing people that he was right.