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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Douglas Publications and the Big Time 

:: Folio Magazine : This Issue::

I've always liked Alan Douglas a lot, and it's great to see this acquisition happen for Douglas Publications. The Briefings products are good, and their marketing has been absolutely first rate.

It's interesting to see the new direction for Wicks Business Information, a company for which I also have a lot of respect. When it comes to corporate compliance, though, they're going to have to compete with one of my clients, Directors & Boards. Click over to the left to see the D&B website.

See you in the marketplace, Wicks!


Call #$@^ Reports 

If you’ve read our earlier screed about what’s wrong with b2b media, you may know that we dislike sales ‘busywork,’ like call reports. We’re not against keeping good client records—these help you understand your market, stay on top of commitments, serve customers and sell more. We just dislike doing reports for the sake of doing reports.

Here’s a question: if you’re an executive at a b2b media company which requires your salespeople to submit call reports, separately from their other contact management record keeping, when was the last time you bothered to read those reports? I thought so.

I've heard stories of one b2b media company which requires call reports. The company’s salespeople know that no one reads them. How do they know? They intersperse nonsense, jokes and flat-out obscenities into their call reporting, just to see if there will be a reaction. And there never is. It’s a colossal waste of everyone’s time—but at least the salespeople are getting a chuckle out of it.

So, some advice. If you’re not going to read the call reports, stop requiring them. If you still want call reports, read them and use them to help your salespeople serve their customers better. And figure out a way to make call reporting less of an interference with selling time. Most good sales contact management systems can do this automatically.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

New Corporate EVENT Magazine to Reach B2B Growth Segment in Event Marketing 

New Corporate EVENT Magazine to Reach B2B Growth Segment in Event Marketing

B2b events are so in, we've got b2b magazines created to show you how to do b2b events!


Monday, January 24, 2005

Buying Eyeballs 

The New York Times > Technology > Internet News Sites Are Back in Vogue

Interesting piece. More ads sold than pageviews available. So buy more pageviews! What's ironic here is that supply and demand is driving up the cost of acquiring pageviews for the publisher, not the client. Something seems slightly wrong with that.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Hey, Let’s Put on an Event! 

Some thoughts on B2B trendiness

Remember the rush to sell supplements to our customers? Everyone needed a supplement—a special publishing project designed just for them, offering a “pure” or targeted editorial environment. And we sold a lot of them.

Now, selling supplements is a bit harder. I have a colleague who told me recently that a client said: “If I get one more supplement proposal, I’ll scream.” I’m sure we’ll hear that scream soon.

And then there was that little rush to accommodate the Internet and to integrate that into the b2b advertising sales pitch. That’s proven to be more sustainable. But linking banner ads to print ads is no longer new and different—it’s considered de rigeur.

Remember reader service cards? Outbound lead generation? Advertorials? How about packaging research with the ad buy?

And now, publishers are rushing to get on the events bandwagon, because their advertisers have told them that they want customized or targeted events. And so we’ll see a big increase in these kinds of events. Some will be done poorly, and some will be done well, and most will be average. But they’re the cost of doing business in the b2b publishing world (and in the consumer publishing world).

I think media executives should be as creative as possible, and use that creativity to generate new and different ways for clients to reach out to readers, to connect the seller with the buyer. I’ve got no problem with that.

But I also think that rush to trendy add-ons, trendy merchandising packages, points to something more basic in the b2b value proposition.

I think we’ve lost—or we never really had—the solid argument for the value of b2b advertising, in and for itself. In my career, I’ve heard, hundreds of times, clients or agencies say some variant of “we don’t think advertising works.” It’s incredibly frustrating for those of us in the b2b world, especially when we sit across from someone who drinks a Coke, wears Nikes, carries an iPod, and uses a Sony laptop. Certainly advertising works!

What they’re really saying is that they don’t think business-to-business advertising works, or that advertising in your publication doesn’t work.

There are probably a number of reasons for this—too much competition for limited ad budgets, poor execution of magazines resulting in poor results for marketing campaigns, poor execution of advertising creative with the same result, and rampant rate cutting—which blows down the value of the proposition to begin with. If we’re willing to cut deals, we must know something’s wrong with the published proposition in our media kits, audit statements and rate cards, right?

And there are also structural issues in different markets. If your market has a few major buyers and a few major wholesalers/resellers who dominate, it is indeed difficult to sell the value of reaching the 30,000 “also-rans.”

But perhaps the real problem is that we listen to the argument that b2b advertising doesn’t work, and we buy into it. And then we try to cover up for it by gilding the lily.

That lily is gilded by adding a number of merchandising tools—value-added events, for example. We need to do it, of course, because our customers are asking for it. And we think we can grow our revenues at the same time. But at the root, we contribute to and continue to support the thesis that business-to-business advertising, in and for itself, is without much value.

I think we as b2b media executives should spend some serious time getting back to the basic value proposition of what we do. What is that proposition? We create a product of sufficient interest and value that it attracts targeted readers who are also buyers. We sell access to these readers to advertisers who want to reach them with their message and sell them products or services.

There are at least two points of failure in this equation: how many of us are creating truly great magazines (and soon, events) that readers demand and consume hungrily when they receive it? And second, how many clients generate advertising that works, that’s tested, that has a goal and is followed up on?

I hope to explore these questions more in this weblog. But for now, I realize that railing against what we’ve created for ourselves won’t accomplish much.

The key is to focus on what’s next. Events are hot now, and publishers should do them. But they won’t be hot for long, because publishers will overdo them. They won’t, eventually, deliver the value that advertisers are looking for. And they’ll irk readers/audiences who will be inundated with events of various quality and value.

So who will deliver the next cutting edge add-on? What will advertisers be clamoring for next as a value-add?


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