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The Vital Investment
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Magazines are at the centre of the array of business-to-business (B2B) media available for advertisers to communicate with their business customers. They are the vital investment, able to stand on their own or to be the core around which a multi-platform campaign is planned. A large body of evidence has been built up over the years to describe magazines’ contribution with more precision, and to demonstrate the strengths of the medium. This report, commissioned by PPA, gives an overview of B2B research in the UK. It sets out an account of how business-to-business magazine advertising works, substantiated by the research which supports this picture.
The report’s 20-point Summary is reproduced in full below.
1. B2B magazines earn their position as the vital core marketing investment for companies promoting their products or services to businesses. Other media can often perform a fruitful role within the media mix, and the internet in particular is rapidly establishing itself as a valuable complement, but it is the printed page of the business press which is outstanding in its capacity to serve as the foundation of a B2B campaign. This report aims to demonstrate why.
2. Most significant purchasing decisions involve decision makers in more than one job function. The more complex decisions usually involve a substantial team and a series of stages. Marketing campaigns need to reach all these types of decision maker.
3. The information that decision makers need varies from one job function to another. Each person has both broad industry-wide and narrow job-specific information requirements. B2B magazines have shown that they can meet all these needs. The business press serving any sector contains something important for every reader, whatever his or her role, discipline or seniority.
4. A central function of business magazines is to enable readers to keep in touch with their own industry or profession in a general overall way. Readers use the magazines to find out what’s going on, and often say they couldn’t work properly without business magazines.
5. The other core function of business magazines is to keep readers informed about highly specific job-related topics of particular interest to the individual reader. The kinds of topic mentioned in research include technical information, new products, information about prices, company news, sales leads, people in the industry, legal updates, the state of the job market, and so on. Few readers are equally interested in every one of these, but almost every reader has one or more kinds of must-have specific information which the business magazines provide. While much of this must-have information is supplied by the editorial content of the magazines, some of it comes from the advertising.
6. Almost everyone reads at least one business magazine regularly. B2B magazines reach all the different levels of decision makers within the purchasing chain. This is achieved through both industry-based ‘vertical’ titles and/or discipline-based ‘horizontal’ titles. Moreover the magazines’ readership is tightly targeted, concentrating only on the defined industry or profession each title serves. This makes each magazine a well focused and relevant editorial product which readers value, and which therefore attracts a high quality of readership.
7. The magazines tend to be read in a reflective relaxed frame of mind - either during time taken out from the stresses of the working day, or at home or while travelling. The reading occasions are typically moments of enjoyment. This is an excellent context in which to absorb advertising messages.
8. The fact that magazines are printed on paper brings many advantages which readers value. Users appreciate being able to dip in and out, at moments of their own choosing, to scan each page in their own way, and to carry the publications about. They find their magazines comfortable to use, flexible, and responsive to the reader’s needs. Readers feel in control – and like it.
9. B2B magazines are well read. Many readers loyally read every issue. Even within a busy week, a considerable time is spent reading the magazines. Some readers have a particular feature to which they are always keen to turn first when a new issue arrives.
10. B2B magazines are regularly shown to be readers’ No. 1 information source when comparisons are made with other media. In rankings featuring B2B magazines, national newspapers, the internet, direct mail, conferences, exhibitions, television and various other media, B2B magazines consistently emerge in first place, usually by a wide margin. This applies whether the criterion is regular usage, thorough coverage of your sector, news of product launches or new suppliers, jobs, useful advertising, or a summary measure such as helping you to do your job better, or overall usefulness in your work. In these and many other respects, B2B magazines achieve the highest scores.
11. Successful magazines become brands in their own right. Their names stand for authority and trust. Some attain “almost ‘biblical’ status”. The brand values can be transferred to other media or products, such as websites.
12. Websites have rapidly established themselves as the second most important B2B medium overall, after magazines. Decision makers perceive these two media as complementary, each enhancing what the other can do on its own, but with the web in a clearly supplementary role to the magazines.
13. There are two very different ways in which B2B magazines and websites work together. There is a sharp contrast between publishers’ own websites and the advertisers’ websites. Publishers have used the internet in order to extend their editorial offering and product range - introducing archive retrieval, supplementary editorial, e-commerce, electronic newsletters, etc. The sites are also used to expand the publisher’s audience beyond the print audience by creating online users who are new to the brand, to sell subscriptions to the print title, to provide added-value for print advertisers by offering web advertisements as part of a package, and so on.
14. B2B magazines and advertisers’ websites work together in a quite different way. Magazine readers can use the URLs published in the advertisements to go straight to the advertiser’s website and obtain the latest product specifications, prices, contact details and other kinds of information. The magazines have become great drivers of traffic to advertisers’ websites. To the advertisers, these are all genuine sales leads. The web has significantly enhanced B2B magazines’ already impressive ability to generate sales leads. While for some titles the readily visible sales leads from reader response cards may have declined because of the web, this decline has been more than offset by the less visible new stream of leads via the web – even if many publishers are not yet measuring this harvest of electronic sales leads. Nevertheless there is evidence that ‘read and click’ has already become the biggest boost to a publisher’s ability to deliver sales leads for advertisers since the invention of the reader service card.
15. Since business magazines are so targeted to the readers’ specific industry or profession, the advertisements in them are also of great relevance to readers. They are widely considered by readers to be more useful than ads in other media, including the web – and easier to read too.
16. A survey of advertisers’ attitudes to B2B media of all types showed that not only were magazines the most heavily used medium but also they were regarded as the most useful. Magazines were usually the first port of call when selecting advertising media. The main reasons were that they provided the most suitable environment for the advertising, were best for reaching the right audience, were an established marketplace for the advertisers’ own industry, were the most effective medium for raising the image and profile of the advertiser, and generated the most interest among colleagues and customers. They were also regarded as the best value for money, with the exception of direct mail. In addition there was a widespread view among advertisers that their target audience is at its most receptive when reading their B2B magazines.
17. High levels of activity are sparked by seeing advertisements in business magazines. Activities include going on to the advertisers’ websites to find more information, looking elsewhere for information, cutting out ads and/or discussing them with colleagues, contacting sales people, and making purchases.
18. Advertising in business publications builds brand awareness. The greater the weight of advertising, the greater the awareness is likely to be. The greater the awareness, the stronger the brand preference tends to be among those exposed to the advertising. Good advertising can also enhance the target group’s perception of the brand’s quality.
19. There is also powerful evidence that advertising in B2B magazines creates sales and profits. The more the advertising pressure, the greater the sales and profits.
20. It pays to continue advertising during a recession. Those who do so tend to enjoy increased market shares when the recession ends, whereas those who reduce or cease advertising in order to cut short-term costs tend to lose share. The benefits of maintaining advertising spend in an economic downturn occur as early as the recovery phase and continue when good times have been resumed.