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Native advertising is the method in which content is integrated into a digital user’s experience with the intent of securing a sale. It’s the Pantene product that pops up first on Google when you type in the word shampoo. It’s Expedia’s advertisements that are interspersed on your News Feed when you update your Facebook status about a summer vacation. It’s what made me, a journalist and content creator, curious about selling content.
Native advertising and similar digital media strategies have become popular for many reasons including: budget cuts for print and/or broadcast marketing, declines of newspaper and magazine publication, etc. Content creation has changed and has sparked collaboration among traditionally separate groups, in new ways.
I sat down with our sales team at TMB Publishing to discuss how digital media has affected the trades’ relationship between publishing and sales. Diane Spangler, West/Texas/W. Canada Sales; Brad Burnside, East/Indiana/Western Michigan Sales; and Dave Schulte, Midwest/South/E. Canada Sales; shared insight on how their jobs have changed and will continue to change.
PE: Before we get into selling digital, can we backtrack and discuss your personal transition from solely selling print?
Spangler: The transition involved educating myself on metrics and the language used for digital; how to measure effectiveness and performance. Click through rates have probably been one of the biggest indicators for clients, so numbers are very important to justifying future sales. Understanding those numbers is just as valuable, and our webmaster at TMB Publishing has been instrumental in educating me over the years. Also, the monthly digital media reports [started in 2013] have been key in my client meetings. Selling digital space has been quite a different experience than selling print.
Schulte: At first, the transition was a little scary. With selling print, the model was always very traditional. But, selling digital was an added value offering to print in the beginning, and became part of the marketing message and mix. So, you had to educate yourself.
Burnside: I agree with Dave, you were talking to clients who were equally as knowledgeable as you were, in the beginning. So, it was, and still is, a much bigger challenge to sell digital than it is to sell print.
PE: With limited knowledge of digital media in the industry still being a factor, the big question is how do you sell it?
Spangler: The first thing I take into account is the most effective medium in reaching the client’s marketing goals. Selling digital, at this point, is usually an extension to further support a client’s brand awareness and print campaign. For instance, e-blasts and e-newsletters are excellent digital tools for clients to gain even more exposure because of their popularity in including the latest industry news. As the traffic on our websites increases each year, website banner ads also offer valuable exposure. Digital is definitely paving its way as another avenue for clients to consider when marketing.
Burnside: Companies need to have a balanced approach with their media budget. Granted TMB Publishing’s magazines are obviously the driving force for our offerings of information and industry news and products. But, it’s also important to note that we do get a lot of visitors to our websites. So, I encourage clients to have a presence there to balance out that approach and maximize their visibility.
Schulte: I say that digital advertising for our industry is probably best for product launches and promoting current campaigns that a client may be involved in. It helps enhance their brand that they are already pushing through the printed magazines. The extension works hand-in-hand.
PE: With TMB Publishing’s various magazine audiences, is there a difference in digital marketing for wholesalers versus manufacturers, contractors, engineers, etc.?
Spangler: Digital marketing is a part of the future, whether you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler, contractor or engineer. Yes, there are differences for each job title, so the value is unique for each segment. Recognizing how digital marketing can be utilized to the fullest will assist any job type in branding their business.
Schulte: I would say that engineers are very inclined to engage digitally with content in terms of white papers, e-newsletters and things like that. With contractors, you are impactful with social media because they’re inclined to be on their phones throughout the day.
Burnside: I agree that engineers are in the office on the computer, so they’re much more inclined to view the digital and social media.
PE: What best practices for digital sales would you like to share?
Spangler: Just to start engaging in conversations on digital and social media within your own company. It’s here. And, even though our industry may not be as advanced in digital media as other industries, there are excellent opportunities it offers to impact and increase brand awareness. At TMB, we strive to have our pulse on the latest cutting-edge mediums to meet the needs of our customers. So, we offer an array of digital products to support clients marketing efforts.
Schulte: I would say that you should guard against singling out any one marketing medium to convey your message. It really has to be a blended message. There isn’t one answer to go to market. The best ones do it across the board
Burnside: If a client says, “OK, here is my budget and dollar amount that I need to spend,” then I always tell them to go 80 percent print and 20 percent digital. Or, I have them tell me where they want to be with print first and then see where that leaves them for digital.
PE: What has been your experience with video as a marketing medium, including YouTube, Google Hangouts, etc.?
Schulte: One of my clients expressed interest in Google Hangouts because they saw it as an education piece to really show their own capabilities of what they offer their customers. They saw potential for it to be a better way to explain things, versus a white paper or case study. I think Google Hangouts will get bigger because I’m beginning to be asked what it is a lot.
Burnside: With Google Hangouts, it’s the visual aspect. People like hearing that it’s more engaging; that’s the hook. It’s unlike your traditional webinar where someone is talking at you on a screen. It allows for more people to have a conversation.
And, kind of following up on Dave’s education point, us doing YouTube videos at the AHR Expo this year was good for those not to able to attend and see it hands-on. It was a visual tool at booths where you got to see products up close. It was as close to being at the convention that you could have possibly been. I look forward to us doing more things like that.
Spangler: Some of my clients use company and/or product videos and have had great success with exposure. Also, there has been positive feedback on the videos we’ve produced at industry tradeshows, events and promotions such as, the editorial video, “The McNeeley View.” It’s been exciting to see the growth and popularity of the videos; it’s almost like we’re being viewed as a newsroom.
PE: The TMB Publishing sales team has been instrumental in digital and social media campaigns, such as sister publication Phc News’ “Today’s Truck.” How did you get clients involved?
Spangler: Relaying the facts and educating clients that the metrics and numbers are low in comparison to ROI. For instance, recently I had a client running an 8-month digital campaign of custom e-blasts and e-newsletters. The numbers seemed low at first glance, but they understood the market and felt there was weight to the numbers. It was a very successful campaign and they actually signed up for two more additional months.
Also, as I said before, just discussing the opportunities and values of being a progressive company by implementing social media is a great start. The challenge for most companies is manpower. But, even if they begin with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc., it’s a good first step into social media and the branding is free, so what’s there to lose!
Burnside: The biggest thing that I hear is that you need a dedicated person to monitor and send stuff out on social media. There was a lot of great feedback on the truck campaign. A lot of clients thought that it was a unique way of getting and delivering information in the magazine. We will definitely continue that, for sure.
Schulte: I agree with Brad, a lot of it is you need a competent day-to-day person managing the social media process. Companies are struggling to find that person.
PE: In the future, where would you like to see the industry to help you sell digital media?
Spangler: Once advertisers see value in digital media in our industry, then interest will increase to assist in selling it. There is still hesitation, and rightfully so. Advertisers want to place ads where they’ll be seen, so the digital era will largely depend on our audiences and their reading behaviors. Media is changing and it’s exciting to be a part of the progression that our industry has entered.
Schulte: With digital media, eventually you’ll start to be able to measure it more than you do now. The qualification process of that is going to evolve so much in the next five years, in terms of the ROI. ROI will be a focus unlike now where it’s more so just a guess. So, I think that will make our job easier. When it’s not a mystery and people can truly measure it, that will help convert sales faster.
Burnside: The thing about digital, in general, is the metrics. It comes up in almost all of our client conversations. Digital does help provide metrics, while when you look at print there aren’t really metrics so it’s more so just a branding vehicle. Clients know that with e-newsletters, website banner ads, white papers, etc., they can get hard metrics. We hope to see metrics improve with digital and even with print. There are companies that can provide metrics about buying habits, etc., which will help us gather print metrics.