Does Trade Advertising Work?

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Trade advertising is still a staple of new leads for many businesses. Year after year, many companies return to the same journals, the same trade shows, the same exhibitions. No one is pretending that trade advertising is cheap – hard copy print adverts and advertorials can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds – but they do get your phone ringing. But is it the best way to spend your money? Does trade advertising really work in the way it used to, now there are so many digital marketing and advertising methods available?

In this article, we take a look at trade advertising and also how else you could be spending your marketing budget in the coming year.

Arguments In Favour Of Trade Advertising

Advocates of trade advertising for B2B marketing make the following case in its favour:

  • A trade audience is self-selected to already be interested in your product. In marketing terms, readers of a trade journal are therefore considered to be a warm audience, with a greater receptivity to your messages and a greater intuitive understanding of the value of your product.
  • The circulation of a trade journal is small, compared to the huge audiences of online advertising, allowing you to target your adverts more effectively.
  • As your content can more readily be tailored to the audience, trade advertising is arguably more cost-effective than other methods. You may spend more upfront, but the potential ROI is greater.
  • Within a trade journal there will be a fairly small pool of advertisers, meaning less competition for your business and a greater chance of your advert standing out.

Trade Advertising Vs Digital Marketing: Is The Right Comparison Being Made?

There are thousands of niche trade publications out there, so these points may well hold true for some of them. You have to look at the figures for your particular industry. However, a question that sticks out in our mind is what are they comparing these results to? A comparison is often made between the ROI from trade advertising and digital marketing, but the model of digital marketing used for comparison is something from the early 2000’s. The implied digital marketing model would involve a shotgun approach, blasting out a very general advert to an undifferentiated market.

This is definitely not how digital marketing works in 2017, so the comparison doesn’t really stand. If anything, contemporary digital marketing techniques allow greater prospect management, greater niche focus and greater message targeting than any trade publication.

Facebook Adverts & Trade Advertising

Let’s take Facebook advertising as a very quick example. When you publish an advert on Facebook you don’t launch it out to all 1.5 billion Facebook members and hope for the best. Instead, you use a series of metrics to fine tune your audience by location, job title, demographic, industry and so on, until you have a very small market. It is quite common to send a highly targeted advert out to just a few hundred people, if not fewer.

Now let’s compare this kind of targeted digital advertising with trade advertising. ‘Trade Journal A’ has a circulation of 500 readers. They charge you £750 for a half page spread and an advertorial, from which you get three successful leads, netting you £10,000 of new business. Not a bad ROI you might say. Now let’s hypothesise a Facebook advert campaign to a tightly selected audience of 500 industry prospects. You can customise your advert to appeal directly to their needs and Facebook will only charge you for each click. So if you only get three clicks, you will only end up paying a few quid. If you get the same number of conversions from your Facebook advert as from the trade journal, you may still net £10k of new business, the difference being that your ROI is astronomically greater. Plus a Facebook advert campaign can be set up in minutes. You don’t have to worry about editorial deadlines, paying for graphic designers and so on.

This is a very simplistic example of course, but it shows the kind of scales that we are dealing with when digital marketing is used effectively.

Expand Your Marketing Horizons

Trade advertising is great if it works for you, but it is worth re-evaluating your marketing spend from time to time to find out if other channels could give you a better ROI. The litmus test for any growth strategy is the return you get. How many leads and conversions can you get from trade advertising compared with, say Google AdWords, or organic SEO? For a value driven business growth strategy tailored to your business, get in touch with one of our JDR business growth specialists today.

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