When your aim is to get more tender enquiries, the most cost-effective technical sales promotion can be articles professionally written for trade and business magazines, and newspapers.
Some managers judge the success of their magazine promotion by the volume and calibre of a steady flow of written sales enquiries. Others boycott the trade press altogether, but in 35 years I have never found an industrial or commercial product or service which could not be efficiently promoted through magazines.
The key to drawing lots of good sales leads from the trade press is in co-ordinating your display ads with a structured programme of carefully written articles. The articles are called "editorial publicity". This slays the myth that the volume of useful enquiries is proportional to the size of your ad budget and/or the splendour of your ads. It is nothing of the sort. Display ads and editorial publicity have entirely different purposes.
Effective editorial publicity is relatively cheap. For example, my own articles have often produced over 80 good enquiries each, while the best ad-man in the land would be hard pressed to create an industrial display ad that cost the same and drew half as many enquiries per insertion.
Each month a handful of top journals in this country produce hundreds of written enquiries. Top journals in big overseas markets produce many more.
Define your objectives
A well-structured editorial programme needs clear objectives. For example you can aim to boost coverage of your organisation's sales message. You can highlight specific products and services as well as corporate successes.
You can boost your coverage in the leading journals reaching each of your target markets. And you can greatly increase the calibre as well as the quantity of sales leads coming in.
Editorials can readily test a wide cross-section of journals to find out which deserve close attention and paid support. Results on your desk are the best evidence to prove which journals are read and acted on by your biggest target customers, be they in Auckland or in Rome.
The next task is to establish a close liaison with the editorial people on the top journals. Each journal has a unique readership and each editor has a different style. Most top journals devote part of each issue to a particular subject and plan these "special features" up to a year in advance. Consider the merit of taking part in all relevant special features and compare this option with timing your publicity to best suit your marketing plans.
All your articles should be written to a very high standard. They must appeal first to the editors, as there is space for only about one-fifth of incoming material. Articles must also appeal to your target readers, and they must prompt action.
As with any investment, you will get the very best from your editorial promotion only by careful planning, trialling options and monitoring results. Keep a file of press clippings and note which ones led to worthwhile sales. Extra benefits accrue from direct-mailing your articles either before or after publication to selected key sales prospects.
Always send copies to your sales staff and dealers. Post the articles in your website.
Many opportunities for editorials
Don't imagine that editorial publicity is not for you because you have no new products and nothing new to say. There are dozens of valid opportunities for going into print - only one of which is the "launch" of a new product or service.
Because so much advertising is rightly held to be a waste of time and money, if not a rude affront to the reader, editorial publicity wins more credibility than display ads.
Most good editorial publicity programmes include a mix of illustrated news and feature articles. The illustrations should endorse the subject's main benefit. You should probably produce at least one article per year on each type of product or service that you sell, and one article relating to each principal. Save time and money by getting your principals to assist.
You can use editorials to find work for under-utilised resources, eg idle machines or designers, and to find better materials suppliers and subcontractors. Editorial publicity should be part of your corporate advertising programme to cultivate a better image with target customers.
What will it cost? Some firms have a go themselves and I have even seen managing directors fooling-about writing articles while big profit opportunities slipped away. An editorial programme should get part of your magazine promotion budget. In most cases the part would be well under half though I have seen it as high as 85 percent.
Editorials complement ads
Most journals get their income from paid display ads and it is essential to complement an editorial programme with display ads. It makes sense to support every journal which gives worthwhile results. A useful strategy is to produce a good corporate display ad and keep it running for some time with a structured programme of different articles.
Perhaps the main reason why so few firms have effective editorial publicity is the scarcity of skilled technical journalists with a flair for competitive copywriting. Our schools and colleges just don't turn them out. An engineer who fancies writing is no substitute, and an arts graduate is poorly qualified for the job. PR journalists are seldom technical. Sending your glossy leaflets off to editors just wonít do.
Among the most successful articles are case studies describing key details of projects completed and quoting the customer as well satisfied with your performance. Such articles can be reprinted as leaflets and used for many years as compelling sales tools.
Manage with great care
Bearing in mind that the difference in results between a poor article and an excellent one might be 100 prime sales leads, you should manage you editorial publicity with great care. I advise those who must economise, to do their display ads themselves rather than their articles, because with weak articles they have much more to lose.
Effective editorial publicity will raise an organisationís status and generate many sales leads. But before you crack the champagne be sure you are ready to handle them.
Some progressive firms instruct their advertising agency to intercept all sales leads and qualify them before quickly passing on the red-hot ones for action by top sales staff. That way, the agency can be sensibly judged by results, and sales staff can focus on the top prospects as of course they should.
Adapted from article first published in NZ Engineering News
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