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Trade magazines: Still a marketer’s best friend?

Marketing through trade publications is an important aspect of many business-to-business strategies. The publications have perceived credibility to increase awareness; position brands as thought leaders; drive referral traffic and garner high quality leads.

But what happens when readership of trade magazines decline?

We encountered a surprising new dynamic in a recent exercise. Inprela asked a manufacturing clients’ customers where they went for industry news. We were shocked at the collective responses to the question. Not one named a trade outlet, even after prodding more deeply. The only two sources cited were the internet and/or their sales relationship manager.

We don’t want to come across as overly dramatic. But at a minimum we were expecting a mix of responses with a few naming a specific industry trade publication or association. Nonetheless, the responses would seem concerning, given we’re a team of PR specialists.

But back to our original question: What’s a B2B marketer to do when they rely on trade media to reach their target audience, but the audience is no longer engaging?

This just reinforces the reality: Marketers can no longer solely rely on one channel to get in front of their target audience. Effective communications programs need a mix of owned, earned and paid channels. No, it’s not a new concept. However, we still encounter a lot of requests for proposals from manufacturing companies that believe they only need “traditional PR.”

Knowing when, where and how to deliver the right mix can be challenging. It requires discipline, focus and commitment on the audience—who are they, where do they consume information, what does their buying journey look like, what do they need to know? It seems simple, but a lot of corporate marketing teams don’t have the luxury of taking a step back and diving deeper into the buyer journey and messaging – the president needs results, and needs them yesterday! This is where outside agencies, like Inprela, can take the reins. While the approach is never one-size-fits all, here’s what we can tell you:

  • “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change” Trade media outlets are here to stay, despite declining readership. However just as companies need to evolve their approach to reaching prospects and customers, trade publications need to adapt to changing readership needs. Many trade publications, particularly in the design engineering space, are getting more sophisticated and are using marketing automation platforms to personalize content delivery to various audience segments. They’re also incorporating more digital channels to promote content to their readership.
  • Think beyond news releases and bylined articles When you strip things down, B-to-B PR at its core is about storytelling. And today, there’s an overabundance of channels and platforms you can use to tell your brand’s story and deliver valuable information to your prospective buyer. Of course, there’s still an excellent time and place for news releases and bylined articles, but now you have many more tools at your disposal. Consider how you may leverage your PR program in new ways using LinkedIn, email marketing, behavioral targeting programs, search engine marketing, etc… (we could go on, and on, but we won’t).
  • The vital life source of your PR program: Content Obviously, with the volume of channels and platforms to tell your story, it’s likely you are going to need more content. Not just any content will do. It must tell a good story and offer value to your audience. If you want it to be successful, don’t stop there. Gradually develop a content marketing program that includes a content strategy to deploy through owned, earned and paid outlets and quantify the program’s success.

Want to learn more about the future of B2B PR? Contact us at or meet up with me at the Masters of B2B Marketing Conference May 31 – June 2 by tweeting @Inprela.

What's your take? Do you find this to be true in your work, as well? Share your comments on LinkedIn, tagging @Inprela.

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