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Seven steps to success with B2B print advertising

In part one of this series on why local marketing matters for B2B companies, I talked about how to win at B2B marketing by capitalizing on the customers and influencers in your local market. A balanced, integrated approach is the best way to reap the benefits offered by focusing on your own back yard, and a key channel to anchor your message is still well-chosen print media that is focused specifically in your niche audience and rich in decision-makers.

You might be thinking that the representative of a media company with a print publication would be naturally inclined to defend the medium, but let’s take a step back and invert that idea: if print wasn’t still so powerful for readers – especially those with niche interests like local business news – BizTimes wouldn’t enjoy such a strong readership base; the highest print circulation, in fact, of any business magazine in southeastern Wisconsin.

People love print

Don’t take my word for it. A 2015 neuromarketing study by Temple University for the U.S. Postal Service has the data-driven proof. Neuromarketing methods track brain activity and other physiological responses to stimulus.

The study concludes that participants processed digital ad content more quickly, but spent more time with physical ads. Printed ads elicited a stronger emotional response and participants remembered them much longer.

Significantly, cites the study, “physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain (ventral striatum) that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.”

Maximizing your B2B print messaging

A single, sweating bottle of soda against a pure white backdrop might be all Coke needs to reinforce its already legendary brand identity, but that won’t work for most B2B companies. Your customers have problems to solve, growth to achieve and numerous priorities vying for their attention. You need to make the most of the time a potential buyer spends with your ad. Here are six things to keep in mind when crafting print messages for business customers.

  1. Focus on the why and what. The why is the benefit, the pain point relieved, the problem solved. Make it your headline, or at least a prominent statement. The what is the key features and applications that solve the problem. Keep the what brief, but don’t neglect it. People connect to information that addresses their concerns directly.
  2. Keep it short. Attention spans are dwindling in general, and that’s especially true in the business world. Use high-impact images, illustrations and bullet points, and resist the temptation to use every inch of space. Frankly, no one is going to read a manifesto, so don’t beg people to pass over your ad by making it dense.
  3. Let others say it for you. One recent study reveals that 79 percent of IT buyers seek peer recommendations in the purchase process and 82 percent of those do so very early in the buying process: it’s not a stretch to apply that number to other types of B2B buyers. In a print ad, keep it brief and encourage testimonial providers to be specific about the problem your company solved for them.
  4. Make a genuine offer. In sales, as in life, you can establish trust by giving something of real value first. A free evaluation, information resource (like a report or survey) or invitation to an upcoming lunch and learn provides opportunities for prospects to learn about your offer without the pressure to buy.
  5. Make it simple to connect. I don’t know of anyone who makes initial inquiries by fax or mail anymore, so save your limited print space by eliminating non-essential contact methods. Instead, make your phone number and web address prominent (tip: you don’t need “http://” or “www” anymore – people know) and consider including an email address, ideally to a specific person.
  6. Get out of your own way. You know your offer inside and out, and it’s tempting to dive right in with details. Resist. People who don’t know you yet are less interested in everything you do than in everything you can do for them. The time for product education will come if you lay a truly customer-centric foundation.
  7. Be consistent. Companies make improvements and solve problems on their own time. You can’t manufacture the need but you can be there when it arises, so follow an advertising program that reaches your target audience consistently. That way, when the time is ripe, it’s your name that comes to mind first.

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