Custom Publishing Drives BTB Traffic

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At least five business-to-business companies are looking to offline custom-publishing pieces to drive traffic to their Web sites, according to Penton Custom Media, Cleveland.

One such company, Ansys Inc. a developer of simulation software in Pittsburgh, signed with Penton to create a 36-page quarterly magazine. The goal of the piece is to drive users to the company's Web site to build its consumer database.

Many of the products developed by Ansys are sold through middlemen, giving the company little direct interaction with its customers. The custom magazine is a way to reach these end users. "We needed to refine our database. One of our big goals was to get back to our end users to give them our message, find out who they are, what industry they are in and what their needs are," said Barbara Pearson, manager of corporate communications at Ansys.

Custom publishers produce a magazine or newsletter on behalf of a specific company or organization to build customer loyalty or relationships, or drive more revenue. The Ansys publication includes case histories, product updates and opinion pieces about trends in the market.

Recently, custom publishing has blossomed into a more than $1 billion industry, according to a survey conducted by Wilkofsky, Gruen Associates Inc. for the Magazine Publishers of America, New York.

"There's definitely a trend where people are recognizing that print and the Web really need to work together," said Ellen Romanow, co-chair of the MPA custom publishing council, New York, and senior vice president at CIO communications, Framingham, MA. "Typically what we find on the BTB side is that people don't necessarily know about a particular company's site because the typical BTB site is very product oriented. Unless a person is looking for their specific product these sites wouldn't come up in a search. Custom publishing is a way of driving them to that site."

The effectiveness of publishing can work just like any other direct marketing piece, according to Joe Pianecki, director of sales and marketing at Penton. "You can measure response through reader service cards, put a special offer in the magazine only or provide the URL to an address that you can only find out about through the publication.

"Once you get somebody online you can ask them to register, then you can continually get more information from them. Often times resellers will not give up information or aren't equipped to gather or don't want to gather customer information."

Some popular consumer Web sites that began producing print magazines may have paved the way for the BTB market. eBay, and Yahoo produce magazines and recently announced it would launch a print endeavor. "The consumer sites really got the publicity, but you'll see more and more business-to-business sites [creating publications] as well," said Romanow.

The Ansys publication goes to 25,000 engineering analysts, design engineers and other select professionals around the globe. The list was derived from subscribers to a number of Penton's technical publications and from 15,000 customers addresses Ansys had collected. According to Pearson, it may expand its circulation by purchasing additional lists from Penton.

The issues are considered part of a trial offer and readers are encouraged to register for a subscription on the site. The Web site address is listed on each page of the magazine. The company uses GoldMine to manage its database.

More and more companies will move toward this type of marketing, according to Pianecki. "Some of the outlandish things companies are doing can work in a local market and can be good guerilla marketing tactics," he said. "But, ultimately they will have to develop some kind of sustained strategy. The dot-coms that survive will have to figure that out fast."

Romanow agrees. "Companies are realizing each medium has its own strengths and you have to use them in different ways," she said.

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