Friday, April 14, 2006

Meeting recap: Research and reveal

The three panelists discuss how to conduct effective industry research.
By Jody Shee

B-to-B publishers no longer can merely depend on their print publications, trade shows and websites to earn the revenues they need in an era of shrinking advertising dollars. Given their expertise in the industries they cover, it makes sense to increase revenues by adding to and channeling that knowledge into sellable research, said a three-person panel at the April meeting of the Kansas City chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

Whether your publication conducts primary, editorially driven research or analyzes secondary research conducted by others, you can publish limited results in the magazine and sell a more complete hard copy or an online version, said Marjorie Troxel Hellmer, vice president of Cypress Research Associates in Kansas City, Mo.

One form of effective research is a brand usage and attitudes survey of the top five brands in your industry, Troxel Hellmer said. Magazines can ask their subscribers to rank the brands in several areas. In publishing the results, you may be able to increase advertising sales among those brands as you provide a service for them that they may not be able to do themselves.

Most of the 200-plus studies conducted by Prism Business Media in Overland Park, Kan., are primary editorial research projects to provide fresh content for the publications and to present at trade shows, said Lynn Adelmund, Prism’s director of marketing research. Much of the research benchmarks operations important to the trades the magazines serve.

For example, one magazine studies how much corporate marketers spend on coupons, point-of-purchase materials and other marketing methods, she said. Another survey studies salaries and another provides state-of-the industry studies.

Research allows you to create original content that may be picked up by the national news media and wire services, Adelmund said. It also provides information about your audience, which is compelling reading to them.

Additionally, primary research leverages your publication as the most important and authoritative source for information, she adds.

Expansion Management magazine published by Cleveland-based Penton Media has created an information and marketing niche by conducting annual research to help corporate executives evaluate future expansion locations. The magazine analyzes areas of the country for their middle-class livability, including school ratings, crime rates, home costs and traffic conditions, said chief editor Bill King.

While the research primarily is intended for the magazine audience, the company has found that by offering information about the research on its website, it gets requests for the for-sale information from other industries and families. This builds the audience and the revenues. “Revenue solves all problems,” he adds. King estimates that 30 percent of the magazine’s annual revenues come from research.

All the panel members agree that if you conduct primary research, whether driven by the editorial or advertising staff, it’s important to allow editorial to have a hand in it since they know the audience better than the advertising staff does. Adelmund offers this advice to editorial teams:
  • Include your research reporting plans to your annual editorial calendar to keep yourself on task.
  • Divide your topic study into segments to allow for fewer, more precise questions, which will encourage a higher response rate and will give you more areas of study.
  • Update your research regularly to provide a point of reference for comparing results from one study to the next.
  • “And when the study reaches a point of decline, stop doing the study,” she recommends.
And when you release new research, send an email announcement to your advertising base and the media with links to your website, to the study and to a press release, King said, adding that it’s not a good idea to attach a PDF file to the email as it is slow.

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