Advertising In The Training Trade Magazines: 10 Do's and Don'ts.
Trade magazine advertising may or may
not deserve a place in your training business marketing mix.
But you'll never know unless you can come up with an effective
ad in the first place.
So here are some do's and don'ts to
improve your odds.
- Do measure every ad insertion you
run. If your goal is to generate qualified sales leads,
then measure the cost per lead compared with other lead
generating options like direct mail, trade shows and Web
banner advertising. As a rule of thumb, you can justify
trade advertising if a lead costs you no more than 2x what
a direct mail lead costs -- because you are reaching an
expanded market universe. On the other hand, if your trade
ads consistently pull poorly, don't continue to advertise
based on warm and fuzzy hopes that you are increasing "awareness"
or "mindshare" (unless you are able to measure this and
equate it to increased business). You are just kidding yourself
-- and padding the pockets of your friendly ad salesperson.
- Do test different audience appeals. Single out three or four powerful benefits your product
or service has to offer the training community, and come
up with a strong "promise" headline and supporting ad copy
behind each one. Then test each promise ad in consecutive
trade magazine issues to determine which benefit to throw
the weight of your budget behind. If you have a limited
budget, test in small space or in the classifieds section
(being certain each ad is the same size and in approximately
the same position). Don't try a full page ad until you know
what works best.
Of course you can also test various
promotion appeals through focus group research simulations.
But if you're mainly concerned about the "whats" your
audience is interested in -- and less concerned about
the "whys" -- then an ad promise test can be both cheaper
and more reliable.
- Do consider offering a premium. No, not coffee cups or tee shirts. Offer a premium that
provides an unselfish service to the training audience you
are trying to cater to -- while implicitly witnessing to
your expertise. For instance, if you are selling supervisory
training you might want to offer a self-scoring supervisory
needs assessment. If you are selling course authoring software,
you might want to offer a research report on what leading
companies are spending to develop an hour of technology-based
training. If you do go with a premium, don't bury it at
the bottom of the ad as an afterthought -- sell it in the
- Do take off the gloves and compare
yourself to your competition. Especially when you're in
a mature, highly competitive niche -- like training management
software, NT certification or customer service. Don't waste
space pontificating about commonplace features and benefits.
Speak to how you're unique in a way that's important to
your training audience -- and prove it.
If you're not certain how best
to competitively differentiate yourself, drop everything
and make this your No. 1 priority. You don't want your
salespeople as a loss for words when a prospect says "And
why should we choose YOU?"
Finally, don't just think of comparative
advertising in terms of knocking the competition. It's
also a highly effective way to go if you have an esoteric
training offering (e.g. "Hypnotic Suggestion Skills")
and are looking to position it in the context of a more
established training category, say, sales training.
- Do understand the needs of your
training audience, and speak to them in your ad. Human resource
professionals crave trainee appreciation, management recognition,
bang for the buck and a career-enhancing reputation for
innovation. They want to bless and control all of the training
everyone in their company participates in and contribute
to every important corporate initiative. They seek opportunities
to demonstrate their own expertise and contribute in a personal
way to the learning design and learning experience. They
don't want to be the victim of a technology dead end or
a flunky for a vendor-centric solution.
Unfortunately, most ad writers
haven't a clue what's on the mind of training professionals
-- and the ads they create show it. Be sure your creative
people are thoroughly briefed. Better yet, invite some
of your training professional customers to your next advertising
briefing session, and ask them to share what's on their
- Do consider "bandwagon" advertising
if you have the opportunity. No training professional worth
their salt wants to be left behind as their peers climb
on board an exciting new training breakthrough. Just be
sure your "breakthrough" claims are supported by facts,
not hyperbole. Years ago we ran a sales training ad that
went like this" "In just six months, 247 of the Fortune
500 have switched to our new scientific system of selling.
Shouldn't you find out WHY?" We were inundated by 1000s
- Do consider
product or service testimonials. Especially if you can get
your client(s) to witness to a product performance attribute
that's of crucial concern to the rest of the training professional
community. Yes, it helps if your client is a blue chip with
a reputation for innovation and best-in-class practices.
However, don't just name-drop or reference a boring, client-unique
or industry-specific case study that no prospect organization
will identify with.
- Don't bother with "people count"
advertising or other bleeding heart, holy crusade approaches. It's called preaching to the choir. Training professionals
may be altruistic (face it, we all are or we wouldn't be
in this business!) but they're reading training trade magazines
to become more productive and successful -- not to feel
- Don't direct top messages like "New
learning system improves return on equity by up to 26%"
to a training trade magazine audience. HR executives don't
have ROE on their goal sheets -- CEOs do. (By the way, when
the training magazines say they reach 1000s of CEOs, they're
talking about you -- not the CEOs of your blue chip clients.)
This doesn't mean you shouldn't make a bottom-line case
for your training offerings. Just that you should tailor
your message to the bottom line concerns of training professionals,
e.g. "Now certify your entire IT organization in NT for
less than $1500 per employee."
By the way, if you feel you have
a killer top message to communicate to top executives,
try small space advertising in the "Wall Street Journal."
It doesn't cost any more than a big splashy ad in one
of the training trade books. Plus you will also reach
a lot of big picture HR execs.
- Don't scrub
a powerful trade ad campaign while it's still contributing.
Keep in mind, even if you advertise 12 months straight in
every issue of every training trade magazine, your typical
busy prospect may only have seen your ad once or twice.
More great advertising is replaced because the advertiser
lost interest than because of market fatigue. Another good
reason to let a good campaign ride is to better amortize
your initial creative effort. You don't want to spend more
money developing your ads than placing them!
Let me wind up with some good news
and some not-so-good news.
The good news is that over the past
five or ten years the leading training trade magazines have
evolved into highly respectable reads. Diligent research.
Penetrating reporting. Authoritative how-to features.
The not-so-good news is that most training
trade advertising still leaves a lot to be desired. In preparing
this article, I went through the most recent issue of the
four leading industry trade magazines and clipped out every
full page ad -- some 43 ads in all -- grading each ad from
A+ to F. The report card: 7 A+ to B, 6 B- to C, and 30 C-
How did your ad do? Check out the above
10 do's and don'ts and see what you think.
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