We get it, media buyers. You want leads. And who doesn’t? But have you forgotten the value of building a brand? Since when has print advertising, which is nearly impossible to track directly to sales leads, become ineffective? Just because you can’t draw an easy-to-see black line from point A (the ad) to point B (the sale) doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I understand that e-newsletter sponsorships and banner ads are easy to track and you can go back to your CFO and say "See? We spent X and got Y leads!" But what the CFO doesn’t understand is Marketing 101. Marketing is a long-term investment, and human nature hasn’t changed, meaning we are drawn to the familiar. Things only become familiar after being frequently seen. When was the last time you bought a less-expensive, no-name brand of something? Most of us won’t, especially if we’re happy with what we already have. Most of us, when given a choice, will buy a can of Coke for a $1 rather than the Bill’s Cola right next to it for 50 cents. We know the name Coke because we’ve seen it a zillion times; we know how it tastes. Why take a chance with Bill’s?

Leads Need Support

There’s nothing wrong with wanting leads, but you need to support that marketing strategy with a solid base of consistent and unobtrusive print. Potential buyers prefer print because it’s passive, not in your face and most of the time, quite informative. It’s a slow burn though, and you don’t know when your buyer is ready to buy, so just as the corner store is the place where you know you’ll go when you need masking tape, so is the print ad which needs to be there frequently, ready to serve buyers’ needs when they’re ready. However, the problem is you don’t know when that is, so you need to be on the radar screen as often as you can be.

As a salesperson I’d rather see you buy 10 half-page ads, rather than six full-page ads, at the same price over the course of a year because I know frequency is more important to helping build your brand. You’ll be around for a long time and you’ll be my customer for a long time, too.

Don’t get me wrong, online marketing can be very effective and useful. But please let’s not forget the power of print. It’s the strong silent type, but still packs a wallop. Once you take the print component out, you lose presence. An ad is like a store you pass by every day. One day you might get a mailing from that store inviting you to shop there. You’re more open to the idea because you’ve been subtly acknowledging the shop every day.

The Proof Is in the Numbers

In a reader survey my company conducted in May, ads in print publications were the number one way in which our readers preferred to learn about new companies and their products and services. Web seminars came in second and trade show presentations came in third. E-newsletters came in fourth and banner ads came in seventh. Of course, phone calls by salespeople came in last. This is because most of us don’t want to be sold; we just want to buy when we’re good and ready.

Interestingly though, in this same reader study, when we asked what action our readers take after seeing an ad in our publication, by far the majority (68.9 percent) said they go check out the Web site. So, here we have an example of a legitimate lead that has been produced by print, but the print ad gets no credit for it. This supports my earlier point that you can’t always easily track from where a potential customer came.

When it’s time to decide where your marketing dollars are best spent, you should find a publication with an audience that best describes your customers’ titles and then build a plan to market to that subscriber base with a solid print program, plus some online, direct mailing, trade shows, and more.

For example, one of my clients has a full-year 12X print contract but also utilizes several e-newsletter sponsorships and a couple custom Web seminars to bring in even more leads. Yes, I do believe an integrated plan that includes at least a little bit of everything is the best way to go, but start with print.

David Karp is currently sales manager at BZ Media in Huntington, NY. BZ Media was founded in 1999 by veterans from Miller Freeman, CMP, IDG, Newsday and Ziff-Davis. He has over 14 years of advertising sales experience. To those who say, "Print is dead," he says, "In what magazine did you read that?"

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