At this point, just about everyone involved with B2B marketing is aware that many of the trade publications serving the B2B markets are struggling. There are simply too many different ways for manufacturers to get their message out there and many are finding other ways more effective – and cost effective – than traditional advertising.
However, some brands have discovered a powerful way to get end-customers to know about their products and services—a method that just might be the answer to many trade publications’ survival concerns. This method is called native advertising. Of course, the first question you might have is what is native advertising? According to the results of a Copyblogger survey, 73 percent of more than two thousand marketers indicated they are unfamiliar or hardly familiar with native marketing, so you are not alone.
Well, let’s start with what it is not. It is not a traditional advertisement. It is not an advertorial. Advertorials read like an advertisement and usually have the words “advertisement” printed on the top or bottom of a printed or online page. They explicitly promote a company, its products or services. Plain and simple, you know it’s an ad when you read it.
Native advertising, on the other hand, is defined by digitalrelevance™, a content marketing firm, as “publishing relevant, thoughtful, useful, and compelling content . . . [turning the advertiser into] a producer of ideas and a distributor of knowledge.” It is designed to have the same look and feel as other content in the publication. But instead of printing “advertisement” all over the page, publishers typically label native content as information coming from “brand partners” or indicate this is sponsored content . . . considerably more subtle.
When done effectively, essentially what native content does is turn a company into a thought leader, a company that the end-customer can trust; loyalty builds, and with loyalty come sales. And it apparently works. Again, according to digitalrelevance, “25 percent more consumers looked at sponsored [native] articles than display ads,” according to their findings, “and [companies reported] 18 percent higher lift in purchase intent,” meaning the consumer was more likely to make a purchase after reading native advertising content.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that in the near future, more trade publications will embrace native advertising and may even find it to be one of their key revenue sources. Some trades in the professional cleaning industry have already adopted a form of this by allowing manufacturers to submit case studies, detailing how end-users have benefited by using their products.
However there are some caveats. Right now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has few if any regulations on native advertising. Some regulations are expected down.
Further, some publishers have issues with native advertising, believing it may lower the credibility of their publication. These issues may be eliminated once they see exactly how it is being done, and done well, in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and many others. The companies paying for native content appear to be happy; the readers (end-customers/consumers) appear to be learning from it; and many media companies have noticed a nice jump in revenues as well.
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