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Custom Reasons for Custom Publishing

Once considered the stepchild of the publishing industry, custom publishing now claims a legitimate slice of the B-to-B MarCom pie.

Custom magazines, newsletters and sponsored supplements are becoming an increasingly integral part of the overall marketing program. Recent studies by the Custom Publishing Council and Publications Management show leading U.S. companies spending about 25% of their marketing budgets on custom publishing endeavors, compared with 13% just three years ago.

Smart companies employ custom publishing tactics in their B-to-B marketing programs to enable them to reach highly targeted buying audiences. A major software developer, for example, developed a sponsored supplement (or "advertorial") featuring articles about data management challenges faced by hospitals as a means of raising its profile with an important marketplace. The 32- page advertorial, which also contained house ads for the company's new data processing software, was inserted into a magazine read by major hospital data managers nationwide. In this case, it was more cost-effective than buying a series of ads in the publication because the developer's exact message was delivered exactly where the company wanted it delivered.

But strategic custom publishing efforts are not limited to magazines. One leading foodservice equipment and supplies distributor has a staff of 12 dedicated to producing internal newsletters for suppliers and employees. These publications let suppliers know what's going on with the company's business and make employees aware of changes in human resources policies. They also serve as an internal promotional tool.

Other successful B-to-B custom publishing initiatives include: Priority, a bi-monthly magazine from Pitney Bowes that targets 750,000 small business owners; Cano Energy Pipeline magazine, which targets investors in domestic oil and gas limited partnerships; and Tellabs Emerge, Tellabs Inc.'s quarterly magazine reaching 15,000 telecom engineers in North America who make purchasing decisions for their companies.

Another trend noted by the CPC is that a majority of companies still handle production chores for their custom publishing efforts in-house, spending the bulk of the $29 billion that goes toward such efforts on internal staff. But that may be changing, given bottom-line pressures. According to Publications Management, a trade newsletter, 40% of U.S. companies that pursue custom publishing strategies currently avoid the hassle and expense of adding staff by outsourcing production of their publications. It may also change as varying types of electronic B-to-B marketing efforts, such as websites, e-postcards and e-newsletters, are further integrated into marketing strategies.

Whatever the goal, launching a custom publication as part of a B-to-B marketing campaign needs to be handled within the context of a medium and long-term strategy in support of overall business objectives. And placing a company's message and brand before the target audience should always be the goal of any custom publication as questions about the concept's legitimacy continue to wane.

Chris Scott heads Hodge Media Group, the custom publishing arm of Hodge Communications, Inc. Hodge specializes in strategic public relations and marketing communications for businesses, entrepreneurs and professional associations. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he brings over 20 years of experience to client engagements. Subscribe today to Communic@te! our free bimonthly e- newsletter and get a free special report: "Using Buzz To Create a Groundswell For Your Business."



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