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Benefits of Advertising in Any Economy

Studies show advertising during any economy produces customer loyalty and a long-term competitive advantage

By Jennifer LeClaire

Business-to-business media is an undisputed ally for advertisers seeking to reach executives about products and services for their businesses.

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  • Businesses that continue to advertise regardless of economic times have a competitive advantage over businesses that trim their ad budgets.

    So says a business-to-business (b-to-b) media study conducted by Yankelovich Partners and Harris Interactive. The study showed more than 85 percent of business executives believe advertising during a down economy is extremely important.

    B-to-b media is an undisputed ally for advertisers seeking to reach executives about products and services for their businesses. The study, prepared for American Business Media, showed that despite slow economic times, executives rely on b-to-b media for information more than any other media source for the influence or support of purchase decisions.

    Competitive advantage
    Advertising during a sluggish economy clearly creates a competitive advantage, according to the study, with a majority of executives agreeing that seeing a company advertise during slower times makes them feel more positive about the company’s commitment to its products and services. But perhaps most important is staying at the top of buyers’ minds when purchase decisions are made.

    “For advertisers interested in maximum profit from their investment in b-to-b media, these research results indicate that advertising frequently ­ and capitalizing on the synergistic effect of print, Web sites and trade shows ­ is a sure path to increasing awareness, interest and purchase,” said the study authors.

    Add to that the fact that there has been dramatic increases in the time executives spend visiting b-to-b Web sites over the past three years and online advertising is a winning strategy. Moreover, the study findings are consistent across industry sectors, making results relevant regardless of business category.

    Long-term investing
    While the Yankelovich/Harris study offers compelling data to support the benefit of advertising especially in slower times, other business gurus also support the theory.

    “Advertising in a down economy is even more important than advertising during the good times,” says Joyce Gioia, president of the Herman Group, a firm of strategic business futurists in Greensboro, N.C. “That’s when you can build market share. That’s when you have less competition for share of mind. While others are in a cocoon, hibernating until things blow over, it’s a great time to invest in your business.”

    Gioia says sign industry suppliers need to establish themselves as the brand of choice and halting advertising during tough times is counteractive to that goal.

    The bottom line is clear: If a company is not communicating with customers when they enter the market, then that company will not be considered in the buying decision. That fundamental truth does not change, regardless of the economy.

    While many companies readily understand the value of short-term advertising ­ generating new sales, generating repeat business from existing customers and generating new leads that turn into future sales ­ it can be more difficult to comprehend the long-term value. Think of a snowball rolling down a mountain ­ consistent advertising has a cumulative effect. The more familiar buyers are with your brand, the more likely they are to purchase the brand.

    Cross media approach
    A cross media approach is the best approach, according to experts, because it allows your company to stay in front of customers consistently.

    The Yankelovich/Harris study shows executives value magazines, Web sites and trade shows for different reasons. B-to-b magazines are favorably evaluated with respect to being “highly credible sources” and “providing information you can trust.” B-to-b Web sites rate high for being “primary sources of research” and providing “access to the latest information.” And b-to-b trade shows are highly regarded for enabling “interaction with industry peers.”

    “To stay on top of developments in your field, it’s important to seek information from multiple media sources, like business-to-business magazines, Web sites and trade shows,” said the study authors.

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    Focusing on the Web
    DoubleClick, leading provider of marketing tools for advertisers, direct marketers and Web publishers, recently conducted a cross media study that compared the relative audience reach of Internet sites, network TV programs and consumer magazines.

    "Earlier this year we talked to over 200 marketers who told us their top reason for not spending more online was that their customer was not online," says Susan Sachatello, chief marketing officer, DoubleClick. "In comparing these mediums side-by-side using industry standard metrics, this study demonstrates that both in aggregate and in key target groups, the Internet is in fact a mainstream mass-market medium and that marketers should be going online to reach their customers."

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    So what works best on the Web? Experts say banner ads are the most effective tool because they build the brand and generate leads. And since online advertising is less expensive than traditional print media, TV and direct mail, the online channel makes more sense in a down economy.

    Rich media rules
    DoubleClick’s Ad Serving Trend Report gives deeper insights about what works on the Web. DoubleClick's ad serving data reveals a major variance in the click-through rates of rich media ads (2.4 percent), which is six times higher than non-rich media ads (0.4 percent).

    Rich media uses a combination of voice, interactive video, streaming video and data sharing. The ads, then, are more interactive than static banners.

    DoubleClick also found that Flash increased branding metrics by 71 percent for three different-sized ads measured, demonstrating the branding power of richer media.

    "While click-through rate is only one method of assessing online advertising effectiveness, its stability over the past several months reflects the mainstream adoption of online advertising at levels consistent with traditional direct response rates," says Doug Knopper, vice president and general manager of advertiser solutions at DoubleClick. "We are very encouraged by the growth of rich media usage and the significantly higher click-through rates that these formats have been generating, which together reflect the increasing sophistication and performance of the online advertising medium."

    When is the best time to advertise?
    Regardless of the medium, the Yankelovich/Harris concludes that advertising during all economic times is critical to the future success of companies.

    Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed said it is important to keep abreast of new products and services during tough times and 97 percent said it is important to continue to invest in these products and services to remain competitive in the future.

    The study stresses that executives are not going to let their guards down even during slower economic times ­ they must stay current on what is new in the industry and must position their organizations for the future. Advertisers, then, must not let their guards down, either, say experts.

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