Recognizing that advertisers increasingly relied on data to guide media buying and creative decisions, LBM Journal Editor & Publisher Rick Schumacher saw the opportunity to strengthen advertiser loyalty and sales by providing ad performance insight and accountability that was deeper than that of his competitors. Incorporating quarterly ad campaign studies from Baxter Research Center gave LBM Journal the edge it needed to strengthen advertiser relationships and increase the frequency of ad buys.
The digital media explosion of the 21st century opened up a new world of options and expectations for advertisers. In addition to benefiting from more sophisticated targeting capabilities, advertisers now had the ability to receive real-time data on how their audiences were interacting with and responding to their campaigns.
Advertisers and publishers soon found themselves facing three new challenges, which still persist today:
- Digital media had established a new expectation of real-time feedback and accountability for ad performance. Print media would have to offer something similar, or risk being deemed irrelevant.
- Media buying decisions were becoming increasingly complex, and advertisers needed data to help them clearly distinguish among the many different outlets and platforms available.
- A tightening economy meant that advertising budgets were shrinking, and marketers were pressured by executive teams to prove ROI for all of their efforts.
Schumacher saw each of these challenges and knew that it was more important than ever for LBM Journal to find innovative ways to keep advertisers from straying to competitive publications and platforms.
“I’ve been in the publishing industry for over 20 years, and the one thing that has increased steadily over that time has been advertisers’ demand for solid, tangible readership data,” says Schumacher.
He knew satisfying this need could be a key to building advertiser loyalty toward LBM Journal and closing more ad sales so the publication could continue to grow.
Schumacher’s advertisers specifically needed to know three things: whether they were spending their precious ad dollars with the right publications; whether their ad content was effective at driving brand recognition and sales; and whether their ad programs were leading to a consistent volume of sales over time.
“When we decided to do ad studies, I evaluated the available products,” says Schumacher. “The vast majority stopped at ad recall. That’s an important metric, but it doesn’t go far enough.”
He began to search for an ad study provider who could dig deeper to better meet advertisers’ heightened expectations.
Schumacher learned about Baxter and was impressed by the easily digestible, but highly detailed insight provided in the company’s reports.
Baxter’s ad campaign studies reported on readers’ recall of each ad, but also each ad’s influence on brand perception; preliminary purchasing behaviors, such as discussing or sharing the ad; and active purchasing behaviors, such as trying the advertised product, recommending it or actually buying it.
In addition, Baxter’s surveys enabled advertisers to receive rare, qualitative information about the influence of their ads and LBM Journal‘s content, in the form of direct quotes from readers.
“Frankly, I was blown away by the quality and depth of the Baxter studies,” says Schumacher. “It’s powerful research, available nowhere else.”
In the five years since discovering and signing up with Baxter, LBM Journal has leveraged the reports to increase advertiser loyalty and sales and, in many cases, the increase has been exponential.
Baxter’s reports quickly became a differentiator for LBM Journal. Schumacher notes the ad study program immediately gave his publication a competitive advantage, because Baxter abides by an exclusivity policy that guarantees it will not provide ad campaign studies for any of LBM Journal‘s competitors for as long as the publication is a client.
LBM Journal advertiser Morgan Raganyi, marketing manager of cellular PVC extrusion supplier Gossen Corporation, says that this value add often factors into her media buying decisions.
“If all other things are equal between LBM Journal and a competitor’s advertising offering, I’ll choose LBM simply because it offers Baxter data,” Raganyi says. “For us, as a small company with limited research and advertising budgets, that research is invaluable in determining the efficacy of our advertising program.”
LBM Journal‘s advertisers began to rely on the Baxter report data, not only to continually affirm their decision to advertise with the publication, but to guide their decisions about ad creative.
“Baxter’s ad studies enable us to provide our advertisers with marketing intelligence that helps them tweak their marketing outreach—and to get the most from their investment,” says Schumacher. “In short, they love the information they get from our ad studies. Instead of just guessing at which publications work for them and how effective their creative is, now they know.”
“Baxter ad studies are an invaluable tool for my salespeople, one of whom has been selling ads for decades. She says she’s never seen anything like them at other publications she’s worked for.”
“There have been several times when Baxter reports have helped me make important changes to our advertising creative, such as altering minor design details or improving calls to action,” recalls Raganyi. “Those small, creative details can make a big difference in the ROI for any given campaign.”
A significant turning point for LBM Journal came when the publication began offering Baxter reports quarterly, rather than annually. These frequently updated data are fed, in real-time, into an online reporting platform called The Baxter Cloud, which enables advertisers to review and store their data for continued reference.
“Our advertisers appreciate the frequency, as it enables them to track the performance of their ads over time,” says Schumacher. “They can start to establish benchmarks and distinguish seasonal trends, so they get a clear picture of their advertising program’s long-term success.”
LBM Journal advertiser Joe Klink, director of corporate relations for door, window, siding and stone manufacturer ProVia, uses Baxter’s research to help track his company’s progress toward its goals.
“Right now, our primary marketing objective is to improve brand recognition, and Baxter’s data have shown that it is, in fact, going up over time,” Klink says. “It’s extremely valuable to us to be able to benchmark our success against our own past performance and also the performance of our competitors.”
Influence on Ad Sales
In addition to building stronger loyalty, the data in Baxter studies help LBM Journal close sales.
Choosing to run the studies quarterly has had a similarly positive effect on sales.
“Running Baxter studies quarterly has proven to be a solid sales tool, as companies who may have advertised only once or twice may choose to advertise in all four ad study issues, because of the value of the data they receive,” explains Schumacher.
Both Raganyi and Klink concur that receiving Baxter data makes them more likely to commit their ad dollars.
“Ad studies are a major selling point when we’re trying to determine how to spend our budget. We try to advertise in each ad study issue, roughly quarterly, because the research helps us prove ROI for our efforts but also gain customer insight that helps with other strategic decisions,” Raganyi says.
“It’s a value add that helps us affirm our advertising decisions, so the availability of ad studies definitely affects our choices as to when we’ll advertise,” Klink says.
Influence on Platform and Brands
Like most publications, LBM Journal faces important decisions about the delivery methods for its content as reader preferences evolve.
“While print is still heavily preferred by our industry, digital continues to make inroads. Since Baxter provides data on readers’ preference for print vs. digital, we’re using those data as we continue to expand our digital offerings,” says Schumacher.
At the same time, advertiser Klink notes that Baxter’s research has made it easier to justify buying print space.
“With LBM Journal, I receive quantitative KPI data for our print advertising—usually I would only get that level of feedback with digital ads,” Klink says. “That provides us with a level of comfort that most print publications can’t offer.”
As LBM Journal looks forward to sustained growth and prosperity, a significant part of its plan is the continued provision of in-depth reporting and accountability through quarterly Baxter ad campaign studies.
“In my opinion, ad studies are more valuable than ever. Marketing budgets continue to shrink, and ROI is the name of the game,” Schumacher says.
Of course, just as advertisers emphasize the importance of tracking ROI, publishers like Schumacher do, too. According to him, the Baxter program has been well worth the investment.
“The Baxter ad studies easily pay for themselves,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier with the results.”