When Sosland Publishing needed more frequent data in order to meet advertisers’ growing needs, Food Service News Director of Publishing, Mike Gude turned to Baxter Research Center, Sosland’s ad study provider of choice since 1993. Increasing the frequency of Baxter’s reporting to three times per year helped Sosland maintain its competitive advantage and more effectively provide in-depth data opportunities to a greater number of advertisers.
Twenty years ago, Sosland Publishing’s reason for seeking a research provider was simple. The group needed a way to provide added value to its advertisers at the end of each year, and ad study issues were a great way to generate enthusiasm.
“We’re an information company,” explains Gude. “For us, that means providing valuable information not only to our readers but to our advertisers.”
Gude selected Baxter Research Center because of their reputation for “good people and precise, well-organized process” and began receiving annual ad studies that included the comprehensive data Sosland needed to maintain mutually profitable advertiser relationships.
However, as the digital era dawned and brought with it an endless array of new media options, Gude and his team recognized both an opportunity for expansion into digital publishing and a distinct, new set of challenges:
- Although Sosland had always competed for ad dollars among other publications in the food and beverage sector, it now also had to vie against large-scale, direct-to-consumer outreach, such as content marketing and social media. It was more important than ever to prove to advertisers that Sosland’s publications could generate ROI for them, because once an advertiser’s dollars were reallocated to new media, it was very difficult to win them back.
- Advertising agencies found themselves facing the same difficulties that publishers encountered—clients were overwhelmed by the increasingly crowded marketplace and needed a plethora of data to justify their agency investment. Marketing professionals faced similar performance pressures from their corporate CFOs and executive oversight teams.
Gude knew that if Sosland could address these needs for advertisers, the publishing company would continue to grow and thrive.
He decided to increase Sosland’s investment in Baxter reports, expanding to three per year for Food Business News, one of Sosland’s largest publications. With more frequent reporting, the publisher could not only provide more timely data for prospective and existing advertisers, but could also award more frequent accolades for advertisers who performed well, an important draw for agencies and in-house marketing teams alike.
Five years later, Gude’s investment in research has paid for itself many times over. “The pricing of Baxter’s package is such that if we sell even one more ad because of the research, it has paid for itself,” Gude says. “It’s an easy budgetary choice to make.”
Influence on Sales
According to Gude, advertisers choose to participate in ad study issues as a “value add” just as readily as they choose to participate in editorial opportunities. Companies value the ROI data, but marketers and ad agencies also value the awards they receive for creating well-performing ads, prompting them to sign up for ad study issues in greater numbers. Gude recently received an announcement that an advertiser published after winning a Baxter award.
Gude points out that providing three studies per year also offers the opportunity for seasonal companies to participate in ad study issues during their yearly advertising push, no matter where that falls on the calendar.
“Companies that were missing out on ad study issues before now have the opportunity to participate because we’re running them throughout the year,” says Gude. “It’s helped us generate motivation with advertisers all year long.”
Advertisers also now have a greater opportunity to combine contributed article editorial ops with ad study issues, he says, enabling them to receive feedback and results not only for their campaigns, but their editorial message as well.
Influence on Brand Relevance and Credibility
Baxter operates with an exclusivity policy that ensures the research company will never provide services for any of Sosland’s competitors. For Gude, this gives his publications a significant competitive advantage.
“Just like the term ‘Kleenex’ is used more commonly than ‘tissue,’ ‘Baxter’ has become the generic term for an ad study,” Gude says. “Their research is so advanced, and the process they use is so efficient, that they don’t really have any relevant competitors. The fact that we are the only publisher in our arena who uses them lends credibility to our brand in the eyes of advertisers.”
Influence on Advertiser Loyalty
Of course, the same need that brought Sosland to Baxter 20 years ago—maintaining strong advertiser relationships—still remains a chief priority.
Now that reports are produced three times per year, advertisers are better able to track and implement the feedback they receive on their campaigns, in some cases even making adjustments while the campaign is still in the field.
“Now, rather than just being a retrospective look at how their campaigns performed, the data are actionable,” Gude says. “The advertisers appreciate that and, of course, the better their ads can perform, the more likely they are to keep advertising with us.”
Advertisers are also drawn to the verbatim reader comments provided in each study, which complement the report’s extensive quantitative data.
Gude and his team still present Baxter’s research as part of an end-of-year meeting with advertisers.
“We are always looking for reasons to communicate with our advertisers, and having Baxter data to present makes the conversation more compelling,” says Gude.
As Sosland grows and maintains its reputation for providing timely, frequent print and web offerings, the publisher sees great value in continuing to track reader interest and patterns.
“The way we use ad studies has changed, but they’re more relevant than ever if used correctly,” says Gude. “It’s to our great advantage that we’re not only able to provide data for our advertisers—we provide Baxter data, which is the best of its kind.”
Gude says the relationship has only grown stronger as both companies have adapted to the changing landscape throughout the past 20 years.
“The team at Baxter is still comprised of great people, and the effective process that drew us to them has only adapted and grown more efficient over time,” he says. “It’s safe to say that our partnership with Baxter will continue to be a critical part of our success in the years to come.”