During my almost 20-year career, I have been fortunate to work for — and with — both for-profit and association publications. Throughout this time, I have often heard that it is not as easy to sell ads in association publications as it is in B2B publications. Over the last seven years, as I have focused on selling advertising almost exclusively in association publications, I have learned that simply is not the case.
Here are a few reasons some believe that association publications are not as valuable as B2B publications:
The majority of readers to not make a commitment to the magazine; they are receiving it as a member benefit.
Association publications are typically not audited, so an advertiser or ad agency cannot easily compare an association publication to a B2B publication that is audited.
Associations often do not have as many readers as B2B publications.
At face value, these appear to be good reasons why it is smarter for an advertiser to put their ad dollars toward a B2B publication instead of an association publication. The good news for association publishers is that there are even more reasons why an association publication is a great advertising choice:
1. Associations keep their members. According to ASAE, the average association annual member-renewal rate is 80 percent. That means that an advertiser is can consistently reach the same individuals multiple times over multiple years if they advertise regularly over time. All marketers know that regularly staying in front of potential customers is important. This consistency is almost guaranteed when working with associations.
2. Associations can be small, but they are targeted. Most associations and association publications are built around an industry or a mission that members support or believe in. This basically guarantees that the individuals who are receiving the publication are similar in need and focus. Targeting is important in advertising, and if you are able to reach an audience that is almost totally made up of the type of individual you are trying to reach, it will increase the likelihood of success.
3. Associations are communities of engaged members. Associations are putting more and more time and money into engaging their member community. They are giving members ways to communicate and even share information about products and services they use and like. With these engagement mechanisms already in place, companies that consistently advertise and do a good job of getting members to talk about their product or service to the larger community will see word of mouth about their offerings faster than they may in a B2B environment.
4. Associations are trusted. As non-profit organizations, associations tend to be looked at with a level of respect and trust that for-profit entities do not receive. A company that advertises in an association publication tends to benefit from the perception of trust as well. Members trust the association to provide them with the right information, products, and services, so companies that advertise in association publications may receive a more positive perception than they would if the ad were placed in a B2B publication.
5. Association members pay a good amount for dues. It is true that association members typically do not pay for their publication directly like a B2B would for a magazine. That said, members are making a choice to join the association and are typically paying a dues amount that is higher than the ever-shrinking price of a B2B magazine subscription. Additionally, many B2B publications are controlled (“qualified” subscribers receive a free subscription) where a subscriber doesn’t pay anything for the subscription.
When you have an aggressive B2B magazine competitor, selling advertising in an association publication is not always an easy thing to do. However, if you educate your advertisers and potential advertisers to the benefits you bring to the table, you will have great success closing the deal. There are numerous benefits to advertising in an association publication — we just have to make them known.