Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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A Bad Trade is Just That.

Okay, so now you've bought your PC, slapped on a modem and signed up for as much internet access as you can use. Your web site is up, your domain name secure and your e-mail gets delivered to

Life just doesn't get any better than this, when you're on your own. That is, until you realize that despite the four zillion hits per hour the web generates on Yahoo, nobody knows you're alive.

Then it hits you: you've gotta advertise -- and quick.

Of course, understanding the need to advertise and actually advertising are two completely different disciplines. In fact, the only characteristic they share is a consistent degree of panic. The first three concepts to terrorize your brain are usually: "Where should I advertise?" "How often?" followed by the notorious, "Jesus H. Nixon! I had no idea it would cost that much!"

Yup. I get a LOT of those. And in most cases, the do-it-yourselfers devise a scheme that involves spending the least to target the most. That, in itself, is an admirable goal. The problem is that too often, the "spending the least" part gets ahead of the "targeting the most." And the chief culprit to which most victims fall prey is the dreaded "trade magazine."

Let me state for the record right here and now: I love my clients and I hate trade magazines. If you're a client, you already know why I love you. If you're a client that pays invoices on time, you probably have received long-stemmed roses from me. But if you're a trade magazine rep, boy, look out.

The reasons why I hate trade magazines are numerous, but let's go over the high hard ones:

First, every trade magazine I know touts their "readership" a being targeted to their category. That's true. But for the most part, they're targeting a group with a publication that nobody -- and I mean nobody -- ever reads. Not even the publisher's mother gets close to these magazines, because they are so incredibly boring and out of touch. The reason why they're so boring and out of touch is because trade magazines are less journalistic enterprises than they are ancillary profit centers for their sponsoring trade organizations.

Want proof? When was the last time you actually checked the little box that volunteers you to pay extra for that throwaway the Automobile Club of America prints? Want more? How about the AARP, who claims to represent the largest consumer group in America -- where all you have to do as a member is be old?

Well, that's the standard operating procedure of most trade magazines. While it is true that their publications are indeed delivered to their membership, the fact is that those subscriptions are included in their membership fees. Which means the vast majority of their recipients use the journals to line the bottom of canary cages.

The most important question you should ask your trade magazine representative is, "Do your numbers reflect paid circulation?" Paid circulation means the subscribers actually get out their checkbooks and pay to receive the magazine. UNPAID means another four acres of rain forest laid to waste.

Look, you're not Rockefeller and neither am I. But we're not stupid, either. We may not be able to outspend your competition, but we sure can out think them. And at the very least, that means not falling for solutions -- like trade magazines -- that look like the easy way out.

Are there trade magazines that work? Probably. But there's an easy way to find out: simply call their existing advertisers, identify yourself as a non-competing entrepreneur and ask them for their experience.

Then get ready for a whole ear full of truth in advertising.

Rob Frankel

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