By Ed Pierce, Fleet Industry Marketer
We certainly read plenty of cautionary articles in the press about scams targeting unaware consumers, but you might be surprised that marketing scams are a part of the B2B world, even the fleet industry.
First, a definition of the term “marketing scam”: an offer that is too good to be true. In this month’s column, let’s look at an advertising example:
One day a fleet, risk or procurement manager gets a cold call from a sales rep with a pitch like this: “I represent (officious business or vertical industry magazine title, probably including ‘international’ or ‘global in it,’ that you never heard of).
“Our editors are writing a series of articles on companies like yours that are achieving business success. We would like to feature your firm’s success story in our glossy magazine that goes to ‘business leaders’ around the (country or world).
“Best of all, there’s no cost to you or your company! All we ask is that you provide us with a list of your vendors, who will certainly want to show their support for your business.”
Before agreeing to this too-good-to-be-true opportunity, here are two questions to ask:
1. Is your magazine BPA or ABC audited? These are formal magazine readership auditing companies. Paying for a full audit conducted by BPA or ABC is expensive, but it the only meaningful way to obtain objective readership information. Unless you know the publication or publisher well, do not settle for a ‘Publisher’s Statement.’ That is akin to the publisher saying, “I am an honest person. Trust my numbers.”
In most cases that I’ve seen, the sales rep for what is essentially a “vanity publisher” will focus on the 500 copies given to you or your company for you to distribute. However, you will never receive verifiable publisher distribution figures.
2. How does the magazine convince your valued vendors and suppliers to advertise? Simple: they use your name! What eager-to-please vendor sales reps will ask, “Does this make sense?” … Or, “How does this affect our P&L?” … Or even, “Is our (vendor) name even mentioned in the feature article?” In many companies, sales considerations trump marketing sense, and a vendor will just run an ad. However, since the average cost of a one-page ad costs from $5,000 – $7,000, there are good reasons to question the expense. I have found it is best to start by speaking to the customer contact. In most cases, the manager had no idea of the publisher’s tactics.
By landing just a few corporate feature articles – each financially supported by multiple vendors, a publisher has the potential to collect a pretty profit. However, the value is uncertain for the featured company and its vendors.
Next month, we will continue to look at some other marketing scams. As always, I welcome feedback, questions, suggestions, experiences and differing points of view from fleet product and service providers as well as from fleet managers, corporate buyers, consultants, trade association and media representatives.
Just send an email to EdPierce@ITAcommunications.com.