The latest rage among trade magazine publishers is marketing services, a broadly-defined concept that essentially aims to evolve publishers into something more akin to advertising agencies. That's not to say publishers will stop selling ad space; rather they are looking for new high-value services to sell to their advertisers.

This is not a new concept in the publishing world. Yellow pages publishers have been dabbling with this concept since the early 1990s, and many B2B buying guide publishers have been long playing in this area as well.

Advertising-based publishers realized a long time ago that because their clients were largely small businesses and medium-sized but boring industrial companies, most marketing services companies and advertising agencies never even tried to sell their services to them. Moreover, some of these businesses were so small that the only advertising representative who ever stopped by was their friendly directory salesperson. This was obviously a ripe environment, and many directory sales representatives regularly reported that their advertisers were relying on them for general marketing advice. Most publishers responded in ways that leveraged their existing products: creation of product catalogs that were distributed to the publishers' audience, but that the advertiser could also re-print for use elsewhere; ad design and production; partnership selling of non-competitive media and more. Recently, these services have expanded to providing SEO, managing paid keyword campaigns, building websites and managing online reputations.

The directory experience to date relative to marketing services has been a good one, and I don't think we are anywhere near tapping out this important growth area. Marketing services become a tougher game as your advertisers increase in size, but publishers are uniquely able -- if they organize themselves correctly -- to offer both market insight and market access bundled with creative and marketing services, and that's a powerful combination. While the goal is clearly to leverage your audiences and market expertise, it all starts at a more fundamental level: leveraging your advertiser relationships.