Trying to get orders around the holidays is nothing new and if you have not already planned and designed your holiday insert cards, itâ€™s not too late, but you need to act fast. I know, we're only at the tail end of summer and insert cards are â€śold hat,â€ť but they reach your audience in every issue and thatâ€™s half the battle. Here are some things to consider, and a few to avoid:1. Use four colors. Itâ€™s the holidays, donâ€™t turn yourself into the insert card scrooge! Consider using an oversize, postage-paid reply card to get even more orders from one donor. Yes it will cost more in postage, but itâ€™s the holidays. In a 5.5â€ť x 7.5â€ť reply card you could get three new subsâ€”and possibly a renewal if you feel really creative. Also, you will need to use different stock from the usual 4.25â€ť x by 6â€ť cardâ€”the USPS insists!2. Keep the â€śholidayâ€ť copy generic. Mentioning an actual holiday could cause a problem, unless you are in a market where a specific holiday is pertinent. 3. Your copy needs to concentrate on giving a gift rather than selling the publication. These insert cards are aimed at existing readers, although pointing out the fine points of your publication is not a bad idea.4. Donâ€™t go â€śfancy fontâ€ť crazy. You are selling a product, not inviting people to a party. But a little whimsy can be employed if you think your market is whimsicalâ€”most publications have a little whimsy, but many donâ€™t know it.5. The holidays fall at the end of the year, tell people you will send a gift card in December and start the subscription with the January issue if you can. This means you can run your card in your October and November issues, and possibly December as well. Just make sure the gift card arrives before the first issue, otherwise confusion will reign, customer service calls will increase and you run the risk of upsetting the gift giver because the gift recipient has been inconvenienced.6. Allow people to order online. You can make them pay upfront, otherwise offer to bill the donor as this will help increase response. Some advise not to send the gift announcements and first issue until the subscriptions have been paid. I would say send the announcements and the issues as detailed above. I doubt there would be many people who would not pay their invoice knowing their kindness has already been announced.
Are you accepting bitcoins yet? And, should you?
A bitcoin is not a physical thing, it is a virtual currency; you cannot toss it to start a football game, roll it for illegal drug activity or fold it into a paper plane. Bitcoin owners keep their bitcoins in a wallet and when they use those bitcoins to purchase items, they just transfer the cost from their wallet to the seller's wallet and that is pretty much that. Since bitcoins are not physical things, you cannot send half a bitcoin, but you can transfer any percentage of a bitcoin.
Since I started to research this article, the value of one bitcoin has fallen from $621.37 to $578.59 - I'll let you know what the value is when I finish this article, but the point is bitcoins are subject to fluctuation.
I very much doubt anyone reading this has an expensive product they are selling so fluctuations would not be a major factor, but remember you keep your bitcoins in a virtual wallet, and let's says your wallet has ten bitcoins in it. These would have been worth $10,686 last November, now their value would be $5,786.90, Look at it this way, last November you could have brought 10,686 of your favorite friends a $1 cup of coffee each, but now, only 5,786 friends would get a cup of Joe. If however, in a real wallet you had $10,686 last November, today you would still have $10,686 - and 10,686 friends!
Most publishers will, at some point, want to balance the books and disclosing the value of your wallet is an easy enough thing. Turning the bitcoins into currency that you can toss, fold or fly is not as straightforward as you would think. There are basically three ways, two of which rely on your offering your bitcoins for sale and hoping someone buys them. There are other ways, but if you are really considering offering bitcoins as a form of payment, the above selling method is your best bet. What you cannot do is just cash them in, someone has to want them, and at an acceptable price.
Many years ago The Economist used to publish at annual review of how much items cost by the number of Mars bars you would have to hand over. A cup of coffee was one Mars bar in 1972, in 1977 it was three Mars bars etc... sound sort of familiar?
What if you have to make a refund on a subscription paid for by bitcoins? This could be interesting. It is quite conceivable that a customer could cancel their subscription and the refund for the "unused portion of the subscription" actually has a dollar value of more than was originally paid. Finance departments around the world will quake in their boots.
Bitcoins certainly have a value, but whether their value currently applies to subscriptions seems doubtful. Since I have been typing this article, the value of a bitcoin has dropped by $6.00, but since it is all virtual, should I really care?
It used to be in creating promotional work, a company would hire a copywriter and a designer unless they were fortunate enough to have these experts in-house.This changed slightly when computer programs like Quark, In Design, Photoshop etc. became available, but being able to use the software did not turn us all into designers, merely people who could use design software. With the explosion of websites, apps and all things digital, plus the move from managing circulation to developing audiences, even more programs became available to make designing easier. Suddenly promotions were being judged not by the results produced, but by how knowledgeable the keyboard operator was, how quickly they could be deployed and most importantly, in many instances, by the number of people who viewed the promotion.The thing is, just because something looks good or can be deployed quickly or is viewed by a million people, unless you get orders, your promotion has failed.No matter how adept one is at using a computer to design promotions, you still need the knowledge to know whether something will work, and sometimes ugly can be beautiful.I knew of one publisher who produced an 8.5 x 11 letter/order form combo that was green and pinkâ€”to say it was vile is being kind. Covers were scanned in, one green, one pink and universally the promotion was hated, the publisher hated it, the designer hated it, the printer threatened to go on strike if they had to print it, yet it got the best requalifcation response of any promotionâ€”ever. No test ever beat it. It worked year, after year, after year. An advertising agency came in to bid on designing promotions, took one look at the package, said, â€śthat will have to go straight away,â€ť and the publisher threw them out of the office. A knowledge of and experience in using what is considered to be sound direct marketing technique is invaluable and not dependent upon software or the latest technology.Â Â But remember, as time goes by things can change, it used to be deliverability on text emails was better than html, by and large this is no longer the case. Times change, people change and your market may well change. This means what did not work in the past, may now actually work, and what used to work may no longer do so. However, all of this is governed by producing good copy and good design. Simply because you may not like the way copy reads, or how the design looks, does not mean to say it is bad. This is why you test everything, and if a test beats the control, it becomes the new control, and then you try and beat that.
We all come up with good ideas for marketing and promotion, but in all honesty good ideas can vary from being very good ideas indeed to not so good.Whenever you have ideas it is always good to run them by the one group of people that usually will be affected, yet often get ignored in the thought processâ€”namely the fulfillment company.The wise circulation professional or audience developer will always include the fulfillment company in initial planning because very often those are the people at the back end who have to make your ideas work. Involving them at the front end will save a great deal of heartache later on.Not so long ago a publisher produced a print magazine on a regular frequency, and that was pretty much that. Now there are digital versions, websites, apps, feeds, white papers, Facebook, Pinterest, tweets, pings, pokes and also audio and video content, newsletters, and anything else that can be thought of to engage people.Some publishers can engage their audience in person by running trade shows or seminars, as well as webinars. All of this takes thought and organization but very often the people who are to process all the information and disseminate materials are not even asked if they can handle the requirements. All too often it is just presumed the fulfillment company can handle whatever crazy ideas we have thought up, but truth be told, by including the fulfillment company from the outset, very often their questions and ideas will solve many a potential problem, and may well save you money in the short and long term.Most fulfillment companies have email capacity, which you can control yourself if required. Many, but not all, have in-house lettershop services to help in sending out items via snail mail. They also have customer service staff. Unlike many publishers, customer service operates with hours that start in the Atlantic time zone and finish when the sun goes down in the Pacific time zone. Like publishers, fulfillment companies have also had to adapt and who is to say you have to use one fulfillment company for everything? The way our world is interconnected provides opportunities that past audience and circulation developers used to dream of.There are very few new ideas today. It may seem like there are, but they are all variations on what marketers have been doing for years with the added advantage of new technology. And, it was ever thus. Now of course â€śnew technologyâ€ť comes more quickly and faster than ever before.Â The way we use things may be continually changing, but in most cases there is still a requirement for fulfillment services to interface with all the things we do, and the savvy professional will not exclude the good folks who end up making our crazy dreams and ideas come true. Though many ideas are new to us, the way they are executed is not.Â As the great lady herself might say â€śfulfillment companiesâ€”theyâ€™re a good thing!â€ť
Usually I try and offer helpful ideas and hints on items relating to various aspects of publishing. Therefore, it may seem that I am going off on a tangent in this post, but please bear with me.It is not very often Europe has better ideas than America but it happens occasionallyâ€”Champagne and cheddar cheese chief among themâ€”but recently the European community sort of demanded that people be allowed to clean up, indeed remove, data from search engines and I think we should do that here.I have never ever submitted any data about me to any search engine, yet if you Google me you will get over 5,000 returnsâ€”not as many compared to Googling â€śchampagneâ€ť with 71,200,000 returned or â€ścheddar cheeseâ€ť with 3,250,000. A great deal of the information online about me is out of date. There is also information about me that I regard as personal, rather than business related, and there is information about me that is just untrue. At no point did I actively ask for my information to be added and I am not really aware of ever having been asked about it. Sometimes you are asked to agree to â€śconditionsâ€ť and I expect this is how my data get added, but if search engines are making money out of my data, or websites, or telemarketing companies, why is it only Europeans that get to clean their data up? Why canâ€™t I? Supposedly, if you do not want telemarketing companies calling you, you can get on the â€śdo not callâ€ť list. There is a â€śdo not mailâ€ť list as well. The trouble with these two lists is that disreputable companies do not subscribe to them, so â€śRachel from Card Member Servicesâ€ť feels free to call at any time. Much of this information is collected from the Internet, so why should we not all be allowed to clean up data about us, and remove it if we want?Back in the 1980s the United Kingdom passed the Data Protection Act, which basically says you have to opt in to get information rather then opt out. The direct mail industry recognized this was a good idea because the people opting out would not buy anything anyway. List costs dropped because there was less to rent, postage costs dropped because you mailed less, and response measured as a percentage increased making promotions more cost effective. In other words, by making the data more accurate, we got better results. The Internet has a few good usesâ€”listening to any radio station online, downloading music, getting the news, and so on. Another good use of the Internet is obtaining information and it makes sense to ensure that information is as accurate and up-to-date as possible, so why canâ€™t we delete information that is wrong, irrelevant or just plain embarrassing? Often it is said that once â€śit is on the Internet, it is there for goodâ€ťâ€¦ but why canâ€™t it be got rid of? It does not take that long for information to appear on the Internet, intentional or otherwise, so getting rid of it should be just as easy.
Recently I was sending out a series of email re-qualifications. The process is mercifully simple. I design them, send the html to the email dispatcher who loads it into the email equivalent of an electric toaster, and presto, out pops my email effort.In addition to the html, I also have to provide a promotion code, the subject line copy and who the email is fromâ€”and hereby hangs the tale.I changed the name of the email sender from the last time the email was sent in the belief that familiarity breeds contempt. It could be the very fact the email is coming from â€śSubscription Departmentâ€ť that is putting off the recipients from opening the email. I donâ€™t know, so I tested it. But when I got the test, the sender name wasnâ€™t â€śRoy Beagley,â€ť it was still â€śSubscription Department.â€ť I was intrigued by this and called the person in charge of the email toaster, who said that it was not â€śconsidered good practiceâ€ť to change the sender name. Always wanting to learn things, I asked how this conclusion was reached, was there a report, had someone done a test, who had discovered this and how? The answer was there is no report, no test and no discovery, someone once again decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and just decided this was the new protocol. In an email promotion there are several things that could account for a bad response: bad copy or bad design being chief among them. There is also the spam filter that has decided certain words demand automatic banishment to the trash canâ€”even though those words help sell subscriptions. The text-to-picture ratio has an effect on whether an email will eventually end up in the recipientsâ€™ inbox or trash; can you imagine postal carriers deciding if they are going to deliver mail to you or not depending on whether they think there are too many, or too few words on an envelope?I would also have thought who the email is coming from would matter too. A letter informing me I may have won $50,000 excites me; a letter with the letters â€śIâ€ť, â€śRâ€ť and â€śSâ€ť causes my heart to go in to arrhythmia. An email from the â€śsubscription departmentâ€ť may not excite me, but an email from â€śThe Publisherâ€ť or â€śXmag Subscriptionsâ€ť or simply a name like, well, â€śRoy Beagleyâ€ť may induce me to open the email. I donâ€™t know, that is why we test, and, based on those results, decide what is â€śconsidered good practiceâ€ť rather than letting a good tale debase the facts.
Recently, an article on medialifemagazine.com noted that "the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that more than a third of web traffic is fraudulent," suggesting the fix is in as results are being inflated by "viruses and bots designed to artificially inflate traffic numbers." This all sounds underhanded, but is it really a problem? BPA in a recent study learned "that only 40 percent of the ads measured were actually viewable," which means that 60 percent are not, but again is this actually a problem?We used to ascertain whether a marketing or advertising campaign was successful by the amount of money, or orders, the campaign gained. For some, the important factor was money in the bank, for others it was orders. Nobody ever judged the success, or otherwise, by how many people actually saw the promotion. I donâ€™t think anybody presumed that everyone receiving the promotion would actually look at it, so why are we making this an issue now?Regardless of whether you are trying to achieve more traffic to a website, or are sending out an email campaign, it does not make sense to determine whether a campaign has been successful or not by the number of â€śclicksâ€ť or â€śviewsâ€ť that are achieved. Direct mail campaigns can, and have been measured accurately for years based on total orders as a percentage of total quantity mailed. No one ever suggested that the 97 percent who DIDNâ€™T respond doomed every direct mail campaign to failure. In these days of instant results we lose track of the fact that different email programs do different things. For example, of the email I received this morning 87 percent of it was spam, but because of the type of email program I have, all of my email will have been considered opened and read, even though all I did was click on the email and delete it. I know, because I asked a company fully proficient in deploying and analyzing email promotions. In other words, I look like a good prospect, but Iâ€™m not.Until recently it was the total dollars or orders that counted, not the number of people that opened the direct mail package or read the advertisements. Shouldnâ€™t that still be the standard? No advertiser ever assumed that every reader of a magazine looked at his or her advertisement; the measure of success was cost verses income. I donâ€™t think they would even expect 40 percent of the readers to view the adâ€”just as long as the expenditure/income ratio was acceptable. Advertisers and advertising sales personnel can determine their market; many of them have been doing it with great success for years. They know that a 100 percent paid publication in their market is probably a good bet to get orders. For controlled publications advertisers were able to look at one-year direct request subscriptions, in conjunction with adds and kills to get a picture as to a magazineâ€™s circulation health. By comparing a recent statement with an older statement it was easy to determine a controlled publicationâ€™s value to its readers and make a decision based on that data. Since BPA made some reporting optional, making a fair and accurate comparison is no longer possible.The world has changed, many people run promotions to get people to look at websites, and the website owner sells advertising based on the number of people looking. The fact there are â€śbotsâ€ť and â€śvirusesâ€ť inflating figures is disturbing, not to mention dishonest, and one could argue illegal. It should be stopped, but if advertisers returned to judging a promotionâ€™s effectiveness by the orders or money gained, surely they would be better off. Viruses and bots can inflate click-throughs, page views and a whole host of other nasty things, but as far as I am aware, viruses and bots have not actually placed any orders.It is natural to desire the most effective response to a campaign, regardless of what it is for. Direct marketers have been doing it for years, and yes we all want to promote the most positive figures we canâ€”but those figures actually have to mean something, and in many cases, they donâ€™tSome have argued that as a result of the Interactive Advertising Bureau findings, rates for advertising should be reduced. The argument being if you are not reaching a certain percentage of the file, your rates are inflated, but this really is not the case. Nobody ever claims to reach a certain percentage of the file, because if they did, they would have to prove itâ€”and that is a claim that is unsupportable. You can have 20 million page views a day, and blast out millions of emails with links galore, but unless someone places an order, the bubble you operate in will burst. We should get rid of the bots and viruses if for no other reason than as an industry we need to correctly analyze data many of us have spent quite a bit of money investing in, as with most viruses we need to develop a vaccine so our industry remains healthy.However, if you get rid of all the harassments people can devise to inflate figures, and we manage to achieve a world where page views and such are 100 percent correct and accurateâ€”unless you actually gets orders etc.â€”we will be no further forward than we are now.
Telemarketing seems to be getting more and more difficult.
It was not too many years ago when people had one, or possibly two telephonesâ€”one at home, and one at work. Then in 1983, Martin Cooper invented the cellular phone and started a movement that has led to many people having no phone at home whatsoever. And those that still have phones in the office often divert them to their mobile phone so you never really know where you are calling (I called a friend the other day to wish him a happy birthday, and he informed me he was in Turkey, of all places).
Caller ID is all well and good, but it may be killing the response. If I get a call that does not have caller identification, I ignore it. If I get a call that does have caller identification, and I don't know who it is, I ignore it.
Telemarketers are doomed if they do, and doomed if they don't.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that so many rented lists seem to have really bad names and numbers.
I do not want to tar everyone with the same brush, but compiled lists seem to be susceptible. Recently, we rented a list where over half the numbers did not even exist, and of the 50 percent remaining, most of the people attached to those numbers had moved on.Â We rented another list as a result, supposedly of people who had placed an order within the last 90 days, but here again, many numbers were no longer valid.
Time was when someone left a job, their replacement took over their office, desk and telephone extension, so at least you stood a reasonable chance of getting someone that might be interestedâ€”now, you don't know where you are going, or who you are getting.
Telemarketers probably love me because I have three phones: one in the office, one at home and one Martin Cooper helped invent. But, the only reason I have three is that I cannot figure out how to divert the work and home phones to my cell.
If lists cannot produce results, then no matter how low the telemarketing company's cost per order may be, people will look elsewhere because the cost of list rentals will become uncontrollable. I am not sure how to solve this problem, but it may not be too long before publishers have to increase their budgets to maintain circulation and or sales.
Testing is not just a good idea, it is paramount to everything you do. Regardless of whether you are trying to build an audience, build circulation, change direction or change focus you need to test to make sure you head in the right direction. However, you need to make sure your test will give you meaningful results and there are some rules that should be followed.1) When testing, only test one element at a time. As soon as you put in another variable, the results of the test will no longer be valid. You will be tempted to test more than one element at a time, but if you do, whatever the results of the test are, you will not know which element triggered the result, so you will have learned nothing.2) To ensure the results are statistically valid, you need to test at least 5,000 names; anything less will not give you a response that you can accurately project. In this day and age of virtually instant response from email blasts there is a great temptation to test â€śa couple of hundred names to see what happens.â€ť This is not going to work and any results you get, and follow, will lead you in a false direction. 3) If your test consists of 5,000 names, then a response in excess of 50 to 100 orders is what you really need to be able to draw conclusions from that test.4) When you conduct a test, you cannot assume the results of that test can be extrapolated across other platforms. For example, if you get a 10 percent response using one channel, you cannot assume a 10 percent response on another channel to the same market segment. The only real assumption you can make is that your promotion is worthy of a test across that platform as results suggest a positive outcome.We all like to think we know our customers, but in a world that is changing faster than ever before, the chances of messing up are greater than they have ever been. Far better to mess up and annoy 5,000 people on a test than send an offer to your whole file and have it blow up in your face.Many of us have met the editor who cannot understand why we need to send more than one renewal reminder. More and more magazines are now owned by companies that are not print-centric and the editors have been joined by other people of influence who also believe one renewal is enough. Are they right? Most of us know the answer to that one, but that is why we testâ€”to prove or disprove ideas, both good and bad.
If some of the recent cover wraps and tip-ons Iâ€™ve received are anything to go by, just because something looks good in a PDF format does not mean it will look good when printed on paper. Here are a few tips to make sure your printed matter stands a chance of working.First, consider the type of paper you are printing on because the same design is going to look different depending on your stock. Coated stock usually handles reverse type well, but stock used for tips and cover wraps tends to be cheaper and soak up more ink. Reversing type really means being be able to see the color of the paper stock you are using, but now it means any color out of a dark backgroundâ€”so black and white, black and yellow or black and a light cyan all work well. Using a dark color for the type is dangerous. A tip-on I recently received was totally unreadable because the purple had bled into the black. Remember, using a large reversed area will use more ink and will cost more. If you are going to reverse out smaller type, donâ€™t use a serif font unless you are printing on really good stock, the effect will be lost on cheaper stock. And reversing out really small typeâ€”6 pt or smallerâ€”makes reading the copy nearly impossible.Speaking of fonts, just because you have over 1,500 of them does not mean you have to use them all at once. Promotions printed on paper are trimmed to size after printing, so getting too close to the edge of the paper can result in some of your copy being trimmed off. Designing work that can be used across several platforms such as websites, email and print is not difficult and is made considerably easier if you give some thought to the final output. You may have to adjust some colors, perhaps some fonts and perhaps some final positions, but this is something designers have been doing for many yearsâ€”the more things change; the more they stay the same.
Now is the time to plan your spring direct mail campaign. And just because you do not currently do one, does not mean you should not be thinking about it.Direct mail is still the only source of new orders that can be projected with any degree of accuracy and until digital marketers get excited at net orders rather than open rates, that always will be the case. The question is: Apart from the usual marketing tools available to help increase response, what else can be done? Direct mail can be expensive, but there are things you can test that might help increase orders and offset some of the cost. If your magazine is on the newsstand, consider increasing the draw in key markets for a couple of issues to coincide with your direct mail campaign. Newsstand sales often increase because people see your magazine on the shelf and decide to give it a try. Do not go crazy here because this will add cost to your bottom line, but sometimes a little bit can get you an awful lot.Also consider giving people access to a digital version of the magazine to check out how great it is. This could simply be your current digital edition or the current digital edition with interactive components relating to the mailingâ€”including several different ways people can pay online.Making direct mail profitable is what it is all about, but unless your family name is Midas and you have â€śthe touch,â€ť chances are you are going to lose money on new business direct mail campaigns. However, the objective should be to lose as little as possible. So, consider testing the automatic renewal option for direct mail orders in your mailing. I am big not a fan of this technique, but more and more I see publishers using an automatic renewal option in their new subscription promotion so it is certainly worthy of a test. But, test this carefully.The more you can do to increase exposure of your magazine the better off you are going to be. As that wise old sage of publishing once said â€śThe Economist is its own best ambassador, so it is sensible to offer sampling.â€ť Now of course we can sample online which makes sampling even more cost effective, but proves yet again The Economist almost always makes the right decisions.Next time we will look at specific ideas and techniques you can test in your direct mail package to help increase response and will not break the bank.
In my last post, I talked about how to match your digital magazine's features with your audience. Here, I'll carry that forward into measurement. It is imperative that you measure the effect of your digital edition initiative very carefullyâ€”and honestly. You need to set your goals in advance, but there is no reason why these goals cannot change providing there is a sound reason to do so.See Also: Matching Your Digital Magazine Features With Your AudienceCirculation professionals long ago learned that the editor who said, â€śJust send people one renewal. People love this magazine, theyâ€™ll renew,â€ť was never correct. If you think that works, give me a call, I have a bridge I can sell you. It is important you base your decisions on actual results compared to what you are trying to achieve. I know it is going against popular thinking, but a 20 percent open rate is really not that impressive because what a 20 percent open rate really means is that 80 percent didnâ€™t. What should your strategy be if you're faced with this situation? First, is the open rate approximately the same each month and is it the same people each month? If the answer is yes to these two questions, then you need to concentrate on the 80 percent who are ignoring you. You also need to ascertain how many people in the 20 percent category actually download the magazineâ€”the more the merrier. Those people who open the email, but do not download the issue need to be addressed. There are many reasons why they didn't download it, but you need to know because it could be something that is easily fixable.How you approach improving the digital response depends on what it is you are trying to achieve with your digital issue. If your digital issue is just to support the print product as an added benefit, then a low open rate may be acceptable. If you are trying to move to a digital-only platform, a low open should not be acceptable. The reason people renew a magazine is because it helps them professionally or entertains them privately, but in both cases, this requires the reader to actually have access to the magazine. A print magazine has an advantage because it can sit on a desk or table and have visibility until the cleaners come, but a digital magazine lurks on a computer and is not as visible. Put simply, people forget.If you are creating digital issues based on demographics, or regions, check to see if there is any variance in open rates because it could be a certain demographic does not respond as well as anotherâ€”and the same goes for regions. It does not make sense to create something that is being ignored but unless the data you are reviewing is measurable, making a decision is difficult.The key thing is to work on the 80 percent who don't open the edition. The more you can reduce this figure, the better off you will be. Whether it is fair or not, digital magazines get judged differently than print because data is available on digital deployments that is simply not available on magazines deployed by the post office.