One of the best ways of reaching your market is via your own website. I know this sounds obvious, but it always surprises me the number of controlled magazines that do not have a new subscription offer on their site. In some cases this is because the magazineâ€™s rate base is very healthy, but in this day and age of reduced budgets this is the exception rather than the norm.I visit many websites during the course of a week, and there is no real happy medium. You either get no subscription offers at all, or so many that every time you go to a site, any good cheer gained at this time of year is well and truly lost.If you are making multiple offers via your website, keep them under control otherwise you will scare people off. There is nothing more annoying than navigating to a page, only to get an offer for something you donâ€™t want that is replaced by an offer for something else you donâ€™t want when you close the page on the first offer. The record so far stands at seven offers, and by the time I was able to rid my life of all these offers, I had forgotten why I had gone to the website in the first placeâ€”and have not been back since. Actually, I lied, there is one thing more annoying. Going to the same website and getting the same â€śliteratureâ€ť every time.Control your offers including when and how people see them. Any circulation or audience development professional that does not liaise with the IT department on at least a weekly basis is missing opportunities and more importantly probably losing orders. Being able to react to news relating to your business is key, especially if it is â€śhotâ€ť news. Taking quick advantage of breaking news can be handled with a 250 x 250 ad on the website that circulation or audience development can upload themselves; early birds catching worms comes to mind. You know what I mean!Make sure your offer can be seen efficiently on mobile devices. Some advertisements I have been exposed to have rendered my mobile phone immobile. I know it sounds obvious, but there is nothing worse than an Englishman with an immobile mobileâ€”Sting might even write a song about it. There is only so much any one person can take, so make sure you do not overplay your hand, or else you may well find your prospect is going somewhere else (and despite paywalls, there usually is somewhere else) to get the information you yourself offer.
For good or for ill, digital is here to stay. I have no doubt it is good for many readers, I am not sure how good it is for publishers because there are still too many variables concerning digital circulation. These variables are being worked out, slowly in some cases, but as an industry we have to make sure we understand the results and interpret them correctly, and not as we would like them to be.Just because the recently released version of the iPad sold in the millions does not mean digital circulation is going to increase as a direct result of the release. Most people I know who purchased the latest iPad did so to replace the iPad they already had. Over the next weeks people will receive some sort of reader for the holidays, but the total in sales will not see a similar increase in digital circulation.It is important to recognize why digital circulation increases. Many controlled publishers are shifting their three-year old-circulation over from print to digital, not because the reader desires this, but because the publisher does. We have found that re-qualification response rates of digital subscriptions are lower than those on the print file. I believe this is because digital magazines are not as readily accessible as their print cousins. Therefore, you will probably have to send digital subscriptions more efforts to get the same net response as print. There is nothing wrong in this, just remember that you will have to send more efforts and this may affect your promotion budget. What you are saving in printing and mailing costs can be used to send additional efforts, although in reality these savings are almost never passed on.Do not get hooked on the general belief that digital subscriptions will respond better to electronic methods than more traditional methods; there is no rationale to support this thinking, and until you have tested all formats and gained meaningful resultsâ€”results supported by facts, not opinionsâ€”tread carefully.The digital world is upon us, and as promoters, marketers and indeed users, we should embrace the new technology and make it work for us. Digital circulation is a small part of total circulation. It will grow over the next few years, although the growth will slow down, but for all that it would be dangerous to make assumptions based on opinion rather than test results. Yesterday, on one of the networks, an expert said, â€śPeople feel more confident in the market than they did a few years ago.â€ť On the same show, another expert said, â€śPeople are not confident concerning their financial futures.â€ť Facts based on opinions have no value, but opinions based on facts are worth their weight in a ton of iPads!
Over the past few years, the word â€śdigitalâ€ť has gone from merely denoting a replica of a print magazine to just about anything you do electronically. Engaging people through the various means we have available to us takes time, effort and, dare I say it, some money, as well. It also needs another thing that many do not currently haveâ€”a strategy.
Whether you engage people via a Web site, an iPad or smart phone app, through email or via any other platform, you need to have a strategy in place to make sure your customers or prospects engage with you for a long time to comeâ€”wherever they are. Assuming you plan to reach people through more than one platform, youâ€™ll need a strategy to integrate all of them.
How frequently you need to engage with people really depends on what youâ€™re trying to achieve. A newsletter, a tweet or an updated RSS feed certainly works on a daily basis. You can update your Facebook page or make an entry on LinkedIn to keep people involved, too. Whatever it is, you just need a plan to reach your entire market.
Newsletters are a good way to engage people and keep them involved, but your strategy must make sure your newsletter carries information people are going to benefit. This is where some spare cash may come in useful. Do not overwhelm people with content. You are more likely to drive them off a cliff rather than toward your product.
Some say sending an email first thing in the morning, so it appears at the top of the recipientâ€™s inbox, is a good thing. Others claim sending email after 10:00 A.M. is better. All this really proves is we donâ€™t always know what works and what doesnâ€™t. I would venture to suggest it depends a great deal on the market with which you are dealing. After all, a night workerâ€™s shift ends when most othersâ€™ start and an email at the end of their shift may indeed work very well early in the morning.
If you are going to engage via social media, make sure your strategy details when you plan to do this. You should add content on a regular basis and testing should determine the optimum frequency. You should also add content when the situation demands like with hot news or a special story. Donâ€™t forget that this content should always be worth sharing.
Wherever you post content, keep an eye on it to make sure people donâ€™t abuse your efforts. Check Facebook and other (anti) social media at least once day. When people ask to be removed from lists, remove themâ€”no muss, no fuss. Just say â€śthanksâ€ť and move on.
More and more, digital is part of our world. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I have yet to figure out. For now, it is here and we need to embrace itâ€”not willy-nillyâ€”but in a well-ordered manner so we can take maximum advantage whilst we may.
If you are working on a publication with a November audit cycle and you still have to get more orders, here are some things you might like to try.If you need new orders, try calling your existing one-year subscribers to ask them if there is someone else in their organization who would benefit from a subscription. Then, email the prospect and inform them their colleague suggested they might like a subscription and see if you can get them to order from that email. If not, try calling them. If you are still trying to re-qualify your file, now is the time to send a short-form email. Short forms work well, but remember even though the age of the subscription will be one year, the demographics will not be updated, and this is something you need to make a note of for next year. You can also do a short-form phone call as well, and since you are not asking all the demographic questions, most telemarketing companies will give you a good rate, providing the telemarketing company can make room for the program in its schedule.If you have fax numbers on your file, and permission to fax, send one out for re-qualifications. Faxes are so old they are new again. While results are not earth shattering, they may be the butt-saver you need. Use a purl in the fax so people can reply online as well as a fax number for responses.The somewhat anti-social social media may be of use to you. If you have a Facebook page, trying offering a new subscription on your page and if you have a Twitter presence, why not tweet out a new subscription offerâ€”every order counts. If you have a LinkedIn page, create an offer there too, it can do no harm and while social media may not be the best responder, it is certainly worth a try.
Despite best intentions, it seems as though response to email efforts is still difficult to predict. Quite why this is, I am not sure, but the â€śusualâ€ť rules of marketing just donâ€™t apply to an email effort, be it for new subscriptions, renewals, re-qualifications or other products.Even the rules that have been established do not apply all the time. I am constantly told not to send an email out on Friday, yet many of the email blasts I send on a Friday get good results. The problem is, what works this Friday may not work next Friday, but there is no obvious reason why. I am told the best time to send an email is at 6:00 am, so the email is in the recipientâ€™s inbox when they start to look through their email. I tried this. It failed the first time, worked the second time, and the third time most of the messages seemed to get delayed since many of the responses came back the following afternoon.Until the rules are standardized and predictable, you need to be the rule maker. Try a few simple tests to see what works and, just as importantly, doesnâ€™t work for you.1) Do an a/b split on your email blast and send half in the morning, half in the afternoon and see if one responds better than the other. Do this several times to see if you can determine a pattern.2) Test html and text versions of the same email. Text may but ugly, but ugliness did not stop Frankensteinâ€™s monster from getting a bride!3) If the first email does not succeed, send it again. Very often response is better on the resend (and resend of the resend) than on the original deployment.4) Make sure your html does not have too many images because this can cause spam filters to go into hyper drive.5) I know spam filters supposedly hate the word â€śfree,â€ť but test it, you may be surprised. â€śFreeâ€ť does work in some cases.It is a good idea to send out a re-qualification effort on controlled books over a three-week period. The first is deployed on Tuesday, the follow up nine days later on Thursday and a final follow up six days later on the Wednesday. Very often, the response on Wednesday is higher than the previous Thursdayâ€™s response. Why? I donâ€™t have a clue, but that is what makes being the rule-maker fun!Â
A few weeks ago, we reviewed some of the things you can do with gift offers, especially within your own magazine, and it can be very easy to lose sight of what you are trying to achieve.
Offering a gift subscription is not the same as creating a house offer, although many people do fall foul of this. When creating a house offer, be it an off-the-page advertisement, blow in or bind in card, you are trying to sell the magazine to the person reading your promotion; when creating a gift offer, you are selling the idea of giving someone a gift-the offers are not the same.
Copy for a gift promotion should be about the product and why your gift will give pleasure to the recipient, so avoid words like "you" and use "they" instead. A little flattery never hurts either, so copy such as "...they'll thank you for your generous gift all year long" could certainly be in order. And gift acknowledgement cards sent toÂ recipients are much prized by gift givers, so be sure you mention that you send them to recipients in the donor's name. It you have price savings for multiple gifts, be sure to mention that in your gift ad, as well as how to enter multiple orders by phone.
The gift offer should not be over-designed (actually, nothing should ever be over-designed, but you know what I mean). The important things on a blow in card are the "from" and "to" address boxes, an offer that is clear, concise, easy to understand and an uncluttered form. You do not need covers galore, in most cases you don't need a cover at all-which is just as well, because there is not much room on a card measuring 4.25 x 6 inches.
Because of the information you have to include on the form, avoid using too much reversed-out copy. Stock for blow in and bind cards can soak up ink like crazy and with fonts tending to be smaller size, you can end with a fuzzy mess on your hands. If you are running an advert in your magazine, just about the reverse is true. You can drop out copy because fonts are generally larger and the paper stock usually better.
Bind in cards can be stacked so that you can have at least two cards andÂ even three gift cards if you wish. Design the bind in so the bottom of your card gets trimmed off. That means there is one less perforation you have to worry about. Your run-of-the-page advertisement, blow in and bind in cards do not all have to have the same design, they can all be different.
Recognize the difference between gift ads and house ads, otherwise you may lose out on a lot of orders and at a time of giving, who wants to do that?
There is a great temptation to use all things new in promotions and ignore the oldâ€”the wise circulation manager and audience developer will not fall into this trap. Not every promotion makes a profit, sometimes things have to be done for what they achieve rather than what they cost. Insert cards for instance almost never pay for themselves, but they get orders from every issue and are a good source of low-cost subscriptions compared to other types of promotion. If you donâ€™t believe me, ask the folks at TV Guide.Wraps and tips were once very popular but fell out of favor when we started to push people to order or renew via a website rather than accept an order form sent in via fax or the mail. Some markets (and some people), despite the digital world, still prefer forms you can drop into the mail. If you have not tried a wrap or a tip of late it might be a worthwhile walk on the wild side to see what happens.Tips and wraps are inexpensive to produce although both will result in an additional cost at your printer. However, the additional cost may be worth it. Tips and wraps can be used for both new subscriptions and renewals or re-qualifications, but with renewals and re-qualifications, you will probably achieve a better cost per order. Keep the design simple. Remember, if people already subscribe they do not need to be told how wonderful the magazine is, they know that already. They need to be told in the kindest possible way why their life will be less pleasurable if they do not renewâ€”the more suffering the better! There is not a great deal of difference in cost between four-color and two-color printing anymore, but on controlled publications two-color will normally suffice. Your magazine printer will have size and trim requirements for tips and wraps so make sure any design is done in consultation with them. Indeed, give the printer the final sign-off.These days you can include a personalized URL and a QR code but if your tip or wrap has an order or qualification card, it really doesnâ€™t make sense to give people devices to avoid mailing back the order form. You should get a bigger response if you pay the return postage on tip and wrap order forms, but some publishers have dropped their BRM accounts so yours might have to say â€śAffix Postage Hereâ€ť.If you are selling or offering a new subscription using a sampling program, in many cases, a tip will work just fine because the prospective subscriber has a copy of the magazine in his hands and can determine its value immediately.Â Consider a tip as part of your paid renewal series, especially on the last issue the subscriber will receive, and if you grace your subscription file, I do mean the last issue they will actually receive.
Whether you think direct mail is making a comeback or it never went away, the truth is publishers are returning to direct mail. The good news is that it does not have to be that expensive and a good example of this is the double postcard format.Double postcards will not work for every publication or occasionâ€”for instance, new magazine launchesâ€”but certainly in many cases, especially if your magazine is well-known, a double postcard may be just what you need to get back into the mail. True, you are limited in the amount of copy you can use, but sometimes less really can be more. Â Consider offering â€śRisk-Free Issuesâ€ťâ€”always a good seller. Can you give away a gift? If so, why not test a premium offer against a non-premium offer and see what works best for you.Despite being in the digital age, people still like involvement devices so consider one on the order card. The Spectator magazine once did an offer where the potential subscriber was told in the copy â€śremove this sticker to reveal an example of The Spectatorâ€™s sense of humor,â€ť many people did, liked what they saw and placed that sticker on the order card and sent it back for a subscription.If you can use the word â€śFREEâ€ť so much the better. I know spam filters do not like the word â€śFREEâ€ť, but it is a powerful word and at least in the world of direct mail there are no filters dictating what words we can and cannot use in copy.A â€śreply byâ€ť date is also an effective way to move prospects to action, whether this is an actual date or â€śnext Tuesdayâ€ť or â€świthin the next week.â€ť A â€śreply byâ€ť creates urgency and should prompt the recipient to mail the reply card in straight away so they do not miss a great deal.To increase response, pay the reply postage for the recipient. This increases your costs slightly, but the increase in response should be worth it. You could consider using a personalized URL, although giving the recipient an option may decrease response. The fewer options offered the better. You donâ€™t want prospects putting the promotion aside so they can decide later what to do.There are certain design restrictions that you need to adhere to for addressing as well as postal regulations, but any good direct mail writer and designer will already be aware of these. If you need information check the Domestic Mail Manual for specifics.Double postcards are a good form of direct mail for many publishers and if you have never done direct mail before they are an inexpensive place to start.
Talking to your customers is always a good thing, and at the moment telemarketing seems to work very well for many publishersâ€”but be careful as you can overstay your welcome.Â Avoid the temptation to ask your customers everything in one go. This will confuse some, annoy others and may result in an order not being completed. This is true for both paid and controlled publications, but for different reasons. If someone is receiving a magazine free of charge it is reasonable to elicit some information from him or her; this is the reason they are getting the magazine free, after all.Â However, if you ask too many questions it may result in a firm but call-ending hang up. Ask the subscriber if you can send a follow up email with some more questions that it would be useful â€śfor us to know, so that we can serve you better.â€ť If they say yes, the telemarketing company can probably send the email out straight away.Â If the person you are calling has paid for a subscription, be careful when asking for information. Many subscribers feel paying for a subscription also pays for their privacy. However, people are also very flattered when you seek their advice or opinion, so how you phrase your question can be the difference between getting the information you want and the aforementioned call-ending hang-up. Flattery is almost always a good thing.Â When choosing a telemarketing company, take time to review the references you got from them. Talk to people in the industry to see if they have an opinion. The company you choose is going to represent you in a one-to-one conversation with either your subscribers or prospectsâ€”this will reflect on your company so choose wisely.Â There are very few methods of promotion where we have direct interaction with our customers or prospects. Telemarketing is one, and you only get one chance to make a good first impressionâ€”do not let price be the only factor that dictates your decision. There will always be at least one caller who complains, that is normal. If you are conducting a large program, probably more than one complaint will be received. Calmly call the account manager at the telemarketing company, have them review the call with you and make a decision together on how to resolve any issues. Â If you are prospecting for new orders, review the results the telemarketing company sends each day and after a few days of calling, prioritize the calling so that you can get the maximum number of orders for the least amount of moneyâ€”especially if paying by the hour. Ensure you key each list correctly and that you do measure like for like. Comparing a list that has a 30 percent conversion with 5,000 names called cannot really be compared to a list that has a 10 percent conversion but only 1,000 names called. Many a bad decision has been made on too little information.Â For many years, telemarketing was considered the â€śbad boyâ€ť of circulation. Nobody really wanted it on his or her Publisherâ€™s Statement. Now, just like black coffee, eggs, chocolate and red wineâ€”all in moderation, courseâ€”telemarketing has a good reputation and can be a splendid source of circulation and revenue for publishers.
Â Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and consumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.
Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a testâ€”you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.
While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the â€ś60 centsâ€ť when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panicâ€”but I subscribed all the same.
If you cannot test a price, test a termâ€”$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.
â€śPay in Advanceâ€ť as opposed to â€śBill Me Laterâ€ť is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, â€śBill Meâ€ť is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a â€śBill Meâ€ť offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up frontâ€”even with a money-back guarantee.
Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it winâ€”price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.
Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a â€ś50% Off The Cover Priceâ€ť offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, donâ€™t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same resultâ€”it probably wonâ€™t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.
You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every yearâ€”year in, year outâ€”we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, â€śThis has to go, it is awfulâ€ťâ€”and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new controlâ€”and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?
Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.
I got quite a few phone calls this past week from fellow circulators concerning the article that was posted on Audience Development's website last week on action code response rates exceeding direct mail rates.I am not going to say who called me in this article, let them get their own fame, but the best call was from someone who simply said: â€śWhat the hell is an action response code?â€ť Actually she used another word instead of â€śhell,â€ť but I donâ€™t want to be censored in my first month on this web site.Some of the figures were pretty astounding to be sure but direct marketers have always said the less the people have to do to respond, the better the response will be. And here, all you have to do is scan a code with your phone.These codes have increased in usage over the past year and will continue to increase although be careful where you use them. I saw one on a billboard high above the West Side Highway in New York and many drivers were driving and trying to scan the code on the billboard at the same time. Action response codes are really good on the page ads in your magazine as this means people no longer have to rip out a page to take action. Letâ€™s be honest, how many subscription orders were ever gained from space ads? Now, however, a quick scan and you have an order.Codes can be used on all manner of things; I would love to run an insert card that is quite simply a response code just to see what happens. Generally I think it is a good idea to inform people what will happen when they scan the code, but if anyone has ever run a card with only a code printed on it, I would love to know how it worked.The beauty of these codes is they are so adaptable. You can use them in renewals linked to the subscriberâ€™s record, on invoices, for new subscriptionsâ€”the possibilities are endless. Perhaps we should all have these scans tattooed on our foreheads which would make getting through airports so much easier, but I digress; this is 2012 not 1984.If you have not experimented with action response codes, it is worth your while to investigate using them. I do not have an iPad which I know makes me pre-historic, and I do not have an iPhone but I do have a mobile phone that I am just about able to switch off and on, and one of the few apps I have downloaded is a QR scannerâ€”and if I have one, you know itâ€™s serious.There is one caveat to all of this, the article started â€śdigital action codes have become the most-responded-to form of print marketingâ€ť but at no point was it ever made clear what people were actually responding to, so an expectation of huge increases in new subscriptions and renewals may be unrealistic but these action codes are going to be around for a little while so exploring their possible usage is, as Martha Stewart would say â€śa good thing.â€ť