Loose inserts - or how to move your marketing to a military level

The great marketers in publishing have one thing in common with the military: they are continually on alert, ready for any situation. At the sound of the ‘go ‘ signal they are ready to deliver any quantity or size of coded promotions in the required format: insert cards; leaflets; direct mail packs; web and email promotions or advertisements.

They are armed with creative work and ready to move with speed on that special opportunity when it presents itself.

Capturing new subscribers
Winning new subscribers takes careful planning and preparation. Any delay or lack of commitment and the promotion will fail.

But, amazingly, most UK publishers limit their marketing to in-magazine advertisements and insert cards. This is the equivalent of the military commander defending his headquarters and doing nothing else.

Of course, no ground is ever won that way. In the military, this kind of behaviour is called cowardice.

Inserts and house ads are the most popular methods of selling subscriptions. But you do not encourage growth by limiting creativity in this way. This is not really marketing. You are merely converting one method of delivery to another.

House promotions are usually only effective if placed in the publication being sold. This all becomes apparent when you are given the opportunity to do some real marketing and place an insert in another medium. Your insert card or ad won’t do the job on its own. Its limitations hold you back.

Leaflets – the most versatile promotion of all
The leaflet, or loose insert, is the most versatile of all promotions. You can place an insert leaflet in other publications, send them through the mail with a covering letter, post them with third-party customer mailings or place them in strategic locations such as shops, exhibitions and other events.

A subscription promotion must arrest your prospect’s interest long enough to extract money from him. A leaflet does this by taking the publication’s editorial concept and condensing it into a small but effective proposition.

Why don’t more marketers take their work to this higher level? The answer, we are sure, lies in the attitude of the publishers and the priority they give to marketing.

In most businesses, profits are related to the quality of its marketing. So why not treat your marketing with the same professionalism you treat editorial and advertisement sales?

The advantages of a leaflet
So what are the advantages of a leaflet over a drop-in insert card?

1. There is plenty of space in an insert to sell the benefits of the publication

2. Prospects prefer not to send their credit card or bank details openly through the post, which happens with many prepaid insert cards

3. An insert includes much more information about your publication, so it does a much better selling job if separated from it

Low cost and time effective
One of the most important aspects of a marketer’s work is to identify and utilise every available media opportunity. A great deal of administration and creative time can therefore be saved if you reduce the number of different promotions you need for different media.

An A5 loose insert leaflet weighs the same as an insert card, but contains two or three times the space for information. You can explain what your publication offers the reader and its size means it can be used in all kinds of media.

A leaflet sells the publication as well as illustrates it. So it must contain a headline, effective sales copy and a response form. It must be able to stand-alone and sell your product.

A common error
When creating a leaflet, it’s important to get the offer right. So at the risk of inviting disagreement from near and far, here is where publishers most often go wrong:

The promotion should only offer one method of payment.

Your coupon, for example, can state:

‘Send no money now. We’ll bill you’.

A common error when creating a promotion is to give too many payment options, making the order form too long and complicated. You’ll see this mistake made in most promotions created by publishers in-house. It’s the result of a marketer being over-helpful and shows they haven’t really done much testing. The copywriter is probably simply copying another promotion and repeating the same errors.

Trying to be helpful by giving too many options can kill the sale.

Like the military, you have to be constantly in the field in order to develop toughness, as I explain later!

With direct marketing, giving options reduces response in direct proportion to the number of options given.

Five features that distinguish the best leaflets
So what are the features of a top leaflet?

1. A major claim is made in the headline to catch the prospect’s attention. This is the first job of any promotion. The claim is backed up with evidence throughout the copy

2. The copy is benefit-led. It has a compelling message that will appeal to everyone in the target audience. It will communicate not just with your inner core of prospects, but with anyone even remotely interested in your subject matter

3. The leaflet must be written to stand-alone. It can be inserted into most media or mailings and the benefits of subscribing are clear to all readers

4. The promotion is single-minded and urgent– there are no options. You must sign up as soon as possible or you can’t subscribe

5. It carries a personal message – even a picture of the editor or publisher. The personalisation adds to the leaflet’s effectiveness. A picture can lift response by 100 per cent or more

The offer that can’t be refused
I was once asked to give an example of the perfect offer. The one that sprang to mind is from the film The Godfather – the offer that can’t be refused. The gangster put a contract in front of the man, held a gun to his head and told him to sign or he’d pull the trigger. Either his signature or his brains would be on the contract.

The man had just two options. Your offer cannot as intrusive as a gun to the head. But it should, in its way, be just as resolute: Give me your order now or get nothing!

Intrusive equals effective
The more intrusive your leaflet is, usually the more powerful it is. More people will try to get a free copy of your publication without making a commitment.

This is a good sign. Coupons will arrive with messages, such as:

“I will pay after the trial”

“Please send a sample copy”.

Comments from prospects should certainly interest a marketer, but do not be tempted to alter the wording or the offer. Communications from prospects like the above are usually a sign that the promotion is working well and you have created a highly responsive leaflet.

A word of warning: never show this kind of message to an editor. They may get upset and convince the publisher to make changes. Those changes will more often than not reduce response. Editors and other senior managers are usually bright and that’s why they are where they are. But they are rank amateurs when it comes to creating an effective subscriptions promotion because they don’t understand the sales process.